My First Winter with Chickens

GingerLiz67

In the Brooder
Aug 28, 2019
8
6
14
Hey all! As the title says, this is my first winter with chickens and I'm starting to get a game plan together so I don't wait until the last minute and find out supplies are sold out or hard to get. :)
I have four coops and will be doing my best to "winterize" them. Half of my flock are bantams, the other half are LF. I'm more focused on keeping the bantams safe and warm this winter than the big girls, and have been looking at heat plates to put in the bantam coops.
I live in Kentucky and while we don't have crazy, long winters, we do get snow usually after the new year and saw a few bursts of below freezing temperatures.
What do you all recommend as far as when to use a heater in the coops? Currently, I intend to utilize straw for bedding, tarps to wrap the coops/runs in and feeding corn to help generate body heat, in addition to hate plates if/when necessary.
What temperature/situation would a heater be necessary? Is there a certain temperature that chickens are in danger of frost bite?

Thanks bunches! :)
 

SueT

Crossing the Road
Premium member
May 27, 2015
7,339
19,135
777
SW MO
I don't think you need heat at your latitude. Here in SW Missouri, I have had bantams and large fowl thru several winters with occasional temps even below 0, and everyone did fine, no supplementing heat. What is usually recommended to prevent frostbite is adequate ventilation to avoid build-up of moisture and ammonia.
I use a heated dog bowl for a waterer in the winter.
I don't really change anything else other than to make paths in the snow when there is accumulation.
Good luck!
 

cluckmecoop7

Free Ranging
Jan 4, 2019
3,019
10,982
607
North East USA
Hi!

I'm in the same situation as you! Well, sort of.

One of the things I'm planning on doing when winter sets in is keeping one of my waterers in the coop. (The smaller one, of course.) Because, sometimes its a really cold day and there is deep snow. Your chickens don't really feel like going outside. They will still need fresh food and water. So I think I'll put it on a cinder block in the corner of the coop and set the waterer on it.

I'm not planning on buying a heated water bowl, etc. I want to wrap foam or something around the waterer out in the run so it does not freeze. I'm not exactly sure yet...
 

GingerLiz67

In the Brooder
Aug 28, 2019
8
6
14
I don't think you need heat at your latitude. Here in SW Missouri, I have had bantams and large fowl thru several winters with occasional temps even below 0, and everyone did fine, no supplementing heat. What is usually recommended to prevent frostbite is adequate ventilation to avoid build-up of moisture and ammonia.
I use a heated dog bowl for a waterer in the winter.
I don't really change anything else other than to make paths in the snow when there is accumulation.
Good luck!
Do you think I should get a couple heaters in the event that we get a colder than normal winter? I just don't want anyone to get frostbite :( Do you know at what temperature chickens would get frostbite?
 

SueT

Crossing the Road
Premium member
May 27, 2015
7,339
19,135
777
SW MO
Do you think I should get a couple heaters in the event that we get a colder than normal winter? I just don't want anyone to get frostbite :( Do you know at what temperature chickens would get frostbite?
As I mentioned, you avoid frostbite by providing adequate ventilation which cuts down the humidity (from breath and poop) and cuts down on ammonia as well. I don't think you need heaters in KY. Chickens have down jackets after all.
However if you want heaters, others will be along who can properly advise you on that, as I've never used heaters here.
PS Did you see there is a currently featured thread on heating coops? I think you may find your answers there. https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/adding-heat-to-coop-in-winter.1329991/
 

Alaskan

The Frosted Flake
11 Years
Jul 26, 2008
29,589
51,995
1,282
Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
My Coop
My Coop
I'm not planning on buying a heated water bowl, etc. I want to wrap foam or something around the waterer out in the run so it does not freeze. I'm not exactly sure yet...
I have found that if you have a bit of clear plastic/a window/whatever that blocks wind but let's sun though, and you put the waterer right up against that.....then it stays thawed until at least 10F.

Do you think I should get a couple heaters in the event that we get a colder than normal winter? I just don't want anyone to get frostbite :( Do you know at what temperature chickens would get frostbite?
How big is your flock?

For your area of the world..... I would watch out for freezing mud and wet snow that balls up on toes and feet. If the run is roofed, you might have zero risk of mud/snow balls. Otherwise, wide perches help since hopefully the balls will thaw and fall off under their belly feathers when they roost at night...but a nightly check would be best. Mud balls can dry pretty hard.

Frostbite is mostly a humidity thing... so the MORE open your coop the better.

Often, first time owners panic over the cold, button up the coop, and then the chickens come down with respiratory illnesses and bad frostbite.

So...don't do that.

If you get lots of freezing wind, blocking up THREE (not all 4) sides of a roofed run can be very helpful.

I wouldn't bother with heat...
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
10 Years
Nov 12, 2009
7,320
7,086
536
western South Dakota
Do not think keeping the birds warm. That leads to frostbite. You need to think of keeping the birds DRY. Dry birds are warm birds, and wet, damp birds are cold. Lack of ventilation, is what causes birds to be damp.

Think of a bunch of people in a closed car in the dark, without the heat on, it fogs up almost immediately, making people damp, and quickly uncomfortable. That is what happens with chickens too. Since childhood, we have been told to shut the door, to keep things warm, and so it will so counterintuitive to do what you really need to do. OPEN the place up, let that warm moist air out of the coop.

Most heaters, on deep bedding can be a real fire hazard. I would check with your household insurance to make sure you don't violate your policy with the set up. I live in western SD, we routinely get down to -25 degrees, and the more open I have the coop, the less frostbite. In the beginning, I wanted to trap the heat too, it took me awhile to figure out what good ventilation was all about.

Put in deep bedding, and keep the manure broken up or out of the coop. Open the coop up above their heads, so that the warm, moist air rises out of the coop. In the winter, I frequently drop my roosts down a couple of inches to give them more head clearance. You want your birds roosting away from the ceiling and the walls if possible.

I use a black rubber bowl for water.

Mrs K
 

HopeSprings

Songster
Feb 3, 2019
320
634
166
Weaverville, NC
My first winter, too. It can get cold here, but usually doesn't last long -- if it snows, you want to get out and enjoy it before lunch!
My coop is 10' deep and 6' wide with the eaves open (12' of venting). The bank of windows overlooking the run can be closed as can the window in the 6' front wall. I've been leaving the pop door open 24/7 and plan to leave it open through the winter. The pop door is just off to the side of one of the poop boards, so I'm thinking good ventilation from floor to ceiling without chilling the flock. I do have a min-max thermometer so I can keep track of highs and lows.
 
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