Vermont Winters and Young Chickens


11 Years
Oct 6, 2008
Hi everyone - we have 13 americauna chicks, about 10 weeks old (born in July). We live in very northern Vermont, on top of an exposed hill, out in the country. Today (October 6th) it was 40 degrees, and it hailed a bit. It's very cold and windy, and the winters are very harsh.

I have read books about raising chickens, but this is our first flock. We have an area in our barn (no other animals in the barn, and it's not heated) in a horse stall, 4 feet x 8 feet, insulated walls and ceiling, wooden floor, and one window. We have a light in there just in case. Now - not all will be hens, we don't know yet which will be roosters, so we're not really sure we'll end out with in the end. But for now, we have the thirteen.

Also, in addition to the 4x8 space, we are building a nesting box that will attach to the outside of their "coop" so it won't take up any of the space inside (we'll cut a hole for them to get to the box, and provide a ramp or "landing pad" for them).

They have been in their coop in the barn for 2 weeks now, and I only left the light on for heat for the first couple nights. Last night it was 50 degrees in the coop. I'm afraid that the winters will be very cold! Will they be old enough? Is this enough space for them? We hadn't planned on letting them out this winter because the wind always blows, and there are no trees for them to take shelter under. Also we have a dog - yellow lab - who loves to chase birds, so we are hoping to put off the meeting of chickens and dog until the chickens are old enough to fend for themselves a bit more.

We also put down shavings and hay on the floor, and every few days we add some new hay. We did DE when they were in the brooder, and are thinking we'll add this to our routine once/week.

Also thinking about buying a waterer with a heating coil, or else the water will freeze.

As we were planning and constructing this, friends who keep chickens advised us to not make the coop too big so that thier own heat would keep them warm. But in reading around it seems like they need more like 8-10 feet per chicken. Two books I read said 2-4 feet per chicken...

This is a temporary fix just for this winter. Next summer we are planning a permament coop in another area of our barn with an outside run.

Thank you for any thought and suggestions. We love our chickens! They are so much fun.

La Banan

11 Years
May 28, 2008
I have chickens a bit younger than yours and I live in Nova Scotia. It isn't cold here yet but it will be and they are outside - they love it. The littlest of them - the barred rocks are still not fully feathered but no-one is complaining. They don't huddle more than normal and man they love to be outside.

You could put hay bales around the "coop" and you might decide to enclose it more - put a roof on that stall etc...

LynneP who is on this forum alot has her coop in her barn - she's got lots of info on how to do it right.

good luck and have fun!
jan la banan

Solsken Farm

12 Years
Hi and welcome to the site! I'm in a chilly part of Maine.This will be our first winter with our chickens who began arriving in April. I have had the same worries. Sounds like you have a dry, draft free spot for them which is key. Moisture is the disease and frostbite culprit.

We have insulated our chicken coop and will have it filled with the maximum number of birds (to provide extra warmth, um wait, that is not entirely true, it's because I keep ordering more hatching eggs......) But anyway, the rule of thumb is 2 sq ft of space per bird, so at 13 birds, you are fine in a 4 x 8 coop.

Do you have an outdoor run? Is there a pop door? Do they have some southern exposure for protection when they are outside?

We have many ages of chicks and chickens. We have 6 week olds outside here with a 250 watt heat lamp that they can snuggle under. They have been outside for the last few days enjoying the sun, even though it is chily.

Have you consdered a water heater? That could make your life easier, and a constant water source is pretty important.

Good luck~brrrrrrrrrrrrrr......


Feathers of Steel
Mar 30, 2008
Oxford County
Watch for pecking as they get bigger and more crowded. I subscribe to the other rule of thumb that says to provide a minimum of 4 square feet for larger birds, especially when you are not providing access to the outdoors..

If pecking becomes a problem, try a softer light if you keep one on at night, such as a red bulb or better, a ceramic heat lamp. Prepare for the possibility that your birds will be too crowded and be ready to enlarge their coop area or get rid of some birds.

You will be getting rid of a number of them anyway as their roosterness becomes apparant. Keeping more than one rooster in such a crowded space will be courting disaster.


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