New Chicken Owner in Michigan - How to keep them warm in winter?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by MichelleRenee77, Aug 27, 2014.

  1. MichelleRenee77

    MichelleRenee77 Hatching

    Aug 27, 2014
    Hi! I know there are several posts on this - but I really couldn't figure out how to join that conversation. I am very new to posting. Sorry.

    We live in Michigan and have 15 Rhode Island Reds. We have a wood coop that is off the ground with an attached run. The coop has a window - but no other ventilation holes.

    I want to know if the chickens will still come outside and eat (their food is hanging in the run) or if I have to move their food inside the coop? Also - same for their water. I plan to buy a water heater for our metal waterer to keep it from freezing.

    How do I make sure my birds don't die this winter from the cold? I have read NOT to put in a heat light because the person said if the power goes out you could lose your whole flock in a night. Our power went out many times last winter - so this makes me nervous. I am even MORE nervous though about the birds dying from the cold. Any help you could give me would be much appreciated.

    Thank you so much!
  2. BantamLover21

    BantamLover21 Crowing

    Jul 24, 2013
    First, [​IMG] Glad you joined us!

    I'll try to answer your questions as well as I can:

    Will the chickens still come outside and eat?: It really depends on the circumstances. My chickens also have food located in the run, near their coop. They don't mind coming out in the wintertime to eat, unless there is a lot of snow that has blown into the run, or if it is snowing really badly outside. They just don't like walking through the freezing snow. It also doesn't help that some snow blows into their feeder, which makes it a frozen mess.

    If possible, I would probably put your feeder inside the coop. It will be a lot less stressful for your hens, there will be less of a chance that their feet could get frostbitten, and you won't have to worry about the feed getting wet or filled with snow.

    What about the water?: Keeping water unfrozen during the winter is probably one of the biggest winter challenges. Hopefully, your water heater will work. I also have a water heater, and it keeps my chicken's water unfrozen until temperatures get less than 15-20 degrees F. If it gets below that (which it did a lot in Wisconsin this past winter), the water in my chickens' waterer freezes. When that happens, I instead bring my chickens dishes of warm water 2-3 times a day so they can drink. I also put a block of snow within the coop--they eat that, and, while it isn't preferable, it does give them some water.

    What are the chances of them dying?: Don't worry too much about them surviving the cold. Chickens are very hardy creatures, in all sorts of weather. I've been raising chickens for four years, and have never (knock on wood) lost a bird to the cold, even with last year's brutal winter.

    Some things you can do to help them are: make sure the coop has plenty of ventilation (without drafts), put a thick layer of bedding down in the coop and possibly the run, feed them high energy foods (scratch grains, bread, corn, etc.) before nightfall on cold nights, and rub Vaseline or oil on their exposed areas (comb, wattles, etc.). The Vaseline/oil will help protect them from any frostbite, the high energy foods will make their bodies heat up more, the bedding will absorb moisture and help protect their feet from drafts, and the ventilation will help prevent frostbite.

    You can also use a heat lamp in the coop. They will not die if the power goes off and the heat lamp no longer works, though it could stress out their systems a little. The only concern is possible fires. If you get a heat lamp, make sure it has a guard on front to prevent it from coming into contact with bedding. And make sure that it is securely attached to the ceiling/wall in the coop. Otherwise, it could fall and start a fire. I've used both heat lamps and space heaters in my coop before; they work well, but you do have to be careful.

    I hope I've helped! Good luck with your flock!
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2014
  3. jetdog

    jetdog Songster

    Jun 18, 2013
    I wrap my run with a heavy canvas on 3 sides and a clear shower curtain on the front, it will keep things dry and lets the sunshine in kinda like a greenhouse effect.

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