Needing Reassurance - They Will Survive the Cold, Right?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by ehanson, Nov 19, 2013.

  1. ehanson

    ehanson New Egg

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    So we've had our first big cold snap here in Juneau, Alaska. We're far south in the state, so it never gets as bad as up north, but it's cold for me which makes me think it's cold for the chickens. It's been in the 10s during the day and dipping down closer to 0 at night. We're also headed for our first snow of the year. Normally Juneau averages in the 20s - 30s, but we do occasionally get these colder snaps.

    This is our first winter with chickens and we just built our coop this summer. We've got four gigantic fluffy Golden Nuggets:

    [​IMG]


    We read a lot on here about wintering chickens, but now that we're actually here, we're a little anxious. We read that we shouldn't heat the coop and since we've got a cold-hardy breed, it's better for them to just handle the cold. But we've put a thermometer inside the coop and it's clear that it's no warmer in there than it is outside. The coop is entirely made out of wood, it is not insulated, it has vents under the eaves. We decided to keep the vents open because Juneau is on the water can be a bit of a wet cold. We do have a water heater and a 40w lightbulb on a timer to extend their day in the morning and afternoon. They have a 2x4 for a roosting bar so they cover their feet when they're sleeping, the bar is at the top of the coop. We're trying to do deep litter with straw, so they've got a good 8-10 inches of straw covering the floor of the coop.

    So this morning we found three of them piled on top of each other sleeping in one of the nesting boxes. And when I went to add more straw to the coop, I tried to turn the straw already there, but it had mostly frozen solid and couldn't be budged.

    Our coop is raised off the ground to provide more of a run. The run is entirely enclosed:

    [​IMG]



    But the fact that the straw was frozen, they weren't sleeping on the nesting bar, and the temperature inside the coop is the same as the outside, all adds up to making me nervous.

    Then again, the chickens all seem to be acting just like their silly selves. I don't see any change in their behavior and they're not acting sluggish or strangely.

    So the question is, should we just take a deep breath and trust that they're going to be fine? Or should we do some additional prep? Poking through the other winter posts, I actually hadn't thought about snow blowing through the run, so we might go ahead and tack up some plastic, but other than that, if we don't need to add insulation or a heater, I'd rather not. But of course, more than anything I don't want my birds to get sick or die.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2013
  2. granny hatchet

    granny hatchet Tastes like chicken Premium Member

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    i dont know what it takes for them to survive but i do wonder if its a possibility to stack straw bales up on the outside of the coop? i live in IN. and i did cover my run but i dont have the same chickens you do
     
  3. Just Wingin It

    Just Wingin It Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I did read an old post about someone in Canada that didn't do anything special for their birds in the winter except draft control and they were just fine...... but I couldn't help you, I'm in Texas. :) good luck.
     
  4. granny hatchet

    granny hatchet Tastes like chicken Premium Member

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    very nice coop, btw
     
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Wind break on run would be good.
    Bales of straw around the outside of the run under the coop would be good too.
    Vent open is OK as long as it's not creating a draft at the roost area.

    Are your roosts higher than the nests? Have they roosted in the nests before?

    Not sure about the frozen straw, maybe 8-10" is too deep?
    You're not really going to get a compost situation going inside, needs too much moisture to be good for a chicken environment especially in your climate.
    Maybe wood shavings not as thick would be easier to keep stirred up?
     
  6. Scott H

    Scott H Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Are the vents well above their heads? Maybe they are getting a draft on them. I checked by putting a candle on the roost on a breezy day and watched for movement of the flame.
    Those birds should easily handle your winter colds if they have dry, draft free coop.
     
  7. MyLittleRedCoop

    MyLittleRedCoop Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I had a coop similar to the one pictured here.
    Does this one have a clean out tray that is pulled out?
    Mine was just a thin sheet of plastic. I bought a huge sheet of styrofoam and duct taped a piece (cut to size) under it to provide added insulation under the coop. You could also do something similar, making panels for the inside. Just wrap that foam completely so they don't peck it. Then you can take it out in the spring.
    In the end, when we had weather that was going to be sub-zero as a high temp (not just windchill) I opted to heat for a few days. Not like summer heat. Just keeping them at about zero heat. (Since most winter hardy chickens are good to about zero). A kennel pad might be a non-light option that works for you and seems less likely to catch fire, since there are no "hot parts").
    Good luck!

    Oops! I forgot to add:
    My coop like this didn't come with a door to close the pop opening. I ended up making one so that they didn't have drafts blowing right on them. That helped keep them much more comfortable.
    Also, a sheet of 6mil clear plastic around the run will help keep them warmer when outside. I've used both a painting "drop cloth" and a clear plastic table cloth. Even putting it up carefully, it's still a little gappy, so it won't close the run off enough to suffocate (lol, just sayin!) but will keep the wind down and snow out of the area.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2013
  8. jetdog

    jetdog Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You could try wrapping the run with clear shower curtains to block the wind and it gives it the greenhouse effect when the sun is out.Mine is a lot warmer in the run with the shower curtains plus it doesn't block the sun.
     
  9. granny hatchet

    granny hatchet Tastes like chicken Premium Member

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    awesome ! do the hold up in strong wind?
     
  10. jetdog

    jetdog Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I bought mine off Amazon, heavy duty commercial grade holds up well I zip tied the heck out of it so the wind doesn't grab it, so far so good. I will feel better when we get some snow around the bottom I won't shovel it to give it some weight.
     

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