Winter care for smaller coops

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by ChikenMania, Oct 23, 2016.

  1. ChikenMania

    ChikenMania Just Hatched

    Jul 16, 2016
    Carlisle MA
    Any ideas on how to keep my chickens warm, and dry in the winter? I also need a way to keep them exercised in their run (the run is smaller than normal) because I usually let them free-range outside most of the day.
  2. BurntFeather

    BurntFeather Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 7, 2015
    We live in an area that gets below zero throughout the winter months and found our chickens like the deep little method. It basically consists of turning over the soiled bedding, adding a new layer, and allowing the chicken droppings to decompose on the floor of the coop all winter, while creating heat to keep the coop warm naturally. Then you just clean the whole thing out in the spring and dump it into your compost pile.
    A new 6" layer of pine shavings goes down on the bare floor. Starting with the 6" layer of pine shavings on the floor with straw on top, each morning I turn over the top straw so the soiled bedding from the night before ends up on the bottom. I continue doing that each day, adding straw after that as needed to eventually build up to a 12" deep layer. Nothing is removed but rather turned over to expose new straw. (You can also use dry grass clippings, leaves, pine needles, or a combination of bedding types)
    Continue in this manner all winter. Early in the spring, sweep the composted litter into a wheelbarrow and toss it into your compost pile. Then scrub down the entire coop, let it dry and replace the bedding with a 6" layer of straw. Through the spring and summer, I remove the soiled straw and it goes into our compost pile for the following spring's garden. I only replace straw as needed to maintain a 6" base. The Deep Litter Method is not appropriate during the warmer months since it does generate quite a bit of heat in the coop which you only want in the winter.
    A few caveats before you try The Deep Litter Method: Your coop must have good ventilation (which is very important regardless of whether you use this method or not, to keep the humidity levels in the coop down to prevent frostbite) and if you smell even a hint of ammonia, you need to clean the entire coop out, let it dry then , put down a new layer of pine shavings, then straw and start over. Ammonia fumes can cause eye and sinus irritation in your flock, so it's important that the coop stay fume-free.
    1 person likes this.
  3. BurntFeather

    BurntFeather Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 7, 2015
    A higher protein feed is highly recommended for winter feeding.
    We have several different roosting poles and shelves throughout our chicken houses that allow the chickens to jump from one to the next and they sometimes turn it into a game a go around and around. They really need the body fat and healthy feathers to keep them warm.
    I usually close their door at night when it gets too cold.
  4. I live in Alberta Canada....Brrrrr!!
    I let my Birds out daily...I free range as much as possible....I never change feed....They do fine....If you have proper ventilation they will be fine...They heat up the coop....I run heat but only to keep my water from freezing...I shovel paths for them in the snow...

  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    Continue to let them free range when they want. Give them the option, you may be surprised how often they chose to be outside. Doesn't really matter how cold it is, if it's dry and not horribly windy they'll likely be out and about. Even on top of the snow [​IMG]

    don't worry so much about keeping them warm. They come with their very own custom down coat, that they can never take off. Putting a heat lamp in the coop can actually make them pretty miserable. think how warm you get when you come in with your jacket on----now imagine you can't ever take that off. You'd be headed back outside pretty fast!

    Dry is another story. Wet chickens can be sick chickens. Your coop should already be water proof. Adding a roof to your run is usually pretty easy. Depending on the size, even a partial roof will help a lot. If you post pics of your set up, we can give you more specific ideas.
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Dry is key and ventilated, coop space can be important if they don't have a sheltered place to go outside.

    Ditto donrae..... pics of you coop/run would help, and how big in feet by well as how many birds you have.
    1 person likes this.

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