Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by SydneyLorpa, Feb 10, 2012.

  1. SydneyLorpa

    SydneyLorpa Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 10, 2012
    Hi folks. Just joined a few minutes ago. I am ordering 25 Australorp chicks. I am building a 10foot by 12 foot heated coop(I live in Northwest Indiana) with a 20 foot by 30 foot run. I have the design all worked out, but I have one question. I plan on an egress for the girls 9 inches wide by 12 inches tall. Do you think chickens would use a doggy door if I installed one in the coop? I would like to keep as much heat in as possible, but I am not sure if they would learn to use a doggy door or if I would just have to go with an opening of 9 X 12. Anyone have any ideas, I'd love to hear from you.
  2. fowlsessed

    fowlsessed Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 16, 2011
    east Tennessee
    I don't know about the doggy door but, you really don't need to heat the coop as long as it has good ventilation so it doesn't get damp to prevent the males from getting frostbite and both hens and roos from chilling.
  3. SydneyLorpa

    SydneyLorpa Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 10, 2012
    Thanks for the feedback fowlsessed, but you see, I'm building a luxury condominium for my girls, nothing but the best. I want them to be warm and toasty when it's 15 degrees. I thought a doggy door would be a nice touch, but I'm not sure they would be able to get in and out of it. I may just hang some burlap over the opening. I don't think they'll have any trouble with that and if they do, then we will have to go with the open door policy.
  4. fowlsessed

    fowlsessed Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 16, 2011
    east Tennessee
    Ok, sounds good.
  5. e wolf

    e wolf Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 5, 2012
    put feed any where near that door and they'll figure it out real quick. chickens are smarter than they look. just don't make it to heavy.
  6. Roxannemc

    Roxannemc Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 30, 2012
    SE Missouri
    It all sounds wonderful for them but one thing i read on BYC made me pause about a nice toasty coop.

    Said that if it was VERY heated they wouldnt do well going outside as they wouldnt be conditioned to the cold in really cold weather
    .I know that is true in dogs and cats their fur needs to thicken as it gets cold to be out any length of time.
    Also Keep in mind they are wearing a down jacket now.
  7. hdowden

    hdowden Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 14, 2011
    ~ do not heat the coop. if you do then you will have less hardy chickens that require a lot more work than there should be. they need to get used to that cold. i live in louisiana and it can get down to the 20's here and i will never have a heated coop. when i did do that i ended up with more dead chickens due to them getting to cold cause they werent used to it. i now raise them differently and my pullets/cockerels will be out in the cold a week after they fully feather out with a draft free coop and i find that they have done a whole lot better than those that were in a heated coop or that stayed longer than that with a heat lamp. again stay away from a heated coop, their feathers are meant to keep them warm. and heres even more info not from byc sorry its a bit long but its all good info

    ~ I NEVER use heat in my henhouse.
    If the birds have been allowed to get use to the weather on their own,they will do just fine unless you live in Siberia at which point I guess I would put some heat in the henhouse.
    I have 1 Rooster and 10hens and never in 4yrs have I ever had to heat the henhouse and I use stray to line nesting boxes and to give added warmth for cold or rainy days.

    Late Fall and Winter time is the time when Chickens are finishing up their molting and as the hours get shorter they will produce less. . . .a chicken needs a minimum of 14hr light daily to help promote laying.
    The man I got my first bunch of chickens from turned on a light in his henhouse every morning at 3am (on a timer) to encourage his hens to lay.
    I have never needed eggs this badly to do what I only call "stressing" the chicken by making her lay during a period that was intended for resting.

    IF chickens get too hot as in HOT summer days,they tend to stress and they slack off of laying.


    Chicken Lady
    Duck Lady

    ~ One of the most intimidating things a new chicken owner can face is their first winter. I know before I ever kept chickens, my biggest concern was wondering how they can survive bitter Michigan winters. Let me share some of the things I have learned after keeping chickens in sub 0 temperatures.

    To heat or not to heat: This is arguably the most argued question regarding chickens in cold weather. Generally, if you have standard size fowl or even most bantam varieties, they can survive in VERY cold temperatures. My bantam orpingtons and rhode island reds will spend half the day outside when the temperatures are in the single digits and the wind is howling at 30 mph. I have never heated any of my coops, and I have never had any problems. As a wise chicken lady once told me... "They do come wrapped in their own down comforter, you know?". Still, others argue that the chickens are more comfortable if they have at least some sort of heat to take the edge off the bitter cold. I cannot say for sure if the chickens would be happier if they had heat, but none of mine have ever seemed bothered by the lack of it. We have VERY happy chickens.

