how to prepare the flock for a freezing Canadian winter?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by technodoll, Sep 20, 2009.

  1. technodoll

    technodoll Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've only had my sweeties since mid-July and am afraid they will freeze as the temps drop - help!

    I live in north-eastern Canada where the temps can drop to -30C sometimes in the mid winter (that's about -20F), sometimes even worse if the wind blows fierce. We get tons of snow as early as November some years!

    I have Isa Browns, some Rhode Island Red mixes and three silkies - those are the ones I'm afraid for since I have heard they don't survive the cold very well?

    My coop is about 12 x 12, it's very old and creaky but partially insulated and I am working on putting flextherm boards on the inner walls. The ceiling has some old fiberglass wrapped in plastic and there is a plywood floor, which I cover in bedding. There are two old crappy windows, the trap to the outside coop (not insulated) and the entrance door, poorly insulated with styrofoam.

    We inherited the coop when we moved here 3 months ago... the former owners didn't do much with it [​IMG]

    Should I use a heating lamp? Put hay on the floor with the bedding? I don't want the water or the girls to freeze but I don't want to risk a fire or run huge electricity bills either!

    I'm also thinking they'll get cabin fever if not allowed outside, they looove their time in the sun - if some hens will tolerate the cold but not others, how should that be managed? I don't want the coop to be drafty so that the silkies get ill...

    HELP!! [​IMG]
     
  2. chookchick

    chookchick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You should check in with LynnP and Patandchickens. Both of them live in Canada and have talked quite a bit about this. LynnP even has a page on weatherization--I'll see if I can find it. There were also some great threads last winter. I believe one is titled "How cold is too cold for chickens".

    Here's Lynn's website: https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=7693
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2009
  3. technodoll

    technodoll Chillin' With My Peeps

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    *bows with great thanks*

    will check it out today! yey!

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    You probably won't need a heatlamp. Though it never hurts to have electricity available just in case; and electricity will come in reeealll handy for running a heated waterer or heated waterer base so you don't have to haul water out there three times a day [​IMG]

    You have a decent sized coop, and are insulating it, so it will stay warmer than the outdoor air at night (and this effect is more pronounced as temps get colder). So unless you have huge amounts of ventilation open -- which you do not require with that few birds in that much space (which is a GOOD way to have it!), your chickens are not likely to *experience* -30C.

    Weatherstrip the bejeebers out of the coop, keeping the weatherstripping where chickens can't peck at it. Make sure you have ventilation openings that will be suitable for wintertime use, i.e. high on walls (preferably protected by roof overhang) and adjustably-closeable and at least some of the openings located on the usually-downwind side of the building. See my ventilation page (link in .sig below) for more on the subject. You will not however have to keep as much ventilation open in the dead of winter as people with higher stocking densities, so that will work in your favor too.

    Put lots of bedding on the floor, esp. since your silkies will probably need to snuggle down into it for warmth.

    You can create a windbreak on the upwind side(s) of the run so that wind does not blow directly in the popdoor and so that the run is a more appealing place for the chickens. You can use plywood, haybales, whatever -- but if you use tarps or plastic make sure to leave part of the run open for ventilation.

    In a decent-sized coop (such as you have) and with good management and a bit of forethought (which you're exercising already [​IMG]) it really is not a big deal to have chickens in this climate [​IMG]

    (BTW, there seem to be a lot of poultry keepers in Canada convinced that you have to shut the coop up tight with no ventilation and then run a heat lamp, or you will have bad problems iwth frostbite. They think this because, IF you shut things up tight with no ventilation, then the humidity will become high enough that you DO have to run a heat lamp to avoid frostbite. This is not however the most intelligent strategy [​IMG] -- just nod politely and ignore them.)

