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keeping single, one-legged chicken warm in miniature outdoor coop

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by crbrlw, Nov 25, 2010.

  1. crbrlw

    crbrlw New Egg

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    Oct 25, 2009
    We have a one-legged chicken that's we've been caring for since last spring. At night she can't be with the other chickens as she can't perch and the others peck her. She's a bantam, so we've been putting her in a large rabbit cage at night.

    Now that it's cold (we're in southern NH) my husband built an insulated box with a swinging front to keep her in. We put it on the porch, and I've been sticking a couple of those plastic pet warmer discs in the coop with her. I can microwave the discs and they stay warm for about 10 hours.

    Yesterday morning when I opened the box the poor bird was shivering - the discs hadn't stayed warm. We live in an old house without any exterior electrical outlets so can't put a kennel pad in there. Does anyone have suggestions?

    She can't come in the house - her behavior is exemplary, but her bedding is messy and she smells, which everyone objects to (she was in the house for a little bit last spring).

    Thanks and best wishes, Cara, Milford NH.
     
  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    So you are looking for a non-electric solution, I take it?

    One cheap thing you could try, see how it works for you, is to take a lidded catlitter bucket and fill it with hot water and put it in her coop in the evening. If it does not stay warm enough long enough and she's still shivering in the morning, try rigging it so it's insulated on 3 sides and the top, see if that works better. Advantage would be that IF it works, it'd be cheap and dead EASY, just have to put hot water in every evening.

    Good luck, to you *and* the chicken [​IMG],

    Pat
     
  3. Rivers

    Rivers Out Of The Brooder

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    Oct 3, 2010
    Im sure a heavily insulated box would work just fine. Im not an experience poultry keeper but have often had to put things together to stay hot or cold.

    If you go to either a vegetable or fish wholesale market they usually have large foam boxes in which they keep cooled fish & vegetables. Something like this could be incorporated into a little hen house. Alternatively you could find some bigger pieces of packing foam from electrical goods retailers (fridges/tv's etc). Pack these onto the walls of your mini coop, then cover them with something peck proof like plastic board. If you can find something reflective even better. Put in a bunch of bedding and surely the bird will be sweating!
     
  4. FireTigeris

    FireTigeris Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

    If the coop is insulated pt a cat carrier in the insulated main coop...
     
  5. pawprint2104

    pawprint2104 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 21, 2010
    SF Bay Area
    Quote:Yes on the foam box and, no disrespect to "patandchickens" (who, truthfully speaking, has way more experience than I with chicken care), no on the hot water option. I am very familiar with hypothermia and the speed at which water cools off. Water is highly conductive and will lose heat rapidly, as it attempts to reach equilibrium with the ambient temperature. You can confirm this by testing it one night, prior to placing the chicken into the water insulated box. Use a thermometer to take the temp when you put the hot water out. An hour later, test it again. An hour after that, test it again. It will be icy cold very quickly.

    The foam insulated box should do the trick. Chickens will absolutely pick and eat any and every bit of styrofoam they can get to, so be sure to sandwich it between plywood or something similar. I made the mistake of leaving one small section uncovered and the girls quickly went to work on it.

    Another alternative may be wrapping your rabbit cage with a low cost emergency blanket (the reflective kind) available from outdoor or hardware stores.

    Since your hubby already built an insulated box, consider improving the insulation and double the bedding. The floor can be a significant source of heat loss.

    Since your one legged girl doesn't get the extra warmth from the other hens, is there, perhaps one hen who is nice to her that can accompany her at night? Or, do you have any chicks that she can cuddle with.

    You could try those handwarmer things. I use them for backpacking on really cold nights. Although, they may be kind of expensive.
     
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:No no no, sorry but this is totally wrong. Water actually holds heat better than almost any other material (the only better ones being unsavory dangerous chemicals, or supersaturated salt solutions). Technically it has a high specific heat or high heat capacity. This is exactly why it is very commonly used as thermal ballast in passive solar heating etc.

    The conductivity of water, and the ability of water to take heat away from things when you immerse them in water, are totally irrelevant here, as I was not suggesting putting the chicken IN the bucket of hot water LOL -- the only conductivity that matters is 'of the bucket walls', which will determine how fast the bucket releases its heat and is why insulating part of the bucket can somewhat prolong the release of heat (at the expense of less initial heating)

    Use a thermometer to take the temp when you put the hot water out. An hour later, test it again. An hour after that, test it again. It will be icy cold very quickly.

    I would suggest you actually DO this, in a closed container mind you because what we are after is to see what the effects on the temperature inside the chicken's housing. Yes, obviously the bucket water will gradually cool off but the *chicken living space* will be warmer (assuming only minimal ventilation) than it was without the bucket of hot water. And depending on how much ventilation and insulation the chicken's little house has, that effect can last for a considerable time.

    I have *done* this. You should too [​IMG] I absolutely 100% guarantee you -- or I will come clean your coop with my tongue -- that provided the chicken's little house is not ventilated any more than required for health, it WILL be distinctly warmer in there. How much warmer and for how long will depend on a bunch of factors like 'house' size, actual ventilation amount, insulation amount/type, how hot the water was initially, whether the bucket is partially insulated, and how much the outdoor temperature drops.

    try http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_mass for more on the subject.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​
     
  7. pawprint2104

    pawprint2104 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    SF Bay Area
    Quote:No no no, sorry but this is totally wrong. Water actually holds heat better than almost any other material (the only better ones being unsavory dangerous chemicals, or supersaturated salt solutions). Technically it has a high specific heat or high heat capacity. This is exactly why it is very commonly used as thermal ballast in passive solar heating etc.

