To heat or not to heat....that is the question

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by DaniGirl 1272, Oct 11, 2015.

  1. DaniGirl 1272

    DaniGirl 1272 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ok so my son and I keep arguing over this, so I figured i'd ask people who have been raising chickens a lot longer than me.

    We live in PA our winters are cold but not severely cold. I have 4 Buff Orps and my son insists that they need heat over the winter. I'm saying they don't but he's arguing they do. He claims also that they won't be happy chickens too haha. So can someone that is an "expert" settle this argument PLEASE??????[​IMG]
     
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Not heat!!!

    Your orpingtons were developed in a climate similar to yours.
    Most breeds we raise were developed in climates that get quite cold. They didn't have a means to heat the hen houses in the 1700s.

    Chickens evolved from red jungle fowl who's range extends into the Himalayan foothills.

    Most American breeds were developed in New England. Cold there.
    English class from Britain. Cold there.
    Continental class, cold there.

    They are wearing a down coat 24/7.
    Chickens die from heat and bad air, not cold.
     
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  3. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Please don't heat your chickens, it's unnecessary and it doesn't allow the birds to acclimate to the outdoor temperature.
     
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  4. DaniGirl 1272

    DaniGirl 1272 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ok my next question is....is there anything we should do to their coop/run to prepare for the winter??
     
  5. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Make sure there is ventilation without drafts, block the prevailing winds, make sure you have appropriate roosts, and that you are able to provide thawed or warm water at least twice a day, access to sunlight, chickens are pretty hardy, they will go outside on most days so something like hay or straw to stand on, and perhaps a warm meal on really cold days.
     
  6. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    Aside from the fact they don't NEED it. There are many reasons not to provide it.
    1. It's expensive
    2 There is no opportunity to acclimate. They need steady temps 24/7.
    3 Birds kept cozy at night and walk out into a Pennsylvania winter wind in the morning will be very stressed.
    4 If power goes out, they will likely die if kept warm.
    5 There is opportunity for fire.

    There are other reasons but that should be enough.
     
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  7. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    No heat! How much would you be willing to spend for a down and feather jacket as well constructed as a chicken's? Then how long would you be willing to stand in a warm (not necessarily heated, but warm) building with it on, zipped up tight and buttoned? Yeah, same here! Good ventilation seems contrary to battening down all hatches and sealing up the coop too, but they put out so much humidity with their respirations and droppings! If that can't get out along with all the ammonia build up from chicken poop, that dampness settles around them and it's the perfect recipe for frostbite. Now, if their feathers are ruffling, that's too much draft. Go back to that coat - keeps you toasty warm no matter how cold it gets until the zipper breaks and all that trapped warm air escapes. The goal is to keep warm air trapped in their feathers and down and keep moisture off them. That equals chickens superbly suited to handle the cold.

    I detest heat lamps so much I won't even use them for newly hatched chicks! Excessive heat, fire risk, inability to maintain steady temperatures, no cool spots, heats everything around them, and light 24/7. <shudder> Every year right here on BYC we read about someone who lost or almost lost their coop and chickens to a heat-lamp caused fire. So my chicks don't get a heat lamp - even when I brood them in temps in the teens and twenties with snow flying. And I live in Northern Wyoming not too far from Yellowstone Park!

    As for warm water, as much as I respect @oldhenlikesdogs and her knowledge, I won't give warmed water, either. Some folks bring out warm oatmeal to them on cold mornings. I can't make myself do either - when that warmth hits the cold it puts out vapor, and that vapor settles as condensation on the closest thing to it - the chickens' faces. So their combs and wattles are damp, then the cold air hits them.

    Just use your good common sense and you'll be fine. You want to keep them dry, out of direct drafts, in a clean well ventilated environment. They'll do the rest. They'll sit on their feet to keep them warm if they have flat sided roosts. If they have a hay or straw bale to stand on, even better. If it's windy they'll move out of the wind. They want to survive as much as we want them to survive! You can block the winds with a windbreak on the side you get the coldest wind from, and keep out blowing snow. Your biggest issue will be gathering eggs before they freeze, but that also ensures that you'll be out there a few times a day and can see how they're doing! You've got this!
     
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  8. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Thanks Blooie, will be paying attention to this, my husband always says the water out of the horse tank with the tank heater is warm enough, might be time to let my final bit of winter guilt go. Always more to learn.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2015
  9. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    Boy, ain't it the truth!!! Wish I had a nickle for everytime I've sat here and said to myself, "Huh, I never thought of that!" [​IMG]
     
  10. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener True BYC Addict

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    I'm going to throw in just a bit of a monkey wrench here. I agree with 99% of the advice given here. BUT... I live in Central Maine... Just a bit further north than you do, Dani! We've had 2 extremely brutal winters. During the coldest of the cold, (Days on end when it never got UP TO 0* F) my chicken's behavior changed. Their feed consumption went down (you would expect them to eat more in the winter, not less b/c they require more calories to generate heat) and they became very lethargic. When I see behavior changes like that, I WILL provide some heat. I agree: chickens generally don't need heat, and farmers of old did not even have the means to heat their barns. But, what they did have in those barns was: Large livestock, copious piles of manure, lots of animals, and a hay mow full of hay. All of those are heat generators. And the chickens had plenty of options of hunkering down in a pile of hay to stay warm. The tiny little back yard flocks in their very clean little coops don't have any of those benefits. So... no heat... unless they SHOW you that they need it.
     
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