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how do I keep chickens warm in cold michigan winters ?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by yopperchick, Nov 17, 2008.

  1. yopperchick

    yopperchick In the Brooder

    Nov 6, 2008
    It gets below zero here, like -20s how do I keep the girls warm ? For now I put 2 bails of staw all over the floor &a brooderlight but I heard lights not good for them. what do I do please help!!!!! first winter for them. [​IMG]
  2. tomcio

    tomcio Songster

    Sep 3, 2008
    First off, welcome to BYC.

    Second, a couple of questions for you:

    1. is the coup not insulated?
    2. is it drafty?

    If the answer is no to either, then you don't have to to do anything else. It's my first winter also, I am in South East Ontario, the weather here gets to -20C sometimes.

    I have 2 guineas out in the coup right now and they seem to be very comfortable. The ladies (6 week old) will be joining them very soon. Just waiting for the final feathers to open up on their heads and necks. I will not be providing them with a heater.

    If your coup isn't insulated, the heat their bodies generate will end up 'escaping' and you may have to provide to provide a heat source during the coldest (-30 and below) days. A 60W light will do (or so I have been told). To give you an idea, about 3 weeks ago we were at 0C (30F), I left the light on in the coup by accident during the day, and I when I got back there at night, it was ~10C inside.

    Hope this helps.
  3. chickenpiedpiper

    chickenpiedpiper Songster

    Aug 4, 2008
    New Durham NH
    You are going to get lots and lots of conflicting information on this subject. Sorry. You will have to sift thru opinions, and lots of myths. When I built my coop, I got endless advice, some I ignored to my regret, some I cant believe people would ever follow! But here is what we have done, and we have 20 healthy birds, and some are over 5 years old, and still laying regularly.

    We insulated using left over from house construction, we have ventilation provided thru a door to another part of the shed, as well as a single window that we can open during the summer (Hardware cloth keeps predators out of the open windows). We use a red heat light at night, as well as a clear heat light on cold winter days to keep the coop warm and sunny and increase thier light hours to 14 to keep egg production up. We installed an electric wall coop heater that we got from shop the coop.com with a thermo cube to turn it on at 35* and off at 45*. I watched my electric bill closely last year, and even in the coldest snowy winter I did not see a visible increase in our bill! (I was worried about that as electricity here is phenominally high)

    Our coop is usually cool during the winter, but all of these simple elements keep it above freezing. Our flock has access to a predator proof run 24/7, and I often see them choosing to hang out in the coop on rainy or snowy days, the rest of the time they free range happily.

    My advice is to try to eliminate drafts, with out sacrificing ventilation, at the least use a heat light on the cold nights, and consider the breeds you have chosen and whether they can handle the cold. Our Polish birds hugged the coop and stayed under the lights on rainy days, while our Cochins love tiptoing thru the deep snow! Big wattles and combs are susceptible to frostbite.

    Studies have shown that red lights can reduce picking under stressful conditions, and my personal experience hasnt shown me any adverse effects. Tho I am sure some one will say differently!

    Good luck!
  4. Imp

    Imp All things share the same breath- Chief Seattle

    I would say that chickenpiedpiper hit the nail on the head. Sounds like we have the same set up. Only difference is I don't have to worry about -20s here some winters I don't even have to worry about the +20s.
  5. yopperchick

    yopperchick In the Brooder

    Nov 6, 2008
    the coop isn't insulated . the window are boarded up, except the largest one. this window is covered w/ plastic. & there run door is left open.
  6. Welcome to BYC. There are a lot of folkks from Michigan and several threads on this page you need to read...we have harsh winters too check our home page below for ideas...[​IMG]
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2008
  7. chickenpiedpiper

    chickenpiedpiper Songster

    Aug 4, 2008
    New Durham NH
    Quote:Insulation is not all that pricey, and you dont need the attic stuff, tho it would work! but a simple layer, and then a heat light will make all the difference in the world. If your hens have to spend thier energy staying warm, they are not going to lay for you very much....
  8. CityChook

    CityChook Songster

    Apr 9, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    My Coop
    Chickenpiedpiper has wonderful information for you.

