Michigan - What do I do with my chickens in the winter?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by szilagyi, Apr 18, 2008.

  1. szilagyi

    szilagyi Hatching

    Apr 17, 2008

    I'm quite new to the idea of raising chickens. I think I pretty much have everything figured out as far as the coop and protected foraging for the chickens goes. But before I take the leap and get a few, I need to know what do I do with them during the winter time? It can get pretty cold here in Michigan. I have an enclosed barn where I can move the coop, but it's still cold out there. Also, I am looking at some smaller breeds that are supposed to be good egg-layers. Of Anconas, Buttercups, Brown Leghorns, and Hamburgs, which would be best suited for a Michigan climate? Which of these breeds are friendly? Thanks so much for the help!
  2. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:There are LOTS of threads on here (in this section, and in Coop And Run Construction) about what people do in cold weather -- browse thru the older pages of topics, and/or use the Search utility in the blue bar above. We have members from climates MUCH colder than yours so there is lots of good information and suggestions available.

    The short form is: insulate, maintain good ventilation (yes, even when it is real cold they need good ventilation - without it, you get dampness and ammonia, which can lead quickly to health problems), and give them a coop or room therein that's no more than about 4 sq ft per chicken, although it's still real good if they have a somewhat winterized larger area where they can expand into during the day.

    When you say 'move the coop', are you thinking of a tractor? Tractors are much harder than fixed coops to get to working really well in very cold winter areas... their small size and small volume makes it awful hard to strike the right balance of heat retention vs ventilation.

    Also, I am looking at some smaller breeds that are supposed to be good egg-layers. Of Anconas, Buttercups, Brown Leghorns, and Hamburgs, which would be best suited for a Michigan climate? Which of these breeds are friendly? Thanks so much for the help!

    None of these are typically such good things for cold weather. A) because they are small-bodied and thus naturally closer to hyperthermia than large chickens are, and B) because most of what you list have Big Fancy Combs that tend to suffer frostbite. Your best bet for cold weather is large-bodied breeds (Orpingtons, Brahmas, etc) and/or pea- or rose-combed breeds (Wyandottes, Buckeyes, Chanteclers, etc).

    Not to say you can't raise smallish chickens with largish single (or otherwise fancy) combs in a very cold climate, but it places a higher premium on good coop design and good management, may require use of electric heat (runs up your bill and not 100% safe), and you still may have comb/toe damage from frostbite or even out-and-out mortality.

    Just so you know [​IMG]

    Good luck with whatever you choose,

  3. Gersbud

    Gersbud Songster

    Apr 25, 2007
    Central Michigan
    I live in Mid Michigan. I have several different types of breeds in my flock. I have Easter Eggers, brahams, rock, sexlinks, Black Alstrlorp,and Buff orp, and a wydotte. I do how ever have 2 banty polish hens. In the winter I keep them in their coop most of the time especially when it is in the single digits. I do keep a heat light in the coop. I haven't really had any problems with them during the winter months. I just have to keep their clean the coop more often then in the summer.

    Good luck with your chickens and hope everything goes well for you when you do get your flock started. [​IMG]
  4. chickflick

    chickflick Crowing

    Mar 10, 2007
    I live in Mi, also. I have a flat panel heater and a heat lamp in my coop to keep it bearable for the chickens. It's good to have a heated water dish, also. I'm not talking keeping the coop toasty, but just above freezing, at least. We have a double walled insulated coop.
  5. CUDA

    CUDA Songster

    Mar 4, 2008
    I live in Michigan, and don't supply heat for any of my birds, I dub them, and provide shelter for them, and they do just fine. You can see some of my pens, and an article about dubbing and dealing with frostbite on my site HERE . Good luck!
  6. Guitartists

    Guitartists Resistance is futile

    Mar 21, 2008
    Thanx CUDA for that info on dubbing.... I had never even heard of such a thing. Makes good sense. Even though I usually opt to NOT alter something, there are times when the health of the animal is better for it. If I ever do get my flock of chickens, I'll certainly be looking into this more.
  7. Our winters are similar to yours, and I have a page on insulation and how to install in my home page below. Hope it helps![​IMG]
  8. fifelakelooper

    fifelakelooper Songster

    Apr 9, 2009
    fife lake, mi.
    Hi! I'm new too. I live in north Michigan and have had chickens for about 4 yrs. My coop is 8X9 and is not insulated at all. I have Buff Orpingtons now..in the past I also had Barred Rocks. They did fine. This winter I had 3 banties and I did worry about them. I keep a heated water base so water doesn't freeze and a timer with red heat light for Jan,Feb and March. I have had no problems. The shed has two ventilation vents and I keep about 8-10inches of litter during the winter...by the end of winter it gets deep. The first warm day I take it all out and put in fresh..then when warm weather hits I will clean out again and use bleach solution in it. The combs have done fine and no loses.
    Hope this helps.[​IMG]
  9. neckringer

    neckringer In the Brooder

    Sep 9, 2008
    My michigan birds do just great all winter, I have them in a enclosed coop with plenty of ventilation and a light to simulate 12-13 hours of daylight that comes on in the morning. No heaters or heat lamps, Just plenty of food, water and treats. I use heated dog dishes for there water in the winter to prevent freezing. It wasnt uncommon to see my birds wandering around in snow up to there necks this winter, they seemed to enjoy it.Only on the bitter cold days did I not let them have the option to go outside.
  10. mightieskeeper

    mightieskeeper Songster

    Mar 6, 2009
    Clio Michigan
    I like to see some pics of your chickens in that much snow!

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