Not locking chickens up at night and in the winter?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by LoganTW, Aug 29, 2014.

  1. I was wondering if it is safe to not lock chickens up in their coop at night if they have a fence? I'd say they have about an acre to roam in that fence, and I'm hoping to build a fence around the whole property that I could let them out during the day , and then put them in the smaller one at night. And also how can I let them out during the winter? I live in MN so It gets all the way down to minus 75 on the really horrible days, that's with wind chill though.

    So thanks in advance!
  2. Sarevan

    Sarevan Songster

    Sep 30, 2013
    White Swan, WA
    You don't need to lock your chickens up at night. You need to figure out the type of predators you have in your area. Wolves, coyote, raccoons, skunks, neighbors wandering dogs can dig under fencing if they don't chew through the wire. Flying predators owls, hawks, eagles, falcons, ravens, crows will be scoping out the flock from above. Some can even pluck a chicken off of a branch that was chosen to roost or nap on.

    Inspect your fencing to see if adequate, will you need an electric fence around the perimeter? Is it secure from digging, overhead branches that a predator can use to get over the fence? Small enough so the chickens can't get through the fence? They can squeeze into small spaces. The smaller area adequate for them to have enough room to get away from each other, is that fencing also secure? Can it be covered to prevent overhead attacks?

    Chickens can come out in winter as long as protected from winds. Some dont like to walk on ice or snow. I have to spread straw or they won't leave the coop. They hate wet feet. Hopefully they are smart enough not to become chicksicles in a bad Minnesota winter and stay out of severe windchill.

    I don't free range even though we have the acreage to do so. We take them out for supervised walks to let them chase bugs, eat weeds, do the weird chicken things they do. We use an old broom handle to herd them where we want them. Run and coop both are surrounded by buried wire to prevent digging. Run is an A frame so no attacks from above.

    In the end they are your chickens and it is up to you on how you free range or lock them up at night.
    1 person likes this.
  3. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    Predators will go over, under and through your fence for a chicken snack. A single coon can get in your coop and wipe out your entire flock in one night. Trust me on this one, been there, done that. On those really cold winter days, they'll want to stay in the coop. Any exposed flesh will frost bite instantly in the cold temps you describe. My girls had a loft 4 x 8, with an enclosed sun room 8 x 12 under and beside it, access to a green house with a fenced area between. They would venture out when the temp was up to +20, but only when I was around to supervise, as the snow pack was up over the top of their fence most of the winter, and birds are extemely vulnerable to predator attack in the winter IMO.
    1 person likes this.
  4. RonP

    RonP Crowing

    All good advice.

    For these very reasons, I don't free range, but have a very secure run that they have access to 24/7.
  5. Thanks everyone!
  6. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Crossing the Road

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    Greetings from another Minnesota prairie dweller! I would suggest locking your chickens in the coop at night if it's not attached to a covered, secure run. The predators I've encountered over the years out here on the prairie are coons, coyotes, hawks, mink, weasels, eagles, badgers, and skunks. As far as I know, I have never lost one to a hawk or eagle. I've had some mysterious disappearances, and found some carcasses, but can't say for sure it was them. I have lost them to coyotes, coons, skunks, mink and weasels. I have a 12'x16' run attached to each of my coops. It's made of 2x4" welded wire with 1/2' hardware cloth around the bottom 24" to keep little one from getting out, and other critters from reaching in. I am aware that the welded wire isn't enough to keep out a mink or weasel, but that's what I've got. My chickens will go out in the winter if the snow is cleared away from the front of the coop. (I don't shovel out the run - DH just plows past the coop and we let them out the people door) When it's brutally cold (the windchills are rarely -75, but I do agree that even the -20's and -30's are cold) the chickens most likely won't want to go out anyway. I usually put the windows back in the coop when it gets into the teens to 20's outside. My coop is not heated or insulated. It is, however, well ventilated and that helps prevent frostbite. It's the moisture in the coop more than the cold that causes problems.
  7. Skye727

    Skye727 Chirping

    Jun 20, 2014
    Sandy, oregon
    I wanted to leave my girls in the tree last night but we have raccoons. I would hate to lose one!
  8. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Crossing the Road

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    Owls will also take them out of a tree.

    LoganTW - I forgot to mention owls. I've lost chickens to owls, too.
  9. That makes sense everyone! I'm not quite sure what I'll end up doing about locking them up at night, but thanks for the info!
  10. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Crossing the Road

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    Ultimately, you're the only one that can make the final decision. You have to do what's best for your flock. When you ask a question on a public forum, you will get all kinds of advice. You need to filter through that advice and do what works for you. If you choose not to secure them at night, you will face losses. It's not a matter of "if" but "when".

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