    I am in MN and the temps are now in the 20s. I expect below zero before the end of the year.

    I have only 4 birds. My coop is insulated, walls and ceiling, with R19 along with a thick layer of pine shavings on the floor. Large glass windows on the East and South for free sunlight heat. I have a ceramic heat emitter bulb above the roost. It keeps the temps about 10 degrees above the outside temps. Personally, I'd like it to be warmer, but this is what our set up will be for this winter. I saw the most dramatic changes in the coop temps when I added the ceramic bulb and when I sealed the door with weather stripping. I was surprised at how this single draft source effected my coop temp.

    I don't know how big your coop is. You might want to consider stacking hay along the walls to keep heat in. If you have a larger flock of birds, their body heat will help keep the coop warm. For me, my coop was just too big for their 4 bodies to help keep warm, so I had to add a heat source.

    Good luck!
  9. pdpatch

    pdpatch Songster

    Apr 5, 2008
    Hastings, Nebraska
    When deciding to insulate you ave to take a few things into consideration.

    1. Birds to fluff up there feathers to stay warm. They will also tuck there head under there wings to keep
    there comps from freezing at night. But the wind will move the cold air
    up next to there bodies and rob them of heat. You still need some ventilation, as the moisture in the
    air along with Methane and Ammonia from there waste is harmfully to the coop and chickens.

    2. How hardy are is the variety of Chickens you have. Some handle low and high
    tempetures better then others. I can remember seeing where buff orghtinons, Barbed Rocks,
    Red sex links, and Black sex links are considered hardy. Many Hatcheries will list if a Chicken
    variety is Hardy.

    3. How many birds do you have, usually they can gather together and share heat.
    But you have enough birds for the space you have. I don't recall seeing any magic numbers
    on how many chickens per square foot fro in the winter.

    4. How cold does it really get, most poultry can handle 20 degree fine. But -20 degrees is another
    question. If the above conditions are not correct you could loose a few or all of you flock.
    Wind chill is another factor that doe need to be considered.

    5. How much do you want to pamper you chickens? Chickens seem to like temps above 40 better then
    -20, they will be much more active. Small flock owners tend to pamper the flocks, so continuing
    along this line insulating and heating is something hat is done where it's really needed or not.

    6.Do yo have some other method of keeping there water from freezing? Unless you want to take water to them several
    times a day. Or have heated waterier then you heed to keep the temp up in the coop. It's is not fun, to haul water
    and have it splash on you when it's -20 out side.

    How do you know if you pamper you chickens, How any of them have names? If you answered yes then you pamper them.

    Our personal situation:

    We did not insulate our one main coop, or small coop last year. Mainly because it was a made from brick, and we just didn't
    have the time to get it done correctly and we could not afford to at the time. We also had a small wood
    coop for our one pullet who was a Roo. His coop had some Styrofoam sheets with plastic around that.
    We did run a long extension cord to the coop for lights and heat. The lights were on a timer to we could get
    at least 12 hours of daylight for the layers. We had a Milk House heater for heat in the main coop.

    We like to try and keep our coops temp no lower then 20 degree and preferably around 50 degrees
    in the winter. Last year there was a number of days that we did not make this goal. Plus we had to try
    and carry water to them through a couple of snow drifts.
  10. Buster

    Buster Back to Work

    I live in Idaho so I experience similar temps to you. I do not have insulation in my coop. Last winter I ran heat lamps over my waterers to keep them from freezing and lights to keep the girls laying. You don't really have to do either one and you will probably be ok as long as the coop is DRAFT FREE and you keep them fed all the time. They use the energy from the food to keep warm. I've always thought it was cool how warm my coop could be when I walked in on a sub zero night and the heat from the chickens was keeping it warm.

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