Keeping chickens locked in their coop in the winter?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Brandee Fausett, Nov 2, 2009.

  1. Brandee Fausett

    Brandee Fausett New Egg

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    Nov 2, 2009
    I am a new member and my husband and I are having a debate about whether or not our chickens need to be locked in their coop during the winter months. He believes that they should be kept in the coop so they will be warm and safe from predators. I believe they should be allowed to go in and out of the coop as they desire and that they are smart enough to go inside when necessary. It is my understanding that chickens need the fresh air, excercise, and ability to peck the ground in order to be happy and healthy. This is our second winter with our Rhode Island reds and they seemed to winter well last year. Are predators really worse in the winter? Any help or advice will be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. SimplyForties

    SimplyForties Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 4, 2009
    Carroll County, Va
    Where are you located? RIR are a good, cold weather breed. I wouldn't worry about them getting cold. Are you free-ranging or using a run? If you're using a run and it's secure, there is no reason it shouldn't be just as secure in the winter. If you're free-ranging, then you're already accepting the risks inherent in that practice. You are right that your birds will be healthier if they can get out of the coop. I free range my birds and open the door in the morning and close it up in the evening, letting them choose when to come in and go out. Good luck!

    Edited to say "run" instead of "coop" - typo!
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2009
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Predators really are worse in the winter, four-legged ones especially. (The other time of year when they're particularly bad is lat spring early summer, when they have kids to feed)

    What you choose to DO about that is of course up to you.

    Have you considered building a reasonably secure run (which is a handy thing to have anyhow) - then you will have an intermediate option between indoor lockdown and free-ranging. You can still let them out to free range when you want but will have the run so they can go outdoors in some fashion at times when it seems less wise to free range them.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  4. Brandee Fausett

    Brandee Fausett New Egg

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    Nov 2, 2009
    We live in a small, Southeastern Utah town where winters are cold. We do have a nice, large run attached to the coop. The coop and run came with our house when we purchased it two years ago. There is a large wash on our property that is frequented by all kinds of wildlife. The first night we put our chicks in the coop we lost one to a predator but after shoring up the run and fixing a hole in the coop we have had no further incident. I did not grow up on a farm or with any farm animals but we have enjoyed the six chickens and the eggs they provided us with that we added another 8 to the flock this spring. It has also been great for my kids to learn about life cycles and gain resoponsibility in helping to care for the chickens.
     
  5. chickn

    chickn Away for a bit

    Apr 15, 2008
    New Hampshire
    mine do as they please. i have pics somewhere of my bantam roo coming to the steps in the middle of a snow storm. he lived and is fine. they do fine.
     
  6. Hoosiermomma

    Hoosiermomma Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 6, 2009
    S.E Ind
    [​IMG] We let our chickens free range is the winter, just like we do any other time of year. We do put them in at night though. They are only out when we are home to watch over them so we do not worry about predators going after them. Good luck with your flock!
     
  7. card5640

    card5640 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 27, 2009
    Bangor area, Maine
    Ours go out into their run that is clovered with clear plastic so they are out of the wind. We do let them free range a bit if the snow is not too deep, when its crusty the walk on top of the crust, sometimes when I dig a path to the coop they walk that path back and forth. The ground in their run has deep leaves and straw in it. I throw scratch out their each day for them to scratch about in, I dont know if they love the scratching or scratch more. Keeps them entertained.
     
  8. ams3651

    ams3651 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 23, 2008
    NE PA
    We had one of the coldest winters in a long time this past winter and it was my first with my chickens. I learned my chickens do not like snow and we had lots of it on the ground for a long time. My chickens were inside for weeks at a time by their own choosing. I have plenty of room for them in the coop so they are not crowded and have a heat lamp when it was in the teens and below. THey did just fine. I did get bales of straw to scatter in the run this winter in hopes they might go out and scratch thru the straw.
     
  9. aimeeinwv

    aimeeinwv Chillin' With My Peeps

    I agree with you too, they do need exercise for sure. Maybe letting them use the run often yet letting them free range when you can be home to keep an eye out for any predators. I'm afraid if they are used to free ranging, they may get bored and start pecking if they are too cooped up. Also, I have heard of hanging heads of lettuce/broccoli/Cauliflower in the runs to give them fresh greens and something to keep them busy during the day while you are not home. Hope this helps! [​IMG]
     

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