Winter chicken question

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by wynotcluck, Jul 28, 2011.

  1. wynotcluck

    wynotcluck New Egg

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    Jul 27, 2009
    I live in Wyoming and our winters get down to -20. I am new to having chickens and was told to just keep my coop chicken door open for them and if they get cold they will go inside. My coop is well built and insulated. Pine shavings on the floor. 6 foot by 6 foot coop with 6 hens. If one of my northern chicken keepers would offer an opinion it would be appreciated. Thanks!
     
  2. karlamaria

    karlamaria Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Montana here and we can get much colder, in that extreme cold I would leave them in to stay warm. You do not want there waddles and combs to freeze. It's ok to let them out when it's above zero, just make sure the snow is shoveled or that you have a top on your run so it remains clear of snow. My coop is insulated, but it will have a heat lamp in it also when it gets below zero. If your coop is big enough and there is a nice roomy roost to perch on, no sense in letting them out to freeze lol, just my two cents.
     
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I'll give you some articles from a lady that lives in Ontario. Maybe she is far enough north to have credibility with you. It only occasionally gets into negative Fahrenheit for me, like last winter my coldest night was -4 F. I know your winters are colder than that. I know you did not ask a muddy run question, but its a pretty good article too.

    Pat’s Big Ol' Ventilation Page
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-VENTILATION

    Pat’s
    Cold Coop (winter design) page:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-winter-coop-temperatures

    Pat’s
    Big Ol' Mud Page (fixing muddy runs):
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-fix-a-muddy-run

    I
    think your question concerns the daytime. Mine will go outside in temperatures around 0 F. It really is not colder than that here so I cannot speak to anything colder. They do not like wind at all and most don't like snow. I do have a couple that will tramp through 9" of snow to check out the compost heap, and most will go out into 2" or 3" if the grass and weeds are sticking through so they can get to the seeds. But that is only after they get used to the snow. The first time they see snow, they want nothing to do with it.

    Chickens wear a down coat yeat round and can normally handle cold better than they handle heat. But they do need water, food, and a place to take shelter, especially from the wind. If you notice, you probably have some wild birds that winter in Wyoming.

    One problem you could have is that the coop is fairly small for that many chickens if they are snowed in it a whole lot. If you can fix up an area outside that stays snow free and blocks the wind for them so they can go outside when the snow is deep, you will probably be more sucessful. They might be OK in that size coop, but chickens that are a little crowded can turn cannibalistic. I go a little stir crazy too when I can't get out for a long period.

    Good luck!
     
  4. 2468Chickensrgr8

    2468Chickensrgr8 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 7, 2007
    Ontario
    Live in Ontario Canada , my coop is also insulated well half of it isthey roost in the insulated part ... . I leave the coop door open all the time as I have a secure yard for them to come and go.... water is always outside of the coop and in the winte rtime I use a heated dog dish . I dont use a heat light as I want them to get use to the cold because if the power should go out they'd be pretty cold . I do use a heat light maybe on a cold night when its like - 25 c up here but thats normally in late Jan or Feb ... and normally not so bad ...and I put it on a timer from 3am to sun up ...
    I give them scratch for snacktime in the evening and two by fours to perch on so they can tuck there feet underneath themselves ...hope that helps ....
     
  5. janinepeters

    janinepeters Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 9, 2009
    One problem you could have is that the coop is fairly small for that many chickens if they are snowed in it a whole lot. If you can fix up an area outside that stays snow free and blocks the wind for them so they can go outside when the snow is deep, you will probably be more sucessful. They might be OK in that size coop, but chickens that are a little crowded can turn cannibalistic. I go a little stir crazy too when I can't get out for a long period.

    That is an important point. I live in Massachusetts, usually not quite as cold as your location, but still gets pretty cold here. My chickens do stay inside much more in winter, and this is when I tend to see feather picking start. They are just plain bored, with nothing to do and nowhere to go when it is so cold out and the ground is covered with snow. To remedy this, we added a covered, virtually predator proof, 128 sq ft run. They use this a lot in winter, and now I no longer see cannibalism in winter.

    Also, a very important consideration for unheated coops in cold climates is cold hardiness of breed. I hope you have chosen cold hardy breeds (if not, you will learn a lesson for next time around). For the most part, that means birds with chunky bodies and rose, pea, or walnut combs. Large single combs are prone to frostbite.

    Be prepared to cull, or take indoors, a bird who happens to have a late, hard molt. They need most of their feathers to withstand severe cold.​
     
  6. jmagill

    jmagill Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Where in Wyoming are you? I am in Star Valley.

    I leave a chicken door open all the time. I do have it covered with a rubber floor mat to keep some of the breeze out.
     
  7. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    I live in the the coldest area of Michigan and -20F is a very typical mid-winter low. Highs around +5 is also typical in Jan-Feb.

    First, do choose breeds designed to handle the cold. Rocks, Wyandottes, New Hampshire, Buckeyes, and others were specifically bred for cold climates and in cold climate states by chicken farmers a century ago. Long before they had electricity or insulation. They will be fine.

    Yes, over heating is much tougher on chickens than the cold, per se, but..... the key is DRY. They'll handle sub zero with no frost bite and no complaining, IF they can stay dry, well ventilated, well fed, well watered, and protected from harsh winds. Mine even lay fairly well throughout the winter.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2011
  8. wynotcluck

    wynotcluck New Egg

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    Jul 27, 2009
    Hey chicken lovers,

    Thank you so much for all the good advice. I am going to add a covered run. My coop is brand new, dry, insulated and draft free but I worry about the size and like has been pointed out, them going crazy on me. I will need to keep the little chicken door open but I will try and do something there to stop breezes.
     
  9. debbie turkey lady

    debbie turkey lady Out Of The Brooder

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    Jul 24, 2011
    I live in the pacific northwest region, in Oregon. We get snow here, Jan-March, and it can dip down to -12 on a cold winter night. I have barred rock, and roade island red chickens, very hearty breeds.
    Our chicken coop is large, 12X 18. I keep them in on very cold, snowing windy days in winter, however, they useually want out by the afternoon, even in the snow. I have 2 heat lamps, and plenty of straw for them, as well as a insulated coop. The big thing is like someone else stated, is "to keep them dry". Chickens don't like to get wet, or to have wet houses. So, as long as you do all of these things your chickens should be okay. I keep the lamp on because my hens lay better with a light source. Also, they are more content when the wind is blowing hard, as we can have severe winter storms, with powerful wind, which sometimes upsets the hens, and I get fewer eggs. But, never lost one yet!
    Good luck!
    Debbie

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