    Here is a small table of the pros of heating vs the pros of not heating:

    The Pros of Heating The Pros of Not Heating
    • The chickens will likely be more comfortable
    • The waterers won't freeze so often
    • If you spend time in the coop, you will be more comfortable

    • You will save money on electricity/gas
    • You don't have to worry about "spoiled" chickens freezing to death if you suddenly lose power
    • You don't have to worry about coop fires (it happens much more often than you would think)
    • Less equipment cost (heaters, lamps, etc)
    • Less issues with humidity

    The decision to heat your coop is up to you, but for me the benefits of heating my coops just do not outweigh the cost and risk to my flock. I have read too many sad stories on chicken forums where people have lost their entire flocks.

    If you do decide to heat your coop, please do everything to make sure your electrical and heating components are as safe as possible. Never rely on spring clips to hand a light. Never use heat tape for ANYTHING in a chicken coop. Be safe!

    ~ Chickens can handle very cold temperatures. Some experts say chickens don’t really start suffering until the temperature inside their coop falls to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. They’ll start suffering earlier if it’s damp inside the chicken house, or if they haven’t become inured to the cold (which is why some people think using heat lamps for hens is a bad idea unless it gets incredibly cold).
    The lowest temperature we’ve had at my place is 8 degrees. My chickens didn’t mind this low temperature at all, and they live in wide-open, tumbledown coops, with all feeding and watering done outdoors.
    Even if your chickens are all right in the cold, you need to make sure they have access to water in below-freezing temperatures. As for waterers, if your coop has electricity, I’d suggest getting a couple of galvanized feed pans and using them for waterers on top of a heated stand. If they freeze up, swap in a replacement and take the frozen one inside to thaw. Open pans get messier than real waterers and have to be dumped out all the time, but they’re the best choice in freezing weather.
    The other problem with open pans is that the chickens can flip the water all over the place and soak their combs and wattles, which will get frostbite if this happens. One possible fix is to create a wooden float that floats on top of the water pan. Put a bunch of 1-inch holes in the float. This keeps the water-flipping to a minimum and helps insulate the pan. I’ve never tried this personally, but it’s mentioned in several old-time poultry books as a proven trick.

    — Robert Plamondon,

    Read more:

    ~ Hot Weather Care
    People who have had chickens for years know that it’s the heat you should worry about, not the cold. A chicken can die in severe heat. It will happen quickly. You know that the hens are struggling when they have their beaks open and are panting. You know they’re in trouble when they are listless and not drinking. There are some things you can do for your chickens so that you don’t have to bring them into your air-conditioned living room.
    First of all, chickens must have shade. If you can’t site your coop in a shady spot, put a shade awning up. We have a large rectangle of shade fabric over the bunny’s hutch (rabbits are even more susceptible to heat stroke than chickens) that the chickens also like. We bought our shade tarp on-line. A web search should turn up what you need.
    Provide a shady area with loose dirt where the hens can take dust baths. They’ll wallow down until they get to cool soil. Also, keep a waterer in the shade. If it’s really hot, the hens might not go across the sunny ground to get to the usual waterer in the coop. I fill the outside waterer with ice cubes, and as it melts the hens have cold water to drink. When it gets really hot, I’ll dump a pile of ice cubes in the run.
    I always have a chicken or two that goes broody in the worst of the heat and insists on staying inside the stuffy coop inside of a metal, even stuffier nesting box. After having no success getting them to go somewhere more comfortable, I’ve finally given up and hung an old box fan to blow air on them.
    I know people who live in hotter climes than here, who provide misters for their chickens, and cool off their coops by spraying water on them.
    Just don’t assume that your chickens can figure out how to get through the hot day on their own. Give them areas that they can cool off in, and make sure they go there!

    Cold Weather Care

    An average chicken has 8,500 feathers. That makes for a warm coat. Like her wild bird cousins, a chicken will fluff up, trap air under her down, and stay cozy, even in below freezing temperatures. However, a sharp, cold wind that ruffles the feathers can sent a chill to the skin. Icy rain on a hen’s head and mud frozen on legs can chill her to the bone. So, although that fine-feathered garment can keep a hen plenty warm even in the coldest weather, there are some things to do to keep your chickens comfortable and healthy in the winter.
    Chickens do not need insulated houses. (Although coops in extreme temperatures, like those found in North Dakota and Alaska will benefit.) But, poultry do need shelter that is out of the wind and free of drafts. At the same time, it shouldn’t be at all damp. Manure contains a lot of water, and in the winter, when the coop is closed up, this can make the air unhealthy and the hens prone to respiratory illness. I keep my coops shoveled out weekly and bedded with fresh pine shavings. Also, good ventilation is a must – it’s best to have vents high near the roof.
    Most chickens do not need heat lamps. In fact, if you have a spot heater in the coop, the hens will huddle near it, but when they move away to eat or to roost, they won’t have their feathers fluffed out, and they’ll be cold. It’s not good for them to go from one extreme temperature to another. So, you can keep the coop closed and heated, or totally unheated. If you have only one hen, do her a favor and get another. They need to huddle on the roost with each other to stay warm at night. A few breeds are not cold-hardy. Silkies and frizzle-feathered birds’ feathers can’t trap air, and thus don’t keep them warm, and so you have to provide heat. Also, some hens, and more often roosters, have big combs, prone to frostbite. Slather on some vaseline if you know the temperature is going to drop.
    Chickens appreciate a bright and sunny coop. Here’s my aged Eleanor, who has claimed a toasty place in a patch of sun.

