New to BYC, 2nd attempt at keeping hens.

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by AlaskaGrown, Mar 2, 2014.

  1. AlaskaGrown

    AlaskaGrown Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 2, 2014
    I live up in south-central Alaska and had 5 good layers (3 reds and 2 buffs) last year. Unfortunately last fall a hawk got two of the hens and the other three didn't produce much after the second bird died. I attempted to keep the remaining three happy over the winter, but the temps were so low that I found the eggs frozen in the coop by the time I returned from work in the evening. I added an electric heater to the coop, but the cost was ridiculous. Needless to say I found a neighbor who has a hearty flock to take the three hens, as I felt that they weren't warm or happy enough in my coop. They are laying again and appear to be very happy in their new home.

    We are having a mild winter this year and I spent the majority of the last week cleaning and upgrading my coop; sealing the drafts, insulating the walls and mending the coop door. I switched from straw to spruce shavings for matting/bedding to keep moisture down, but still plan on using a little bit of straw for added bedding. I am hoping to get a 4-6 2 yr old hens next week to give it another go. I have a few questions and concerns, and would greatly appreciate any input before I purchase the hens.

    1. Should I add a ceramic heat lamp on a thermostat regulated outlet to kick on when temps drop below freezing? I have found mixed responses to this question and do not want to make the hens more susceptible to the cold by supplementing indoor heat.

    2. Last year I opened our coop everyday, rain or shine, snowing or blowing, and let the hens roam the 2.5 acres. I noticed that they didn't always venture out, and some days didn't leave the coop. Should I continue to open the coop everyday, even when temperatures are super cold?

    3. My coop is approximately 4x6x6 with 4 laying boxes and 2 roosts. I found the best spot for water in the summer is outside of their coop in the fenced off area. In the winter it was tricky. I couldn't find a good location for the water in the coop that they didn't terrorize, and found that I had to clean the water dish nearly daily to keep it clean. From your experience, where is the best place to keep the water inside of the coop.

    Many thanks for taking the time to read and respond to this lengthy post.
  2. dawg53

    dawg53 Humble

    Nov 27, 2008
    Jacksonville, Florida
    Welcome to BYC.
  3. N F C

    N F C just 1 more cup pls Premium Member Project Manager

    Dec 12, 2013
    Welcome to BYC! Being a Floridian, it's hard for me to answer your cold weather concerns but as for the waterer, we use a 3-gallon plastic waterer that's suspended from the ceiling of the coop. It's about 7" above the coop floor, high enough to keep the water clean but our pullets can still easily drink out of it. Since the waterer is hung by a heavy metal chain, we can raise or lower it just by taking it up or down a few chain links.

    Good luck with your 2nd go round with the birds!
  4. TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Show me the way old friend Staff Member

    Mar 21, 2011
    New Mexico, USA
    My Coop

    If you have proper ventilation in your coop, you do not need to add heat. When birds poop and breath all night long, this moisture needs to go somewhere, instead of rising up warm, and falling back down on the birds as wet frost. This situation can kill your birds. So what you want is about 1 square foot of ventilation in your roof, as the birds roost in quite air near the floor. Always leave the vents open even in the most coldest of temps. You need this moisture to rise to these vents and out the roof. This will keep your birds dry and frost bite free. It helps to tack and old towel to the roost bar to keep their feet warm. Warm feet mean warmer birds. Keep your bedding clean and dry so it is also not emitting moisture into the coop. Heat is only needed if the temp is going to get 30 degrees or more LOWER than your average over night temps. If you do add heat, infra red heat lamps work well. They allow the birds to sleep and the heat is a penetrating heat. You don't want to over heat them, or so much heat it causes moisture build up. You also don't want to make it impossible for them to venture outside by being too warm in the coop. Make sure ALL lamps are permanently attached to the wall and don't rely on that clamp. No one needs a coop fire.

    Chickens don't like snow and may not come out of the coop if they have to walk thru it. So by shoveling them a path, they may come out more in colder weather. And again, if they are not acclimating to the cold because they have heat, they won't come out either.

    I keep food and water under a shelf in the corner. I put down 12x12 cement blocks and then put the water and feed on top of an over turned low tub. Keeps them off the floor a few inches and stops crud from getting kicked in.

    Good luck in all your poultry adventures!
  5. Kelsie2290

    Kelsie2290 True BYC Addict Premium Member

    Feb 18, 2011
    Hello :frow and Welcome To BYC!
  6. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    Welcome to BYC. Go to the Social forum, click on 'Where am I? Where are you!' and locate the Alaska thread. Find out how your neighbors 'do things'.
    1 person likes this.
  7. AlaskaGrown

    AlaskaGrown Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 2, 2014
    Quote: My coop is ventilated by means of a cut out near the roof, but the average temps drop below 30 for 5 months out of the year. I may try mounting a fixture in the coop and using a infra red or ceramic bulb to keep the temps around 35 or 45 during the winter.

    It occurred to me last night that i could buy a cheap indoor/outdoor thermometer and place the outdoor sensor in the coop.

    Thanks a lot for the responses!!
  8. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years. Premium Member

    Aug 26, 2009
    Out to pasture
  9. gander007

    gander007 Chicken Obsessed


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