    The conductivity of water, and the ability of water to take heat away from things when you immerse them in water, are totally irrelevant here, as I was not suggesting putting the chicken IN the bucket of hot water LOL -- the only conductivity that matters is 'of the bucket walls', which will determine how fast the bucket releases its heat and is why insulating part of the bucket can somewhat prolong the release of heat (at the expense of less initial heating)
    ...
    Pat

    I was afraid I might be misunderstood about the water. Yes, I know the recommendation was not to immerse the chickens in the water, but that the water was an insulative layer for the rabbit cage. Of course, it would be silly to put the chickens in the water. And, I know that would not be advised by anyone on this forum. I understood the water was a non-contact heat source. If it were a Thermos, then of course the water would remain hot for a long time, but since the hot water is not held in a vacuum type insulated container and is readily accessible to the environment, it will lose heat rapidly.

    Test it in the conditions it would be used. If the water stays hot enough to warm the cage through the night, then by all means use it. We used to use hot water bottles for mild aches and muscle strain. But, modern technology allows us to use electric heating pads which is a more steady and reliable source of heat. I know electrical heat sources are not an option here, so we need to find something that works and is long-lasting.

    My buddy just walked in as I typed this. We discussed the hot water recommendation. He mentioned heating rocks in a warm (not hot!) oven and placing them beneath the the cage. Rocks will hold the heat for a longer period of time. This makes sense to me. However, it sounds similar to the kitty warming microwave discs you used which didn't work efficiently enough for your needs.

    I, still, think finding a non-aggressive buddy to provide her company at night is a better option.

    My .02 for what it's worth.

    More importantly, how is your one-legged friend doing?
     
  8. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:All I'm saying is that, in the real world when you do this, a kitty litter sized bucket of hot water will make an appreciable difference in the temperature of a small insulated space (even with some ventilation) for much or all of the night. I say this from having DONE it (minus the ventilation but you don't need much ventilation for just 1 chicken), for veggies in cold-frames in the very very late season.

    We discussed the hot water recommendation. He mentioned heating rocks in a warm (not hot!) oven and placing them beneath the the cage. Rocks will hold the heat for a longer period of time.

    Water has a higher specific heat than most rocks. Thus water is even better than rocks at holding the heat for a long time. It's just basic physics. (The main reason rock or concrete is a popular alternative, as thermal mass, in passive solar systems is because it can't freeze/bust/LEAK. It is not better *as* thermal ballast for the system, though, just less likely to go kerflooey all over your expensive custom house [​IMG])


    Pat​
     
  9. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    Quote:No no no, sorry but this is totally wrong. Water actually holds heat better than almost any other material (the only better ones being unsavory dangerous chemicals, or supersaturated salt solutions). Technically it has a high specific heat or high heat capacity. This is exactly why it is very commonly used as thermal ballast in passive solar heating etc.

    The conductivity of water, and the ability of water to take heat away from things when you immerse them in water, are totally irrelevant here, as I was not suggesting putting the chicken IN the bucket of hot water LOL -- the only conductivity that matters is 'of the bucket walls', which will determine how fast the bucket releases its heat and is why insulating part of the bucket can somewhat prolong the release of heat (at the expense of less initial heating)

    Use a thermometer to take the temp when you put the hot water out. An hour later, test it again. An hour after that, test it again. It will be icy cold very quickly.

    I would suggest you actually DO this, in a closed container mind you because what we are after is to see what the effects on the temperature inside the chicken's housing. Yes, obviously the bucket water will gradually cool off but the *chicken living space* will be warmer (assuming only minimal ventilation) than it was without the bucket of hot water. And depending on how much ventilation and insulation the chicken's little house has, that effect can last for a considerable time.

    I have *done* this. You should too [​IMG] I absolutely 100% guarantee you -- or I will come clean your coop with my tongue -- that provided the chicken's little house is not ventilated any more than required for health, it WILL be distinctly warmer in there. How much warmer and for how long will depend on a bunch of factors like 'house' size, actual ventilation amount, insulation amount/type, how hot the water was initially, whether the bucket is partially insulated, and how much the outdoor temperature drops.

    try http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_mass for more on the subject.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat​

    Pat, couldn't she also just put some milk jugs full of hot water in there? That would be a free solution and wouldn't add as much humidity hopefully.
     
  10. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Quote:Well sure, there is nothing magic about lidded kitty litter buckets [​IMG] -- they're just common and handy and reasonably big. Milk jugs or carboys or whatever other good-sized containers you have would work about as well. Ideally you want larger rather than smaller containers, as they will hold the warmth longer. (Although if all you have is smaller containers, obviously that's still better than nothing, and if you can safely pile several small ones right together against each other, and maybe insulate part of the pile, that would help somewhat too)

    (e.t.a. - not sure what you are thinking in terms of "not add as much humidity" but none of these things would add humidity... the idea is to have the lid ON the lidded kitty litter bucket <g>, or the milkjug cap screwed on, or whatever. So it is a large sealed container of water)

    Pat
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2010

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