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Winter/Cold question

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by WannaBeDoc, Sep 27, 2011.

  1. WannaBeDoc

    WannaBeDoc New Egg

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    I do not have chickens yet, but plan to start next spring and currently planning...I have a tracktor-coop on the drawing board but now I am stuck with the simple question of Winter/Cold - which will influence my design and what I build:

    I am in the northeast, so we do get cold Winters, lots of snow, but also hot/humid summers - at least for 2-3 weeks a year. I am more conecrned about the cold than the heat, so what should I consider ?

    I know I will pick cold hardy breeds, I will likely built a rather enclosed tracktor/coop with not too many openings and I could add a light as heat source for Winter, but is that really enough and what other options do I have ?

    We have snow on the ground for long period of times, so the girls will be confined to the coop plus minus the area below, plus minus part of the run I guess. WHat size sould I plan per Bird in that case ? Inside and out ?

    Can they do -20 F for a couple of days in a row ? Would that mean confined in the coop ? And how much space would they need inside in that case ?

    If someone from the northeast or Michigan or so could share some of their experience, that would be great ...I plan on having about 6 chicks...but I need a reasonably sized coop as well...

    Thanks !
     
  2. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    I keep hens in the far north of Michigan, the coldest area of the state. -20 is very, very common, with the occasional -30 or worse. We provide no added heat, no insulation, but a nice, dry, draft free barn with high, roof eave open venting. Birds handle cold better than heat, is our experience. Frost bite is normally caused by high humidity condensing as frost. Keep them dry, dry, dry and well vented.

    As for cold hardy breeds, there is no choice, in my opinion, unless you desire to provide an environment that never allows temps to fall before 25 or so. That is economically impossible for us. One cannot heat a barn or large coop.

    Our barn isn't huge, but it is approx 20'x24'. That is 480 sq ft. We typically winter over two dozen hens. Yes, the math on that is 20 sq ft per bird. They need it. They spend days couped up when the temps are brutal, the wind is blowing and the snow is 2 feet deep. They have an indoor playground. They can dig, dust bathe and mess around.

    The great American breeds such as Rocks, Buckeyes, RIR, Wyandottes, New Hampshire, and others were all developed in our cold climate and without the benefit of heat or even electricity. We have the descendants of those very birds today. Plan for the worst case scenario and all will go well.
     
  3. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    Despite Fred having birds in a much cooler climate than mine, he coddles them relative to one of my free range flocks. By choice they sleep in trees and I am not saying pine trees but rather oaks with minimal wind protection. Temps dropped to less than -10 F but you should consider interaction between wind and cold. Snow this last winter exceeded 20" for at least 3 weeks. Birds had to fly from perch to perch to avoid walking through snow. What they needed was constant access to quality food and access to all the water they can drink at least one each day if they do not have access to ice.

    Think protection from direct wind but enough ventilation to prevent condensation.

    My logic for high humidity being is a problem is that as ice condense on birds feathers, the feathers loose insulatory value resulting in birds having a more difficult time keeping core temperature up. As they struggle to keep warm, blood is shunted away from extremities (toes, comb and sometimes wattles) increasing odds for frostbite affecting those tissue.
     
  4. RedDrgn

    RedDrgn Anachronistic Anomaly

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    My Coop
    In general, you should actually be more concerned about heat. Chickens generally take cold better than hot. If you select cold-hardy breeds, give them a place where they are out of wind/drafts, at least two square feet per bird (in the coop or wherever you keep them) and keep your humidity down and you're set...and don't let their water freeze (obviously).

    Also, here's a good read to have before you start to build: https://www.backyardchickens.com/web/viewblog.php?id=1642-VENTILATION
     
  5. WannaBeDoc

    WannaBeDoc New Egg

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    Sep 27, 2011
    Thanks a lot for your input, I guess I will start with less chicks then since I want to build only 20 to 25 sqf coop to start with (or I build them a second level maybe)

    The ventilation seems a hotly debated topic, but the no moisture idea makes perfect sense.

    Reassures me that its not that much of an issue - worst case I can move them in the garage and have them roam there on concrete and clean it out in spring (thats kind of my back up plan if it gets real bad).
     
  6. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    I don't have a tractor, but I've seen many comments here on BYC that tractors are really only suitable for very small flocks, simply because when you address appropriate size, it simply becomes too heavy to move about every other day or so.
    Some use tractors for the warmer months and have a perm. coop for overwintering.
    Curious, why are you not wanting a permanent coop?? It just seems easier for an area that gets the range of weather conditions your area does...
     
  7. TDM

    TDM Chillin' With My Peeps

    I live in the Michigan Upper Peninsula, and most of the people I know around here insulate their coops. We tend to stock the coops at two square feet per bird, and the 40 btu that each chicken generates is sufficient to prevent eggs from freezing. Also, being that snow is a big problem here, we plow out the exercise yards for the chickens.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  8. WoodlandWoman

    WoodlandWoman Overrun With Chickens

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    The trick to living in an area that has hot humid summers and very cold winters is to have a lot of adjustable ventilation. When the heat and humidity levels are both in the upper 90s, the coop is really open and airy. When it's -20 out, you only have enough ventilation to supply fresh air and make sure it's not too humid in the coop.

    In my coop, the extra summer ventilation is from large windows that swing completely open. You can also have openings that are covered by plywood. The ventilation openings you plan to leave open in the cold weather shouldn't cause drafts when the chickens are on the roost or in the main living area of the coop.

    I choose winter hardy breeds. If you want a rooster in your flock, you could also think about a breed with a smaller comb as an option.

    Usually my chickens have 5 square feet per chicken in the coop. Since they aren't high strung breeds and usually only get confined to the coop during blizzards or bad storms, that seems to work okay. We do have a run that's covered, so snow doesn't keep them inside. Before that, I had to go shovel the run anytime it snowed, so they could get out.
     
  9. RedDrgn

    RedDrgn Anachronistic Anomaly

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    Quote:That is an absolutely awesome coop! A mobile chicken-sized Taj Mahal! [​IMG]
     
  10. TDM

    TDM Chillin' With My Peeps

    Quote:Thanks. The chickens are free to choose the coop they want to spend the night in. Oddly enough, though both coops are relatively identical, they seem to prefer each others company and tend to migrate just one coop. The stocking density of the coop in the picture has to be around 1.5 square feet per bird. The birds are leghorns, marans (black copper and cuckoo), production reds, and easter eggers.
     

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