Lock them up in winter?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Sienatiger, Oct 25, 2014.

  1. Sienatiger

    Sienatiger Chirping

    Aug 7, 2014
    With the girls!
    i am a 1st year chicken owner and live in New England with cold, snowy winters. I am not sure what to do in the winter. Do I keep them in their coop? The coop is 4 by 8 ft and currently housing 9 chickens. I feel so dumb, I don't know this. But anyways thanks so much for any help,
  2. kbarrett

    kbarrett Songster

    Nov 12, 2007
    I live in PA so our winter is very similar. I keep around a dozen hens in a 6 x 8 coop. We revamped the run this summer which is 8 feet wide by 24 feet long. The change we made is that 3/4 is now has a roof. In years past the pop door to the run remains open 24/7, over winter I would close it at night and open it up back in the am. There were a few times that I would keep them locked in all day- during a good nor'easter, ice storms, and our lovely polar vortex last year- that was brutal! In general I think they spent more time indoors over winter but had the option of going out if they wanted to. Even on a cold day they like to preen in the sun. I'm hoping the roof works out to where I don't have to shovel snow in the run :)

    I don't know if this helps you at all- not sure of your set up.
  3. And…. THIS is where the "how many square feet per bird" conversation or questions like "How many chickens can I stuff into this coop?" tends to break down.

    The reality is that during nice weather, a lot of birds sleep in a small coop-ette, but when winter blows in deep snow and birds have to spend days and days in tight quarters, those who can provide the maximum amount of space for the birds will experience less issues and the birds will have a better life.
    2 people like this.
  4. kbarrett

    kbarrett Songster

    Nov 12, 2007

    I saw an ad on craigslist yesterday for one of those cute 4x4 coops in which maybe 1/2 of that space includes the run below the little bitty box of a coop- I had to re-read the ad to make sure I saw it right. They claimed you could put 8 hens in it!
  5. Yeup. Far too common. I've seen them at feed stores and the chain rural stores too.

    Folks who supposedly abhor what the industry does to layers often do not provide a substantially different environment for their backyard flock. Doesn't always make a lot of sense to me.
    1 person likes this.
  6. TaraBellaBirds

    TaraBellaBirds Songster

    Jul 13, 2013
    SW Kansas
    Right! We have a huge old fashioned coop (we were lucky enough to buy a home that used to be a chicken farm[​IMG]) and I still par down my flock in the winter. Do to chicken math my 'paring' down is going from 36 to 11 laying hens 4 pullets and 1 roo. plus breeding throughout the winter (babies have a seperate brooding room!)

    Given the choice most chickens seem to want to stay in a nice warm coop rather than get their feet cold, so space is super important to avoid aggression. Adding things like hay bales to climb on, and things to peck at makes a world of difference for boredom.
  7. I agree. We "peak" at around 50-60 birds, after hatching, in June, but by now we're down to under 14. Just the birds we need for spring breeding and some winter eggs. That's it.

    What folks CAN do in a snow belt area, where snow lasts and lasts, is to use their snow blower or tractor/blade and clean out a large area for the birds. Keep it clean down to the "grass" or dirt. On sunny days, these areas have a chance of clearing and the birds appreciate having a large playground to wander around without wading through snow deeper than their heads. It works well.

    Last edited: Oct 25, 2014
  8. Curlyginger

    Curlyginger Chirping

    Jun 14, 2014
    I also live in New England and am also a total newbie. I have 5 hens in a 4x4 coop (yes, I know, a bit snug) and an 8x12 run. This summer, half of the run had a roof (all of it is covered with hardware cloth). I just added clear roofing panels over the rest of the run. The run is made from an old swingset, so the roofing panels go all the way to the ground. It should keep out the snow and help keep out the wind. I keep water in the coop and the run, but only keep food in the run. Therefore, the chickens will definitely be in the run at least some of the day. I plan on opening the pop door every morning, just like I do now. I may put down some straw in the run to keep their little feet off the cold ground.

    We'll see how it goes. Good luck!
  9. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    You indicate only a 4' x 8' area. You are missing a dimension that can be used to make that area go further. Think levels enabling birds to disperse throughout coop. You might be able to double the available room birds can use with minimal trouble.
  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I had 10 chickens in a 6 x 12 coop with a 2 x 12 roost board last winter and it was tight.
    It was a brutal winter, frigid temps for day on end and lots an lots of snow.
    Didn't have any real problems but they could have used more room.
    I also kept a 10 x 10 area of the run cleared of snow, part of that area was under the edge of the coop, and would thinly spread a bit of straw on the snowy areas to entice them to come out.

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