Scared in Minnesota! Seeking Advice for Extreme Cold Temperatures

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Huhnerhausgal, Oct 24, 2014.

  1. Huhnerhausgal

    Huhnerhausgal Out Of The Brooder

    May 30, 2014
    Hi everyone,

    I'm new to chicken farming -- my family and I added six pullets to our already full household in April -- we live in an inner ring suburb of Minneapolis where my husband has constructed a very sturdy, insulated coop with one overhead light and an outlet. Though I'd given thought to the winter it came too soon as it always does -- and I'm trying to gather info to keep our flock healthy. The coop itself is on a south facing side of our brick (unheated) garage - which does hold some sunlight heat. There is a side garden with a six foot fence -- and so it is somewhat sheltered from the wind. We built it with a space underneath for dust bathing -- and a rather large enclosed and secure run. Currently I have a funnel/metal barrel type feeder hanging in the coop and an igloo cooler rigged up with poultry nipples for water as well as additional water in the run. I wonder what makes the most sense in Minnesota where last winter we had a string of six weeks with subzero temps and even colder windchills. I would love any advice from people with experience in the northern climates - how to keep the water thawed, how to prevent frostbite -- and generally anything you wish you'd known about chicken raising in very cold winter temperatures.


  2. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia

    This article was written some years ago by a Canadian member, and is the best I have seen on the subject. A companion article on ventilation in that climate is here:

    There isn't really much you can do about frozen water that I know of, other than heating it, as in a purchased dog water heating dish, or just knocking the ice out of something like those big black rubber dishes, and carrying water.
  3. lalaland

    lalaland Overrun With Chickens

    Sep 26, 2008
    Pine County MN
    Hi, I live up an hour north of you so I understand these cold winters.

    First question is what breeds you have - there are "heavy" breeds, and there are lightweight birds better suited to warmer climates. If you aren't sure, look at mcmurrays catalog and read their description - they identify which breeds are cold hardy.

    If yours or some of yours are not cold hardy, you will need to supplement with heat.
    I am going to assume yours are like most chickens, cold hardy.
    For these, the very Biggest issue is ventilation. If you have inadequate ventilation, then you have moisture from the breathing and from the droppings. Moisture means frostbite. There are great open air coops where the chickens are sheltered from the wind, and they do just fine.

    If you see frost crystals in your coop, open up something to get more ventilation.
    Big floppy combs that can't be tucked under the wing at night might get frostbit - some say a preventative is to grease the comb up with Vaseline or coconut oil. I don't worry about that.

    You will not need to add heat to your coop - unless you have lighter breeds....I have a variety of breeds, and I turn on a heat lamp for my own comfort maybe 4 or 5 nights a year when it is -40.

    When you start to worry they are cold, go in and snuggle your fingers under their feathers. You will find they are warm and cozy.

    Roosts: It is really important that the roost is wide enough so the toes do not curl underneath. This way, when the hen roosts, she is covering her feet with feathers and they stay warm. If your roosts are poles of a smaller diameter, remove them and let them roost on the floor - provide some hay for them. Or replace the roosts - 2x4 laid so the flat part - the 4" - it what they roost on - that works great.

    Draft free is a big thing, but your description of the coop sounds like that is taken care of.

    Lots of ways to deal with water - use an oil pan heater, use a heated dog water bowl - bring water in at night and replace in morning with fresh....

    Good luck, and don't fret. Also, just search byc for cold weather and you'll find zillions of tips.

    Also, your hens will love the snow free area underneath. Watch out, they will freak out with snow and be afraid to walk in it. You might need to shovel an area, or sprinkle leaves, hay, etc so they will walk on it. They will get better as winter progresses.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2014
    1 person likes this.
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    The vertical nipples will freeze even if you warm the water, the horizontal nipples are much less likely to freeze as the valve seal is inside the vessel......tho I haven't tried it myself, yet, I have seen a couple setups that seemed to work well in frigid climates. You might be able to swap out your vertical nipples for horizontal ones as the thread sizes can be similar.

    Hang in there, getting thru the first winter will teach you alot and relieve your concerns.

    ETA: Plan your access points to coop and run and keep them free of snow.
    Make sure your run roof can handle any snow load, or keep it cleared off.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2014
  5. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Flock Master Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.

    I'm also in MN, and Lalaland pretty much covered it. My chickens have roosts available that are 2x4 with the 4" side up. Most of them prefer to roost in the rafters on boards where the 2" side is up. I have yet to see one with frostbitten toes. All my breeds are winter hardy. I don't add heat ever. Every now and then a larger-combed bird will get the tips of the comb nipped, but we have not experienced bad frostbite on any of them. I have an outlet in my coop so I use a heated water bowl to keep fresh water available for them.

    They will be fine. Relax, enjoy.
  6. Huhnerhausgal

    Huhnerhausgal Out Of The Brooder

    May 30, 2014
    Thanks everyone. I guess I was so busy getting through the winter I didn't have a chance to respond. In terms of called the chickens fared pretty well. The one with the larger comb did get some frostbite. We still have very cold temperatures here so we are not even near spring. I just posted a question in the emergencies section because we did lose two of our flock but I think due more to feeding/inexperience than anything else. Thank you for being such a well-informed and welcoming crowd.


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