New at this... and Winter is coming!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Mountain Hens, Oct 13, 2016.

  1. Mountain Hens

    Mountain Hens New Egg

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    Jul 20, 2016
    Hello all!
    I have a few winter questions:

    1. I have been reading a lot of negatives about heat lamps and would like to ween our girls off of the warm and toasty temps they've gotten used to... we have been using the heat lamp up high in their coop since the beginning because we live in a colder area, we kept it off in summer, though. Now, as I read a lot about how dangerous they are I want to stop using it, but fear the sudden temperature change since it has been quite cold outside. Any tips on how to do this without affecting the girls too much?

    2. We have a fairly small run that does not have a roof over it... it does have netting to keep predators out, but that will not hold snow. There is a small space (about 4X3 feet) under the coop itself that would stay snow free for the most part, and on days with wind we can shovel it out. It this enough for them to scratch and find shelter on snowy days?

    3. Water does freeze outside up here... I have read a lot of tricks with cans and water basins or pots to make a heater, so to speak, for the waterers. However, we have hanging waterers with little nipples underneath and those will not sit on anything. Is there a way to keep those from freezing or do we need to get different waterers?

    4. Do we need to insulate the coop or wrap the run? We do not have funds to buy anything like insulation, so is there a cheap fix for this? Right now the coop is plywood boards with no windows, but two hatch doors that are closed at night. Also the roof has a small opening that probably allows wind to get in... we can cover this, but will that be enough?

    THANK YOU for all the help!! We only have 4 little girls and we have grown to love them... we want them to be healthy and happy!
     
  2. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

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    How cold does it actually get? The biggest danger in cold weather is frostbite. The best way to prevent frostbite is a well ventilated, dry coop. If your coop is closed up enough to keep the heat from a heat lamp in, you do not have enough ventilation. If you have enough ventilation, any benefits from insulation and heat lamps would be negated.
    It's human nature to want to seal everything up to keep them toasty warm, but that is actually the worst thing you could do. They need lots of ventilation, at least a foot above roosting level.
     
  3. Mountain Hens

    Mountain Hens New Egg

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    Jul 20, 2016
    The coldest it gets is close to zero (- 9 was the coldest I've seen in 6 years of living here) and it snows a lot... we live in the shadow of Mt. Hood and get snow from Nov - Mar most years. My husband said there is plenty of ventilation... I worry there's too much. And we want to eliminate the heat lamp somehow.
    Thanks for the reply!
     
  4. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

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    No such thing as too much ventilation. Chickens can handle temps that cold just fine without heat. Can you post a pic of your coop?
     
  5. tinakevin

    tinakevin Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I live in the north east. Nh to be exact and I do not heat my coop. I also bought a heater from the feed store made specifically for hanging water buckets. I never had a problem with frozen water. My girls did really well in the unheated coop. If by some chance your electric goes out while your heating it then it could cause more harm to the hens because they were not acclimented to the cold. This works for me.
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Ditto Dat^^^^ ....but....There can be too much air movement in the wrong places tho.

    Turn that heat lamp off NOW! Give them time to acclimate.

    Here's a pretty good thread about ventilation vs drafts.
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/1048597/ventilated-but-free-of-drafts

    This is an excellent video showing air movements(but the roost in this coop is way too high)


    Vertical nipples are notorious for dripping and harder to keep warm enough to not freeze up.
    Here's my heated waterer.
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/aarts-heated-waterer-with-horizontal-nipples
     
  7. tmarsh83

    tmarsh83 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Just echoing the good advice you've already gotten. Cold isn't the enemy, humidity is, and if you think you have enough ventilation, you could probably double it be better off.

    Chickens and turkeys aren't much different and wild turkeys aren't getting heat lamps and air tight coops in the winter. Make sure you have areas that vent lower than the peak. The air will change more effectively if there are multiple venting points. It will cycle the air better.

    Ventilation doesn't mean drafts thought. It's seems a difficult balance to strike, but it can be done pretty easily.

    Check those articles aart gave you, especially the first one.

    Good luck!
     
  8. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    I live in northern Wyoming between 3 mountain ranges, not too far from Yellowstone Park. My coop isn't heated or insulated and I have lots of ventilation. The advice you've been given is spot on, but I have a couple of questions.

