The cold will be here before we know it.

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Sneaky Chicken, Aug 11, 2016.

  1. Sneaky Chicken

    Sneaky Chicken Out Of The Brooder

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    I live in South Jersey so we tend to get a lot of snow during the winter months. I already know how to prepare my coop for winter to make sure the girls stay cozy and warm, but what about stretching their legs and wings? Their coop is a pretty good size (10x5x3.5) but they LOVE to roam the yard. Every morning when I go check on them before work, they practically push me out of the way to jump out and start their adventures.

    I made sure to get all cold weather hardy breeds.. but when there is snow on the ground, can I let them out of the coop? If so, for how long? Would I be better off letting them roam around my basement? I dont mind following them around and cleaning up their doodoo if I have to. I just want to make sure they dont get depressed or sick.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    It was 4 degrees above zero when I took this. I left the pop door open and let them decide what they want to do. As long as a breeze is not blowing they tend to go out.

    [​IMG]


    When it snows overnight and the chickens wake up to a new white world, they tend to stay inside for a day or two. But eventually they get up the nerve to go outside. After that, they go outside. This snow did not fall overnight, they were already out when it started. It was gradual enough that they never bothered to go in.

    [​IMG]

    They really don’t like a cold wind. I’d suggest you create a windproof area, sort of a cul de sac in your run if you have a run, so they can go out without getting blasted by a cold wind. If you can manage to keep an area out of the coop near the door snow-free even better, but that can be a challenge. Or you can scatter some straw or dried leaves, something like that, on top of the snow so they cannot see it. The wild birds that overwinter don’t have a big problem when it snows or turns cold. Your chickens probably won’t like waking up to a new white world, but once they get used to it they will be fine.

    What scares me about your post is that you say you can keep them cozy and warm. That could be dangerous but I’m not sure exactly what you mean. Chickens need some ventilation in cold weather to let the bad air out and the good air in. The biggest risk is frostbite. If your coop holds moisture in, that can lead to frostbite. In a coop with high humidity even temperatures just a little below freezing can cause frostbite. The wild birds sleeping outside don’t have trouble with frostbite, they have great ventilation where they sleep. There have been posts on here from people a lot further south than you that have caused frostbite by keeping their chickens in a coop that holds the moisture. There have been people further north than you that have solved frostbite issues by providing ventilation.

    Cold is not your enemy, lack of ventilation may be. But I don’t know how much ventilation you have. To me the easiest way to provide good ventilation but keep direct breezes off of them is to have lots of openings up higher than them when they are on the roosts.
     
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  3. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    Ridge runner gives excellent advice as usual. Here is in SD, our winters can have spells at -20 degrees F.

    Do not keep your chickens warm, keep your chickens DRY. Dry chickens are warm chickens, damp chickens are cold. Frostbite often occurs at even mild temperatures if air is confined in the coop, because that is when moisture is trapped in the coop. Make sure your birds are away from the ceiling and walls when they roost. Keep the ventilation open on the side away from the prevailing wind, for me the south. And your chickens will be warm and dry and happy. In the beginning, I , like many of us, tried to close up the coop to keep it warmer, and that just does not work. It seems counter intuitive to open the coop to keep it warmer, but think of a bunch of people sitting in an unheated car. Almost immediately the moisture begins to collect on the windows, and in very little time, everything is damp.

    As for outside in the run, a open shelter is popular with my birds so that they can get out of the wind. Just a piece of plywood flat on the ground on one side, propped up on the other is enough protection. I have leaned an old window against the front, and it is surprising how much warmer that is on a sunshiny day. I leave the pop up door open 24 hours, and also let mine decide about going in and out. They know more about being a chicken than you or I will ever know. Fresh air is important to their overall health. In the fall I fill my run with old hay as bedding. If I know a storm is coming, I make mini hay stacks in the run, and the next morning, flip that over the top of the snow. Mine spend the day outside, unless it is a very bad storm.

    Mrs K
     
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  4. Sneaky Chicken

    Sneaky Chicken Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 12, 2016
    The Garden State
    Thanks for all your advice, Ridgerunner and Mrs. K! [​IMG]
     
  5. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Let It Snow Premium Member

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    Mine appreciate some hay scattered on the ground to walk and stand on, as well as to forage through. If you have access to some I recommend getting a few bales. Make sure it's hay and not straw.

    My large shed always has an open east facing door, so mine are never sealed up. Your chickens will want to be outside as much as possible during the winter, so provide a wind break as mentioned, sunshine, like in south facing Windows or a cosy corner with no wind.
     
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  6. SunHwaKwon

    SunHwaKwon Overrun With Chickens

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    I am a couple hours south of you on the MD eastern shore. When the ground is soggy between snow falls I put a layer of straw down to keep their feet dry. I also ended up hanging clear shower curtains in the sides of the run to limit cold wind. I'll use something heavier this year. The turkeys and guineas went out in the snow but I don't recall the chickens doing much free ranging. Luckily snow tends to last less than a week, though it seems we get it every other week for a couple months.
     
  7. limited25

    limited25 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Why not straw?
     
  8. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Let It Snow Premium Member

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    Straw works well for standing on but has no real forage qualities. Hay has leaves and seed heads that chicken will eat so they get greens in the middle of winter. So you can use straw, but I think hay is better.
     
  9. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    And after they pick and scratch through the hay, it makes great mulch for the garden.
     
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  10. DreamsInPink

    DreamsInPink Chillin' With My Peeps



    My roosts are pretty high up in the coop.. how high from the ceiling do they need to be? And my roosts are ALONG the walls... :idunno As for wind, we get weather from all directions, especially in the winter... how can I possibly do this? I've wondered about keeping weather out, while still maintaining good ventilation.. it seems counter productive.

    In the run, I was planning on covering the fencing on the sides with heavy tarps or something to block the wind. Such as from the coop and out into the run about 15 or so feet. My run is 60' x 20'. So, 15 x 20 would be blocked.. except, under the coop is open.. so wind could blow under the coop and through the area I am tarping off. Suggestions? I'm planning on keeping several bales of hay on hand for heavy snows, so they don't have to walk in the snow...

    This is my first winter with chickens.. and the closer it gets, the more nervous I am. :th I'm also trying to figure out how we are going to deal with water. Right now, we have regular waterers and a garden hose out to the coop. That's probably not going to work.. I bought chicken nipples, but haven't implemented them yet. So most likely I'll have 2 - 4 5 gallon buckets with nipples, heated somehow to keep from freezing...

    @MrsK Pinging because I thought maybe you missed my reply to your post. :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2016

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