Keeping it natural

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by jrhy, Nov 20, 2014.

  1. jrhy

    jrhy Out Of The Brooder

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    Hello all,
    I am still new to this backyard chicken experience and we are coming into our first winter for the girls. We live in upstate New York and I am double checking my decision for my girls and NY winter. I have read both for heating their hen house and not. I have heard people say chickens have been around for thousands of years during times where there was no heating especially not for farm animals. Then I've heard of people bringing the flock inside their home to sit by the fire, LOL! I've read that if you put lighting in their house they will produce eggs on a regular all year even during winter months, then I've also read that doing this could shorten their life span because naturally they are supposed to go through the seasons with less light and have a break from constant egg laying. So I have decided to let my girls go all natural. They free range in my yard, I will not put light or heat in their coop/henhouse, and we made sure they have many vents at the top of their house. Just wanted to ask your opinion if these are good decisions we've made. I've only had house pets my whole life so bringing the animals inside or giving them heat in some way would be my first reaction to the cold winter months, but then I also read that my birds are hardy winter birds that will adapt well to the temperatures in NY that's why they were available here. Their body heat will be enough to keep them warm and their house to protect them from the harsh elements. And that if I were to give them some sort of heat source it could either cause a fire or if we were to lose power and they would lose their heat that they are used to and they would not be properly adapted for the cold they would experience at that time. Are these all correct statements in your eyes? I just want what's best for the girls to be comfortable and especially to survive the cold winter. Again I guess chickens have lived for many years without heat but just thought I'd ask! Thank you
     
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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  3. jrhy

    jrhy Out Of The Brooder

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  4. jrhy

    jrhy Out Of The Brooder

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    May 9, 2014
    This article also mention that chickens can do fine in freezing temperatures so I was just wondering what others opinion were. Thank you
     
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    In your first post you imply that you've already seen the differing opinions on heating.

    It's your choice to decide what's best for your flock, coop and management techniques.
    The first winter is hard and kinda scary, but once you see how they can stand the cold you will worry much less.
    Last winter in Michigan was brutal both
    temps and snowfall and was my first with chickens,.I had some issues with drafts and liquid water which I figured out as I went along.

    The basics are this, IMO:
    They do need lots of ventilation up high, without strong drafts blowing into the coop (and at least part of the run), on the roost area especially.
    Keep the water liquid at all times....many ways to do that and you'll find lots options and lots of differing opinions in that too!
    Lots of dry bedding on the floor to rest in during the day and crop full of grains a couple hours before sundown.

    Just hang in there and keep reading.
    You won't find any end all answers to your situation, but you will find lots of experiences and glean some tips that will help your particular situation.
     
  6. LakeMomNY

    LakeMomNY Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I live in upstate NY as well.

    I can confirm that what you are planning (no heat, no lights, plenty of ventilation) is how many people (successfully) manage their flocks in this area.
     
  7. jrhy

    jrhy Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you all, I know I've read a lot on this subject and everything else about chickens but sometimes it helps to here the opinion of people who have had their own experiences and could lend some good advice that I haven't read. It's My first year and totally new to me so I'm kinda worried a bit about the winter, I just don't want to wake up to my girls frozen to death one morning. Would break my heart. Want to try to do what's best but also what's most natural. Thank you again.
     
  8. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

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    I never said vents aren't important, lol...

    I said good ventilation is important, but too much can kill.

    What too much is for your area depends on a lot of things. I don't have enough information about your coop and so forth so can't assist with that. Looks like you've made up your mind anyway.
    What's natural depends on a lot of things, far beyond that limited and incorrect belief many have that ancient farmers did not provide heating or the artificially elevated temperatures provided by purpose-specific buildings etc, and lots of people make avoidable fatal mistakes thinking they're 'doing what's natural'. Heck, I'm a fan of natural methods myself and there's many times even I cringe at the things people do thinking they're natural.

    Once the animal is domesticated, habituated, and of specialized breed types, what's natural for its ancestors would often be outright fatal to it, and often vice versa.

    Anyway, good luck.
     
  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Pens like below are used for breeding pairs and for hens with chicks to retreat to at night. They provide no protection from elements at night and birds released early each morning. Primary purposes are to enable rapid nightly roll calls and to prevent harassment by owls. Most males in taller pens with sunscreen.

    [​IMG]


    During the winter months most birds are confined, usually individually to taller pens, such that they have protection from direct precipitation and have a roost high enough to keep them clear of snow up to 24 to 36" deep. Wind breaks are located such that birds are protected while on the roost and a scour hole is created in a sunny location where feed can be scattered and birds can enjoy a milder micro-climate while on the ground.

    [​IMG]


    My birds must endure winters where temperature can drop into the low negative 10's F with blizzard conditions. Trade-offs for this system include greater variation in feed requirements as a function of windchill and reduced egg production during midwinter.

    For the OP's interest, the windchill is very much related to extreme ventilation. They can survive extremes I put them through without problems and are in very good health even during the worst part of winter. There are breed differences to be considered but even my American Dominiques can handle such. I have also kept in hens at high densities in confines where ventilation had to be intentionally increased to prevent buildup of waste products (mostly CO2 and water vapor). Buildup of latter can result to more cold stress problems than realized by even birds in pens above.
     
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