    You don't say how old your chickens are...are they still considered chicks or are they more in the 6 + month old stage? If they are on the younger side, you might feel better using a "huddle box", a box with no bottom and a hole cut in the side for them. They'll snuggle down inside it and their bodies will warm it nicely. Another issue, if they've had a heat lamp all this time, will be panic at the idea of total darkness all of a sudden. They'll let you know in no uncertain terms that they don't like you one bit anymore! Be firm - they will forgive you. You can put a solar light out to collect sunlight all day, then put it in the coop in a bracket just for that purpose if the thought of them being nervous about darkness upsets you, but ultimately the kindest thing you can do for them is to just let them be mad at you for a few days. They'll end up appreciating the dark time for sleeping soundly. Some people even put a dim night light in there - I don't.

    When you say that it's quite cold, how cold are we talking? This past Saturday, Sunday and Monday our temperatures were in the upper 60s, low 70s but we had been warned about a cold front moving in. So we used the warm days to get the greenhouse plastic tarp on our run. They weren't kidding. Temperatures dropped late Monday afternoon to the 30s, and Tuesday we got 5 inches of wet, heavy snow. <sigh> Our nighttime temperatures dropped to 19 degrees. That's quite a change for both the us and the chickens. But they did just fine because they were dry and out of the wind!

    I don't ever use heat lamps for so many reasons....I raised my first batch of chicks the "conventional" way, and I swore I'd never do it again. Now I raise all chicks, even those I've hatched here at home, outside in a pen within the run with a heating pad cave. The result for me and for hundreds of others who have tried it is stronger chicks, calmer chicks, earlier feathering chicks, and chicks that know that when the light outside starts to fade it's time to find a roosting spot for the night. I never have to acclimate them to cooler temps....here in springtime the temps can be in the teens and twenties,and it's not unusual to get snow in late May. One year we had our last snowfall on June 6th. This year we just got 5 inches of snow on October 12. If I were to try to raise "hot house" chickens here I'd be fighting a losing battle and the birds would suffer.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/956958/mama-heating-pad-in-the-brooder-picture-heavy-update

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/yes-you-certainly-can-brood-chicks-outdoors

    That information, however, is more for future chicks you may raise. For your concerns about right now, it's not so cold where you are that you can't start acclimating them to the coming winter now. so I'd get that heat lamp turned off. They'll snuggle tight together for warmth and then as they acclimate they'll need to do that less and less. As for covering your run for protection from the elements, if at all possible find some way to do that. Even a clear shower curtain or two attached to the outside of the run is effective, but you'll have to use your imagination and engineering skills to find a way to keep it from collapsing when you cover the top of the run. With a run that small, you could probably even anchor a couple of pieces of plywood over it. While they do very well in cold temps (and here a week or so in row of -20 isn't uncommon) being damp and/or having strong winds ruffle their feathers, taking away the trapped body heat that the feathers hold in, is far more dangerous to them than just plain cold temperatures. I suspect that your birds will be just fine (after they get over being mad at you) and you'll sleep better at night without the risks that heat lamps in a coop can bring. Good luck!!
     
  9. Mountain Hens

    Mountain Hens New Egg

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    Jul 20, 2016
    Thank you for all the replies! Great advice that I will use for sure! Our chickens are not that old... two are 7 months and two are 6 months... they are all laying though. It gets down to zero degrees here, but right now it is 50 and night is 30.
    I will go take a picture of the coop...
     
  10. Mountain Hens

    Mountain Hens New Egg

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    Jul 20, 2016
    This is our "coop"... we didn't have money to buy materials, so my husband made this with scraps around the barns. There is a roosting pole that goes the length inside and all four of them sleep side by side on it. There is also two laying baskets, but they all four lay in the same one. We have netting over the run because we get a lot of hawks, coyotes, stray cats, and an occasional bear. That is why the girls don't roam around the outside of the run unless we are outside with them. Then they always go right back in as if obeying us.

    [​IMG]
    This is the side view and run... the coop is the wooden box... on the far right side is a large hatch door that opens completely for cleaning and adding bedding. We keep a tarp over it to keep the draft out and the rain/wind.

    [​IMG]
    Here is the front view... the hatch door for the girls and there is a sliding door up on the left for gathering eggs from baskets inside. There is a gap between the roof of the shed and the coop roof, which has open ventilation on half and covered with wood on the other half. The space under the coop will be the only space where snow will not pile up... we can shovel the rest of the run a little, but with the netting it is hard to get in there.
     

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