overwintering birds?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by kayri, Sep 18, 2007.

  1. kayri

    kayri Songster

    Jul 6, 2007
    Hi, this is my first year with chickens and I am a little bit worried about overwintering them. We live in coastal RI and it can drop to 5 degrees F in the winter with strong winds, without a lot of snow. I have 5 girls- 2 buff orpingtons, 1 barred rock, and two standard black chickens that I cannot remember their breeds. They are a little less than 4 months old now. My moveable coop is about 5 ft x3 1/2 ft x 3 1/2 ft tall ft, with several vents across the top that I plan to close up in the winter. It is 1/2 inch boards and I use the deep litter method. They are out all day and I have an 80 ft movable electric fence that kind-of keeps them in one area. They like to fly over the fence to greet me.

    Do I need some kind of heat in there for the winter? A light bulb? Do they like to have the light on all night? I know I wouldn't. How do I keep their water from freezing? Can I use one of those things that you put in the microwave that gets warm and keeps warm at night? Will they burn themselves on it? I love my chickens, but I have to say they aren't the smartest. I can move the coop close to the house for the winter and run a long extension cord, but I'm afraid they will peck at heat tape. if I wrap it around the water. Should I wrap heat tape around a plastic waterer? They have a small one for the coop and a larger one I leave out all day.

    Any advice would be welcomed. Thanks Kay
  2. 2mnypets

    2mnypets Songster

    Apr 11, 2007
    Galesburg, IL.
    First thing is you should probably get a heat lamp. Don't automatically turn it on though because the chickens will need to grow their winter coats (feathers) in. By putting a heat lamp on too soon you are not allowing them to do what nature has expected for hundreds of years. Second of all, you can either get one of those heater elements to place under your water container or you can purchase a heated dog bowl. Either way works. I haven't heard of chickens pecking at the electrical cords,but I guess it could be possible. I told my hubby that we shouldn't turn the heat lamps (brooder light fixture with a 250 watt red bulb) on until it gets close to freezing. I know that sounds mean, but I know that they need the cold to grow the winter plumage in. Otherwise, what's going to happen if there is a power outage? No winter feathers grown properly equals death from no power. Just my humble opinion.
  3. AK-Bird-brain

    AK-Bird-brain I gots Duckies!

    May 7, 2007
    Sterling, Alaska
    I agree, we use a timer to turn our heat lamps on at the coldest part of the night.

    If you can close up the coup at night to prevent the wind from blowing in that will help quite a bit.

    one of our heat lamps is aimed to shine on the waterer, it doesnt keep it warm just enough to prevent it from freezing up.
  4. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    It doesn't get that cold here, at worst usually just in the teens, but most importantly is draft free if you have winds. Mine actually sleep outside year long with no problems. They just eat more. I wouldn't give a heat lamp to them since I've read that it can increase their susceptibility to being frost bit when they go out for the day. For freezing water... I just change it a few times a day with hot water and use rubber tubs rather than water founts.
  5. NS2A

    NS2A Songster

    Jun 11, 2007
    Now, this is for the souther part of Minnsota, where is gets pretty cold...

    I just talked to a friend of mine who's been farming all his life. He said when he had 11 chickens, he housed them in a 8x12 shed all winter with no insulation, just straw on the floor. He used no heat lamp and used a dog dish with heater so the water wouldn't freeze.

    Now my neighbor who has hens in an 8x12 shed also, uses insulation, does not have a heat lamp, and he said he needs to keep 25 chickens to keep the water from freezing. So he doesnt need a heated dish.

    I have 4 chickens and 2 goats in the same type of space. My plan is to insulate, keep a heated water dish for each, but to also stack straw bales in the shed. I figure this will fill up the space more so it'll be a bit more comfy in there and be easier to get to to clean and such in the winter. I plan on having a light as I understand chickens need 14 hours of light to keep laying.

    Just remember, your grandparents probably never used a heat lamp or even lights in the winter, and the chickens did fine.
  6. kayri

    kayri Songster

    Jul 6, 2007
    Thanks all for the great replies. I guess for the coldest months I'll plan to move the coop closer to the house so I can plug in an extension cord, at least to keep the water from freezing. The coop has a door that can be closed at night. I wsn't thinking about closing it during the day. Maybe I'll but some burlap or dark cloth over the opening so it won't be too drafty. Maybe a 100 watt light bulb would be a good compromise between differing advice if the temps drop below 25 F or so. Does anyone know how you can tell if a chicken is too cold?
  7. tomdeggeater

    tomdeggeater Songster

    Sep 20, 2007
    Rocky Hill, CT.
    "Does anyone know how you can tell if a chicken is too cold?"

    They get "Goose bumps"! HaHa [​IMG]

    Tom D.[​IMG]
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2007
  8. kayri

    kayri Songster

    Jul 6, 2007
    Funny Tom!

    You're in CT, that's not too far from where we are. How do you overwinter your chickens?
  9. momma-hen

    momma-hen Songster

    Jan 25, 2007
    I don't provide heat for my chickens in the winter. Never have. Got a warming pad for a hen who got broody in january, and she wasn't even grateful!
    I do use heated water bowls all winter. Have six of them for 3 pens, so i can rotate to clean.
    Lived in western MA as a kid (long ago!!) and we never heated the chicken house back then either....and we had REAL winters back then. [​IMG]
  10. kayri

    kayri Songster

    Jul 6, 2007
    Thanks Momma hen, I'm feeling more relaxed about it

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