Starting this weekend - what haven't I thought of?


7 Years
Nov 2, 2012
Hello all,
We're starting with chickens tomorrow morning, and I wanted to run by some experts what we have so far, and what we might yet need. We'll be starting with two 32 week old Delaware hens. (two are the maximum allowed without a permit in our city)
We have a sturdy, insulated, ventilated, 3x4' raised coop with a 4x8 ft. run that attaches. It also has two nesting boxes and two roosts. I have a block of pine shavings, some pellet feed, some scratch, a plastic feeder, and heated waterer.

Here come the naive questions: Do I put the feeder and waterer in the run or in the coop? They need access to water all the time, right? I don't know where to run the cord into it to heat the waterer (it's barely below freezing at night right now, but in another month or so we'll need it). Do I need to get a heat source for the coop, or will these two birds be warm enough snuggling together in a 3x4' coop?

Also, we're already down to about only 12 hours of sunlight. Should I be looking for artificial lighting if I'm still hoping for 10 eggs per week from these girls?

Thanks so much! We live in Nebraska, if that gives you any environmental reference.

It's a sturdy coop.
Congrats on the soon to be new chickens! From my personal experience, it is best to keep the water and the feeders outside in the run as the chickens will spend most of their time outside and tend not to go inside the coop during the day other than to lay. So they may forgo their feed and water just to stay outside. Now unless you have a long stretch of nasty snowy weather, (chickens hate snow) then you will want to bring the water and feed into the coop during this time. Leaving them outside the coop as much as possible also eliminates water spills and feed spills in the coop.

Heated water dishes are a wonderful thing as carrying out warm water every hour is a pain in the rump. My chickens have never chewed on any cords, however one never knows. If you use it outside, you can just run the cord up the fence and out the side. If you use it in the coop, you could always drill a hole in the floor and run it out the bottom.

As for a heated coop. Heat is never recommended. Chickens come with built in heaters and a nice downy coat. They will adapt to the worst of weather and as long as you use the vents in your coop properly, they will not get cold. If you use heat, the chickens will be unable to go outside and will get cold. So let them adapt. Now if it is going to be minus 20 outside, then you might want to add some heat. But otherwise, let them adjust. Do not be afraid of opening vents and windows. I made the mistake the first year with my girls, to shut everything down and everybody was getting frost bitten combs. Very painful for the birds. What happens is, they breathe and poop. A lot of moisture in both of these activities and the warm moisture rises and then condenses and falls back down on the combs. I have a small coop like yours and I keep every vent and window open, except the window they roost in front of. I open this window as well, but put a piece of cardboard in the window so there is only a small slit above their heads for the moisture to be released. I have never had a single case of frost bite after this and we have many nights up here in the mountains in the minus 5 to minus 10 degree mark. heat, lots of air moving.

You may still get eggs from these girls. Many breeds of chickens continue to lay thru out the winter. So wait and see how things go. They may be in the molting stage, in which case, you will not see eggs until they are done molting.

Well, enjoy your new chicken adventures! Chickens are wonderful to keep. Because they are new to your area, do not expect eggs right away until they become comfortable with their surroundings...maybe a week or 2. Use treats to friendly them up to you.

Oh, and
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Oh...and also...If this coop comes with dowel rod like perches, you might want to remove them and a 2x4, with the 4 inch side up for better feet heat in the cold winter. When a chicken can perch with flat feet and keep their feet under their breast and feathers, the toes won't get cold or frost bitten. Perches that allow the feet to curl under and around the perch are exposed to the cold. Birds lose heat thu their feet.

Just a thought.
Thank you so much for the advice! We do have thicker roosts, but I never would have thought of that so thanks. We'll have several days of 10-40 below zero weather this winter in Nebraska, so we may just bring in a ceramic heater underneath the coop for those times. And we struggled with the waterer inside the coop, so I may move it into the run as you suggest. I was just worried that they need constant access to water, and that we should have some in the coop as well?
So far both ladies are doing great and seem really comfortable with our family (except for the cat and poodle so far, that is). The kids named them Breakfast and Cinderella, and they definitely have their own personalities and seem to like each other!
I have my feed in the coop and the water outside the coop. I have heard several people say wild birds and mice help themselves to the chicken feed if it is outside the coop. And I don't want to attract ANY rodents or bugs to my area. Chickens can't see much AT ALL in darkness so they will not leave the roost and drink at night anyway. They will need access to fresh water first thing in the morning. My coop is up off the ground and enclosed at night to keep the chickens safe as well as the food.
So it gets me out of bed to let the chickens out.
Probably is a good thing but some mornings I don't want to get up when the chickens need me to. I do not cover up my hardware mesh windows, they do need the ventilation. I would make sure the coop has windows on each side so you could cover one if needed. I live in Georgia but I am from Iowa so I know the winters well. If the wind is blowing into the coop you may need to close up the window on that side to keep the wind and snow out. You could use a good sheet of plastic or some kind of shutters that you could have open or closed. I would never advise to fully close the coop, twocrowsranch is right, chickens produce ALOT of moisture and need the fresh air, even if it is cold to stay healthy.
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I have the food and water inside the coop and it works just fine. I'm sure there are pros and cons either way but don't worry that they will starve or go thirsty just because they have to go back inside their coop to eat and drink. In the warmer months, I hang a second water bucket in the run for their drinking convenience but I don't know that it makes any real difference in consumption.

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