    Chickens need to be high and dry. If your run gets muddy, add a few bags of sand, or put down wood chips to give the hens a place to roam above the muck. Chickens have scaly, bare feet. They don’t like walking on snow or ice. They’ll do it, but they won’t be happy. So, take a moment and shovel a clear area for them in their run. Or, if the snow is too deep and icy, put down some hay. They’ll appreciate it.
    One of the most important things to give your chickens in the winter is fresh water. If you have electricity in the barn, get one of these base heaters for the waterer.

    Otherwise, you’ll have to replace the frozen water a few times a day. (And, yes, I know the directions on the box say not to put a plastic waterer on the heater, but these are sturdy and I’ve never had a problem. Note, too, that the cord goes directly to a safe outlet. Always be a bit neurotic about watching out for fire hazards in your barn.)
    In the winter, chickens will expend extra calories staying warm so give them an added ration of cracked corn or scratch grains. Also, if your hens free range in the summer and eat lots of bugs (protein!), be aware that their diet changes in the winter, when all of their nutrition comes from you. Make sure you’re feeding them high-quality laying hen pellets.
    Greens are important in the winter as much as in the summer. My girls get bored all cooped up, and so I hang a cabbage in the pen. They peck at it (they do like a rousing game of tetherball) and so don’t peck at each other. The added benefit is that they’re eating greens.
    Hens need 14 hours of sunlight to lay. You can increase the light using a 40 watt bulb on a timer, and you’ll bring production up. (However, they still won’t lay as much as in the summer. For that, you need to keep the girls heated and indoors.) If you do decide to use a light, turn it on in the early morning. Do not use it at night – if it’s dark out and the light suddenly goes off, the hens won’t have a chance to settle into their roosts for bedtime. They’ll be miserable stuck on the ground.
    There are usually a few weeks here when the temperature doesn’t rise above 0 degrees F. Each morning I hurry to check on them. The wind will be biting. I get chilled making my way across the icy, snowy yard to the coops. My eyes water from the cold. I expect to find the girls frozen stiff, but they’re fine. I toss them some grain. They look cheerful. It’d be nice if they worried about me as much as I worry about them.
    3 people like this.
  8. SydneyLorpa

    SydneyLorpa Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 10, 2012
    Wow! I cannot believe al the amazing feedback you guys have given me regarding heating my coop. The last time I raised chickens was in Texas on the Madagorda Bay. No problem with hot and cold just hungry racoons.
    I have changed my original plans for heating and I have decided to place a small amount of pipe heating cord in a few spots just to take the edge off. Thank you all for your comments.
  9. AinaWGSD

    AinaWGSD Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 2, 2010
    Sullivan, IL
    I agree with not heating the coop. I live in Central IL, so our winters do tend to be ever so slightly milder than what you'll be getting in Northern IN but not significantly. I do not heat my coop (although they do have an insulating air pocket between the outside wall and the inside wall as well as a 4" air pocket in the floor which is then covered with deep litter) and have not had any problems at all with my chickens in cold weather. The girls in their second or later winters don't lay hardly at all after their fall molt until the days start getting longer in February or so. But all of my pullets in their first year of laying have laid just as reliably during the cold winter months without supplemental heat as they do during the rest of the year. I remember my first year having chickens I would leave them locked in the coop until closer to noon on days that I considered "really cold." One morning I decided it was just "too cold" for the girls and as much as they hated it, they would have to stay shut in all morning. Except when I went out to check on their water around 8, every single one of them met me at the gate to the run. I had forgotten to shut the coop the night before, and the girls had all been out in the run all morning. Clearly, their definition of "too cold" was not the same as mine! After that, I stopped worrying about the cold and just let them be chickens. Granted, until we got a roof over our run this past year I still had to go out and shovel the run when it snowed or they would refuse to come outside. And I still spread a thick layer of straw in the run in the winter. I think it helps keep their feet from getting too cold, plus it gives them something to scratch through when it's snowy and they don't feel like venturing outside of the run.
  10. SydneyLorpa

    SydneyLorpa Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 10, 2012
    Thank you Aina. I guess it's best to listen to the chickens and observe their behavior before trying to second guess what their difinition of cold is. Thank you for your great advice. I'm going to try to post some pictures of my coop whic is a temporary one until I get the palace built. I bought a 10 X 10 storeage shed at Home Depot and I'm setting that up as their temporary home. My chicks arrive next week; 8 Jersey Giants and two Marans. They will be about ten-weeks old when I get them. Next year I will be adding Australorps.

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