How do I care for my chickens in a small coop during the winter?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by rickidanae, Oct 23, 2016.

  1. rickidanae

    rickidanae Hatching

    Oct 23, 2016
    I have 7 chickens (all hearty, cold weather friendly birds) and house them in a smaller coop (two little dormers on each side with two nesting boxes in each dorm and little space to walk around, and a run underneath and in between the dormers). This summer I kept the food and water outside and keep the doors to the dormers open so it's accessible to all chickens, but I have no idea what to do in the winter. If I continue to keep the food and water outside, the birds would have to go out into the cold the access their food and the water would not be accessible all day, as I would have to open and close the doors to their dorms to prevent the space from getting to cold. I'd love some advice!
  2. redsoxs

    redsoxs Crowing

    Jul 17, 2011
    North Central Kansas
    Not sure where you live but chickens handle cold much better than heat - particularly cold hearty breeds and in a small coop where heat is shared and conserved better. As long as the coop is draft free (but has ventilation) your birds will be fine. I keep the food and water in the run, not the coop unless it's going to be a bitterly cold day or is snowing. So, in my state that's probably less than 10 days per year. Here's a link to cold weather chicken keeping:
    And here's another link about keeping your coop warm
    Lastly, stop by the New Members Forum so we can give you a proper BYC welcome!
    Best wishes! :)
  3. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    You need to stop thinking warm and cold thought, and start thinking DRY and windbreak thoughts. Birds are very capable of keeping themselves warm IF they are kept dry and out of wind.

    I would set up some kind of wind break in the run. A lot of people cover their runs in heavy plastic. You need to leave space at the top of the run open for ventilation. I would keep the food and water outside, but perhaps under a roof or some kind of protection. My birds spend little time in the coop. They spend most of the daylight outside in the fresh air. I do not close up the coop at dark, and the pop up bird door is always open into a secure run.

    Please do not lock your chickens up in a too small coop in an effort to keep them warm. With the best of intentions, you will be making them miserable. The moisture will quickly collect on the ceiling and walls, and rain down on your birds. Damp chickens are cold chickens. Confining them in too small of a place leads to very, very ugly behaviors.

    I run chickens without electricity, without heated water, and in temperatures as low as -25 - 30 degrees.

    Chickens need water every day, but not 24 hours a day. They need good food. They need protection from the wind, places where they can get out of the wind. They need enough space, and good ventilation.

    They don't need heat.

    I am a little worried about the number of hens you have and the amount of space you describe. You might need to measure your set up, it sounds like you have more birds than can really fit, but I am just guessing. However, 7 birds should have about 28 square feet in the coop... so 4 x 7 is as small as you should go. If you have a truly small coop, and start getting bad behaviors, you may need to cull or rehome some birds.

    Mrs K
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2016
  4. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Free Ranging Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    This ^ If you have one of those little "doll house" coops, you may want to consider expanding their space, or enclosing their run so they can get outside.

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