Subarctic Chickens

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Twister-n-Dos, Dec 4, 2012.

  1. Twister-n-Dos

    Twister-n-Dos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We are new to having chickens this year, and BYC has been a great information resource in figuring out how to manage our flock. Many of the forum topics relating to cold, light, ventilation, health, general flock management, etc. refer to subarctic climates as extreme outliers with a different set of assumptions. This is true.

    I am starting this thread with the hope that it will be a place for those of us in these truly extreme climates to exchange information and knowledge without having to explain all of the assumptions about the challenging environment we are dealing with.


    I will start with a question that I am hesitant to ask in the existing "cold" threads. There is some amount of frost in our coop, mainly right around the air inlet, on the windows, and some on the walls where the framing is conducting the cold. The air smells fresh and I can feel good air transfer going on. Do any of you other subarctic chicken folks have frost-free coops?
    If so, we would be grateful to learn how you manage your coop.
     
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Sometimes frost deposition has little to do with ventilation. Ambient humidity can infuence frost / ice crystal formation even with bird in open. I keep most of my birds in pens like shown below and frequently the pens and even birds are covered in frost without harm to birds. Temperatures here can get into the lower -10's F and under blizzard conditions the cold stress can rival what much colder conditions provide with wind breaks.

    [​IMG]


    What you want to prevent is the interaction between moisture and feathers that compromises the insulatory value of the latter. Watch for birds developing a wet appearance as that means they will have to work to maintain core temperature and when they get really stressed blood flow will be shunted away from extremeties like comb, wattles and toes which can result in frost bite.


    When we get heavy snow events pushing 2' the birds restrict activity to roosts except when feeding and when conditions get really harsh they retreat to the laying box.
     
  3. Twister-n-Dos

    Twister-n-Dos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the reply centrarchid. Our birds all have a really good "dry" appearance. The only frost is on the coldest surfaces of the coop. We have been having a pretty good cold snap. It warmed up to -30°F at our place today, and that is the warmest it has been in days. Everything is covered in hoarfrost. Cold air can only hold so much moisture, so even though the air is dry, frost forms. Again, thanks for your input.

    I am interested to see what others in the subarctic with enclosed coops are experiencing.
     
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Many if not most of the concerns you will have with confinement during winter are not unique to extreme latitudes. Such assumptions will derail your efforts to better understand challenges you will face, especially if you are new to poultry.


    A party or two interested in Icelandic Chickens may be close to you and be able to provide some insight although I think most are further south and experience the temperate rainforest conditions along coast.

    People overwintering chicks and juveniles in termperate zone will have very similar concerns to you. Birds will be near their tolerance levels for challenges of sustained extreme low temperatures. Ventilation is important but micro-habitats within coop or enclosed building can be considered a potential refuges from cold when birds are not feeding.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2012
  5. Twister-n-Dos

    Twister-n-Dos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The idea in starting this thread was not to singularly address my opening question or confinement during the winter.

    The fact of the matter is that here in the subarctic we do have different environmental conditions than elsewhere, and not all advice and management techniques apply. I am not discounting the wealth of knowledge that others in more temperate climates have. Most of that knowledge is directly applicable anywhere and it would be foolish not to consider it. Yes, people in temperate zones will have similar concerns, however not all techniques of addressing those concerns will apply everywhere. I was simply wanting to begin a discussion with other chicken owners who understand and deal with similar conditions.
     
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Are you doing this off-grid?
     
  7. Twister-n-Dos

    Twister-n-Dos Chillin' With My Peeps

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    No. We are near Fairbanks and have utilities. Extremely expensive electricity, but we are on the grid.


    But I suppose you were just being rhetorical.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2012
  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Not trying to be rhetorical, rather trying to determine limitations. Raising chickens near Fairbanks has much in common with rearing tilapia or chicks on small scale in the upper midwest without power to run heaters. Small scale coupled with limited utilities makes so cost of energy is not ignored. Rearing with energy is much different although not always easier than without energy. You may not respect the challenges my birds face but despite not dealing with your extremes in low temperatures, they do have to deal with direct exposure (minimal protection from wind and no protection from precipitation) which gives insight into their tolerances and how management can be made to work synergistically with the bird's responses to cold stress.
     
  9. FHornFrog

    FHornFrog Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi everyone! I'm posting this in a couple of threads under "Managing Your Flock," hoping for any advice. We are moving from Albuquerque, NM to Fairbanks, AK with 5 dogs and 4 hens. We imagine it will take about 10 days to make the drive. We are definitely concerned with the issues of crossing borders, temperatures and weather, and finding lodging. I'm doing research regarding transporting everone from state to state, and finding a USDA vet in Montana to make sure all of our paperwork is set before we go into Canada. I'm also looking into hotels. I could really use some advice on keeping chickens in this part of the world, as well as logistical advice for traveling. Has anyone else traveled this route, or part of it? It looks like we will drive up through Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, then through Alberta and Yukon into Alaska. With a trip this long, I can't imagine keeping the girls in a crate that long, but I also can't imagine letting them out. We will be moving all of the animals together in one large SUV, and the dogs can't be with unkenneled with the chickens. Once we arrive, we will be house hunting. We would like to have at least an acre. Are there What are your thoughts/experiences? Thanks!
     

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