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Raising Chickens in New England in Winter

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by 3rocksandme, Aug 16, 2010.

  1. 3rocksandme

    3rocksandme Chirping

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    Jul 23, 2010
    Brookline, NH
    Good morning!

    I am new to chickens, I have read quite a bit but I haven't seen much on winterizing. I have cold hardy birds but I am not sure how to handle them in winter. Are there any special precautions I should take? Are chickens supposed to spend the winter in the coop or do they do outside in the snow?
     
  2. grendel

    grendel Songster

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    Mar 12, 2010
    Walbridge ohio
    you can let them out on bright days.A incandescant bulb in the coop should br warm enough on cold days.Although it is all according to size of coop and amount of chickens.Mine huddle together to keep warm in NW ohio.Also beware of predators with dark chickens against the snow.
     
  3. krcote

    krcote Songster

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    May 21, 2008
    Concord, NH
    Our chickens have been through 3 NE winters now and all survived! They will venture out in the snow if you have a covered run or shovel for them- they just have a hard time getting around in anything more than a couple of inches. I will throw goodies out into shallow snow and they will dig around. Roosts should be wide and flat, so toes can be covered completely by feathers when they hunker down. If they are too small, you can lose toes to frost bite. On occasion, combs and wattles will get small amounts of frost bite, but usually recover just fine. Insulation is not required, but many people have good results. I will use additional light on automatic timers (14 hours total light including sunshine) to keep egg production up, but you will find many arguments against that on this site. I have had no issuses doing so. You will also find many people will feed a cracked corn or black oil sunflower seeds to help "warm them up before bed" but it has not be scientifically proven to make any change. Don't forget ventilations is still very important! Just be sure there are no drafts onto where they roost at night.
    I'm sure I forgot something but I hope this helps!
     
  4. phaethona

    phaethona Songster

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    Apr 13, 2010
    Missouri
    This winter will be my chickens first, so I can't really share my own experiences, but it gets pretty cold here in the midwest, and a friend of mine said that she offers them regular feed in the coop and then everyday brings out a separate bowl of feed mixed with some hot water. she said they absolutely loved it and laid eggs every day despite the cold(and her coop isn't insulated very well) So that's one trick I'm going to try this year. sorry I couldn't be of more help, and good luck!
     
  5. 3rocksandme

    3rocksandme Chirping

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    Jul 23, 2010
    Brookline, NH
    Thank you! I think our coop is ready, we have power, a huge window for natural sun light, vent, and we insulated. I should be making their run winter ready. Has anyone used hay? Does that work in keeping the ground from freezing? I know construction they use piles to thaw before digging.
     
  6. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

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    Apr 15, 2009
    I am in New England and have had chickens for the past 3 winters. There are no special precautions you need to take for winters if you have cold hardy breeds. Some overall hints:
    1. If you have any big-combed varieties keep an eye out for frostbite. Apply Vaseline as a preventative.
    2. Watering becomes a challenge due to freezing. Any plastic waterers are useless and will freeze or crack. I have never used water bowl heaters, but am tempted to try them out this year to save on having to do chores twice a day.
    3. I have previously kept an area of their run covered in tarps to prevent snow from building up, but can't do that this year because of changes in my configuration. I will miss that. It was nice letting them have a snow-free area to play in. Chickens don't much appreciate snow.
    4. Keep an eye out for mites. My birds dust bathe to keep the bugs down, but during the winter they can't do that as much with the ground frozen solid. Last winter I had a mite explosion that almost did in my birds.
    5. Make your peace with the need for deep litter in the coop. I hate using the deep litter method as I view it as terribly unhygienic, but it is a necessary evil in winter when everything freezes. Also invest in some Stall-Dry or DE for odors. Chickens get a little stinkier in winter especially when we get the warm snaps.

    Chickens are easy to winter over. I don't use any supplemental lighting or additional heat. My birds have been fine.

    Good luck.
     
  7. 3rocksandme

    3rocksandme Chirping

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    Jul 23, 2010
    Brookline, NH
    What do you do to keep them busy in winter? I think I can cover part of their run to keep snow out. We have a pretty large coop (a converted shed). Would keeping a corner filled with sand so they could roll around in it be okay? Potted plants? They are so active and I can't imagine them "cooped" up in doors without going crazy and killing each other.
     
  8. TcherDawn

    TcherDawn Granite State Chook

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    Jan 30, 2009
    Prescott, AZ
    I am in central NH. My 5 gals absolutely refused to go out when there was any snow in the run. I had to shovel it down to the rocks to get them to go out. If they could see rocks, they would go out. If I did not shovel the ramp, they would FLY out over the snowy ramp to the bare rocks. Funny funny girls. I heat my coop to just above freezing with a flat panel heater and lots of insulation, which is somewhat controversial on here, but I have never had a problem with it. They also did fine without heat, as the heater accidentally turned off and the coop was 13 degrees. Everyone was fine when that happened, and my heated waterer did its job. I have ventilation up high, so they don't get cold breezes on them. They can fluff up against the cold, but when wind blows the fluff they can get a chill. So ventilation, but not drafts.
     
  9. krcote

    krcote Songster

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    May 21, 2008
    Concord, NH
    Forgot to add I use a heated dog water bowl to keep my waterer from freezing. I do not fill the bowl, but actually place the waterer on top of it because it holds much more water than the bowl itself can. The ground will freeze no matter what. What you use on TOP of the frozen ground is key! Keep it dry and you will do just fine! Last year I used a very thick layer of dead dry leaves and my girls loved it. Straw may work just as well, you will need a good amount thought.
    Good luck!
     
  10. TcherDawn

    TcherDawn Granite State Chook

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    Jan 30, 2009
    Prescott, AZ
    I put a covered cat litter box in my coop in a corner under the droppings board with sand, dirt, wood ash, and a sprinkle of DE in for my girls. They took turns taking dust baths in it. You have way more chickens than me so I do not know if that would work?
     

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