Tips and Advice for our First Winter

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Hatrick, Sep 6, 2009.

  1. Hatrick

    Hatrick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 4, 2009
    So up here in Ontario the frost warnings are fast approaching (YAY!) and this will be our first winter with our three Barred Rocks. Right now they free range in our backyard which is about 800 sq. feet. I am so worried about keeping them "cooped up" for the whole winter, which around here can be up to six months. I'm looking for as much advice as possible in how to keep my girls comfortable and not stir crazy this winter.

    I also want to know, can I let them out in the winter? If there's snow on the ground do they need to be kept in? Are they just going to sit in their coop willingly while it's cold out?

    Our coop and run is pretty small but my husband was thinking about boarding up the run so that they can at least come out in that. At this point I'm considering bringing them in the house, not very practical.
  2. mamagardener

    mamagardener Chillin' With My Peeps

    I am wondering the same thing myself. I am planning on shoveling out their run and letting them out except in really harsh weather.
  3. sonew123

    sonew123 Poultry Snuggie

    Mar 16, 2009
    onchiota NY
    I live 45 min from the canadian border so I get the same weather fo rhte most part-I let them out everyday in the winter-did they go out? NOOOO...3 hens and a big roo stayed snuggled all winter in their tiny coop-we had a small heating light and a heated water bowl for them and changes their litter everyweek-There were 3 sections to thier LITTLE coop-one they hens laid eggs in the other two they slept in-they were fine-the big roo slept with his head outside the door all the time and got frostite on his huge comb-a little vasaline on it and he was all good-The coop is 10x bigger this year but with many more birds so hopefully it all works out-good luck and dont get worries if they only come out on really sunny days-we kept it shoveled really good too and they refused to come out!
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    I'm about an hour, ish, north of Toronto.

    For sure you can let them out in the winter, nearly everyone does. How much they choose to go out on a given day, you'll just have to find out -- there seems to be a lot of variation among chickens in how outdoorsy they are when it's cold and snowy.

    Your odds of having them be out as much as possible will be improved by any or all of the following:

    -- roof all or part of the run (in a strongly-engineered, standing up to snow and wind load kind of way)

    -- put plastic or tarps or what-have-you on the upwind sides of the run so it's more sheltered -- do not wrap the whole thing entirely in plastic though, you need a fair good open area for ventilation or it will become a condensation farm and potentially humidify your coop as well (remember there is a lot more moisture in the ground outdoors than indoors)

    -- put down a good layer of straw or other fairly fluffy organic stuff, so that they are not standing on ice or packed snow or bare frozen ground (which are much colder on feeties) and so they have something to DO out there. You can even toss scratch etc in the run for them to look for, but be aware this may make rodent problems worse.

    Additionally, the more space they have indoors, the better. I give mine 15 sq ft per chicken (indoors, plus roofed plastic-protected run) and it works reasonably well, they do not get too grumpy or stir-crazy even when they stay indoors for long periods of time. I would not personally go below 10 sq ft per chicken indoors, in this climate. OTOH obviously lots of people *do*, and even if the chickens do not act as relaxed or natural or happy, you still have a reasonable shot at avoiding pecking/cannibalism as long as you have at least like 4-6 sq ft per chicken indoors.

    It is also really worth putting a max-min thermometer in the coop so you can develop a better sense of what indoor temperatures are likely to be at night (they will be warmer than outdoors, especially on the coldest nights). And make sure you have lots of closeable ventilation to play with, up high on the walls, preferably protected by the roof overhang -- insufficient ventilation is a serious hazard for frostbite whereas chickens can typically take a lot of *cold*, per se, as long as the air is still and dry.

    Good luck, have fun,

  5. CityChook

    CityChook Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 9, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    My Coop
    Pat always gives the best advice...

    Our winters are also very very long.... and cold. But at least it's pretty sunny. My girls didn't like to go outside, and really hated deep snow. Their pop door was opened every day that it was at least 0 for a daytime high. On warmer days (I'm talking 15-20F) they would, sometimes, range in the backyard ONLY on the shoveled paths and they liked to sunbathe on my cement patio next to the house which is shoveled daily. I made them a little roost next to the house where the sun reflects off the windows and creates some heat while sheltering them from any winds. It also kept their footsies off the freezing cold cement. They liked that. Can you tell that my chickens are wickedly spoiled?

    I also recommend more than the suggested 4 sq/ft per chicken when you live in a cold climate. Not everyone does it, and it's certainly not *necessary* but I think that it gives them a little more space to get away from each other when the weather is to cruddy to go outside. Larger spaces are harder to keep warm, but they are easier to ventilate properly, so it's a trade-off I guess.

    BTW, I've heard of others who bring their birds inside for the winter, but after having them residing in my office (in a dog crate) while their coop is being built, I can firmly declare that that will never ever happen again.
  6. LynneP

    LynneP Chillin' With My Peeps

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