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat, not really wanting to think about winter yet
     
  5. technodoll

    technodoll Chillin' With My Peeps

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    *sighs with relief*

    thank you sooo much for taking the time to write all of that... seriously, you guys are awesome! [​IMG]

    I did worry about shutting the peeps in for the winter, first there is alot of dust thanks to the bedding (which cannot be good for their lungs) and then the poop, oh the poop! and wouldn't they go crazy from cabin fever and start pecking at each other? [​IMG]

    So I will continue insulating as best as I can (thermoflex boards covered with white barker board at the base to prevent pecking at the aluminum), as for the windows they're kinda leaky around the edges as is the little door to the outside run - is that enough ventilation, do you think?

    Also I go visit them a few times a day so will opening the big coop door and me going inside provide ventilation?

    I have not found any heated watering systems - any idea where I could order some? None of the farming supply shops here have any, which is super weird [​IMG]

    Whew, I've got my work cut out for me the next few weeks, LOL!

    I also want to buy plastic tarp to cover two of the three outside run walls to help cut the wind and blowing snow - is that a good idea? and then lay a thick layer of hay on the ground so the girls who want to go outside won't freeze their feet?

    GAAAH i feel so dumb with all these questions... i don't want them to freeze!

    What if my silkies go outside (because they love to follow the others...) and then freeze and die? :-o
     
  6. Dar

    Dar Overrun With Chickens

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    TSC carries them here in Guelph (for the bowls)

    i had a nasty nasty hole ridden coop last year and my gals did fine

    i did not have silkies then so this will be the test for the silkies this year

    i did however have problems with my water freezing so i started to bring my water in at night so it could thaw and then in the morning when they needed it it was actually water and not solid ice.

    i fed a lot of warm oatmeal and cracked corn last year i wish i could have gotten my hands on some hat or straw bales to "bank" my coop.

    by feb i was running a little space heater and a heat lamp but i dont pay for my hydro either, and my water was still freezin with the heater in the coop..

    i did not have any insulation in my coop and like i said holes everywhere the size of grapefruit

    if you see any obvious places where you need to close up a hole i used the expanding foam stuff and i made sure it was the triple expanding for BIG holes available at home depot

    i did not "clean" my coop all winter i used the deep litter method and i think that helped with the birds cause i was not opening up the coop and letting all the heat out while i cleaned and then trying to regain the heat, i did not have any problems with sickness cause of the coop being "dirty" i added a bale of shavings about every 2 weeks and just added it on top, the off week i stirred the coop to keep it fluffed. come the spring it took me a whole day to clean the coop
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 21, 2009
  7. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:No no, you do NOT WANT that sort of air leaks. They give you a) breezes at chickens and b) condensation/frost that humidifies the coop and nullifies whatever real vents you have.

    Take a look at my ventilation page, it discusses the subject a lot more. You may have to go out there with a saw and cut some holes and make some flaps, if the coop lacks good existing winter-type ventilation.

    As for the windows, weatherstrip or removeable-caulk the leaky parts, and you may want to cover the windows with plastic or bubblewrap for the winter to minimize heat loss and condensation/frost problems.

    Also I go visit them a few times a day so will opening the big coop door and me going inside provide ventilation?

    Not meaningfully, no.

    I have not found any heated watering systems - any idea where I could order some? None of the farming supply shops here have any, which is super weird [​IMG]

    They'll have some later in the season, it's probably just too early. Heated waterers can be hard to find in Canada but heated waterer *bases* are for sale, or you can make your own if you wish (see other threads with various directions for doing it), or for just a few chickens you could even use a $20 heated dogbowl and just make sure you refill it daily.

    I also want to buy plastic tarp to cover two of the three outside run walls to help cut the wind and blowing snow - is that a good idea? and then lay a thick layer of hay on the ground so the girls who want to go outside won't freeze their feet?

    They don't necessarily need hay unless the ground is *bare* and frozen -- and the hay will turn into a stenchy soggy mess to shovel out come the thaw -- but you can do it if you want, and on bare frozen ground it can be useful. Tarping upwind run walls is a good idea as long as you do it so the tarp will not blow off or immediately flap itself to pieces, and the wind load will not flatten the run fence.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     

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