Newbie - Head Spinning - Winter's here! help!

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by The Balcom Clan, Nov 23, 2015.

  1. The Balcom Clan

    The Balcom Clan In the Brooder

    Sep 21, 2015
    I am brand new to owning chickens and am getting a little worried about winter and a 10 day absence coming up. I don't want "pampered" birds but I want them healthy and happy but am not sure what is NEEDED for them to be healthy and happy. We have five 7 week old chicks (who don't quite look like "chicks" anymore!) who are now in their coop, but still with a heat lamp because it's been so cold here at night (avg. 26 at night and only avg. 41 during the day, we're in the PNW). I am not sure when they can be without the heat. Some say "when they're feathered" but I'm not sure when they're feathered enough for such cold weather. (We brooded them using the heating pad method and it worked well but they didn't transition to the coop well so we got them a lamp.) They spend a lot of time in the coop during the day because it's so cold out. Today they sunned themselves in piles of leaves in their run, but then it was back up into the warmth!

    The cute little coop was made for us as a surprise gift by my father in law. (picture below before we brought it to our house, I'll try to get a current one tomorrow) It was built for 3-4 birds and we have 5. Right now, they have enough room and some people have told me they'll be fine, and others haven't been as reassuring. We will be watching them and seeing if we need to expand the coop. But until then, we have what we have and we're thankful for it so please don't tell me that I need to make major modifications to the coop ASAP because that just ain't happening! I'm curious if we have the proper ventilation as I'm reading that's really important during the winter as much as it is in the summer, but still find myself wanting to close up the little window so they aren't cold! The screened window is above the nesting boxes in the photo. It's about 2-3" tall and about 15-18" wide. I have thought about ventilation holes, but not sure where to put them and doesn't that make it colder in there? (I obviously know very little about chicken keeping!)

    I have a feeder in the coop, but I currently don't have water in their coop as I wanted to keep the moisture in there to a minimum. But now that winter is here, I'm wondering if I should have water in the coop so it doesn't freeze. We have vertical waterers outside which they've been on since day 1 but I didn't know they don't work in freezing temps. So I just ordered horizontal ones in hopes of making a new water system.....ugh. One thought is to get a thermo cube and hook the water heater and the lamp to it. The thermo cube goes on under 35* and will shut off at 45*.

    Add to all of this we'll be out of town for 10 days in December (again, a lovely surprise from my inlaws just not the best timing for our birds!). My husband is working on an automatic door system for the mornings. We have friends coming over every evening to close up the coop and make sure everyone's okay (they will only have a couple of days practice with the auto door before we leave). But I'm not sure how to address the water. Give them water in the coop? Build a bucket heater and make them get their water outside?

    "Get chickens!" They said. "It'll be easy and fun!" They said. I knew there'd be a bit of a learning curve, but I had no idea it'd be this steep and we'd have so many extra expenses! (a new lamp, the automatic door parts, possible water heater system after we just bought parts for a different water system that I didn't realize would freeze!, etc.)

    We just thought having chickens was a cheap way to get eggs. [​IMG]

    Last edited: Nov 23, 2015
  2. Murphy212

    Murphy212 Chirping

    Feb 5, 2013
    " We just thought having chickens was a cheap way to get eggs"
    Welcome to the club....those first eggs can be really expensive! But so worth it in quality. I have had chickens since Spring of 2013. I started with 11 chickens and now only have 8. They are just coming out a really bad molt and I have not had any eggs in over a month.

    I don't reply much here (too busy) but I can offer something on your watering issue.

    Generally, I use a nipple system that freezes in winter and I have been unable to correct it. So I bought a heated bucket from Amazon for about $35.00. I ran a heavy duty outdoor extension cord from my house to the coop run. The bucket only heats when the temp gets below freezing. It has worked perfectly for the past 2 winters. It has kept me from having to go out on cold frozen mornings to make sure the girls had fresh unfrozen water. Well worth the 35 bucks. I put it in the shed when freezing weather is past so it doesn't stay out all year round.

    The bucket stays outside, I do not keep water in the coop only their feed.

    I live in upstate South Carolina so the freezing weather is not as bad as some parts of the country but still have quite a few nights below freezing.

    I also sprung for an automatic door opener the Ador automatic door opener and it has worked perfectly since I installed it. There are several threads on here about door openers. Automatic is the only way to go. IMHO

    As for being a newbie, just hang in there and eventually you will get everything set up for you and your chickens and life with chickens will be great and those eggs are the best ever.
  3. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Free Ranging

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO

    The learning curve isn't too big if one builds a building large enough for the birds, sufficient ventilation, fresh food and water and that's all they need.
    Most fret too much about their birds being comfortable and in so doing, make it too warm, not enough fresh air and cramped conditions.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2015

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