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Winter help

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by BadFitUp, Oct 5, 2016.

  1. BadFitUp

    BadFitUp Out Of The Brooder

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    "Winter is Coming! " couldn't help it. But anyway, I was hoping for some guidance. In PA I have 9 chickens. Do I need to wrap my run for the birds? Or leave it open and just close the top vents of my gable for winter. Was going to do a heat lamp any ideas what works and doesn't. I will have to carry water back to fill for them since I don't want my line to freeze.

    Also at what temperature do I wanna have a lamp in the coup? Pics are a few months old so sorry. I was going to put a fish tank heater in the water. Will a heat lamp be $$ to run all winter? Birds are only going to be 1 yr old.

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  2. redsoxs

    redsoxs Chicken Obsessed

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    Honestly, I don't think you need to add heat to the coop. They handle cold better than heat and in a cozy (but ventilated) coop they are usually good to go. If you'd like to research some winter chicken keeping, here you go:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/winter-chicken-keeping
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/winter-coop-temperatures
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/...led-look-at-the-question-of-supplemental-heat
    Wrapping the run won't hurt, particularly on the windy side. And it might keep out some snow. My chickens hate snow and won't venture out in snow if they can help it. Good luck to you!
     
  3. tinakevin

    tinakevin Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I live in NH and my girls were not quite a year old last winter and I did not heat the coop. They do very well in cold temps as long as there r no drafts. It's best not to heat just in case the electricity goes out. If you did heat and electric went out for a while, the cold would most likely kill them because they were not acclamated to it. I covered our run on all 4 sides because they don't like snow but I still wanted them to get out of their coop. Just put a little hole on both sides for the wind to pass thru. I bought a heater from my local feed store for the water bucket so I didn't have to go out in 3 ft of snow or during a storm to fill them twice a day. This is what works for me
     
  4. BadFitUp

    BadFitUp Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you. I did not know any of this. Should I just do a heavy bedding method for the winter in the run for the pooh and inside the coup?

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  5. tinakevin

    tinakevin Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I do the deep litter method in my coop and I put down hay and shavings in the run. after it snows I will open the small door that goes out to the area they can free range in and even though they don't go out on the snow they love to eat it.
     
  6. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    My Coop
    I'm in Northern Wyoming not too far from Yellowstone Park. Yeah, we get winter. <sigh> My coop is neither insulated nor heated. I hate heat lamps with a passion for any reason....I won't even use them for my new chicks! Every year here on BYC there will be a thread about someone whose coop burned down, or fires that got started and put out in the nick of time. That doesn't even take into account the artificial light 24/7, with no time for them to go into that deep sleep they need.

    The key to keeping chickens healthy during the winter months is common sense....and it took me a long time to find mine, I'll tell ya! I was absolutely adamant that my babies needed every square inch of their coop insulated, any little gaps where I could see daylight had to be caulked, and I needed some kind of heat source in there. Wiser heads than mine here on BYC tried to discourage that thinking....and fortunately they prevailed. We have a tendency to think in terms of our comfort as it relates to our chickens. If we are cold, then they must be cold. If we use artificial heat, then they must need it too. Using human comfort as the benchmark then, imagine that you went out and spent a fortune on a fluffy down winter coat. Keeps you nice and cozy when you go outside, doesn't it? But what's the first thing you want to do when you come inside a warm house? Yep, off comes the coat. Chickens have the perfect winter coat...feathers trap the warm air close to their bodies and keep it there. If they are allowed to acclimate to the naturally occurring lower temperatures and shorter days, they do perfectly well.

    Good ventilation is critical in helping prevent frostbite. Sounds counter-productive, but we are trained to plug up every little gap in our homes to keep out cold air and keep warm air in. We don't want to do that with chickens. Humidity is the big issue. It comes from their poop, their water, their breath, and the humidity fluctuations in the air caused by alternate freezing and thawing. Like condensation on a soda can you take from the fridge, that humidity is going to settle somewhere, and in the case of chickens it will settle on combs and wattles like an invisible net around them. When it freezes, you have frostbitten combs and wattles. That humid air has to be able to leave your coop, and ventilation up high is critical for it to escape. Likewise any ammonia that might be building needs to be able to get out. Air flow to take that stale, humid air is essential to the good health of your birds, so the last thing you want to do is block every possible air entrance and exit point.

    Ventilation does not mean direct drafts!!!! That's important to understand. Let's go back to our expensive down coats for a minute. Man, that thing is warm and comfy when you're outside. But what if the zipper breaks? All that warm air that the coat trapped next to your body is gone and you are suddenly chilled to the bone!! If the air coming into your coop is strong enough to ruffle and displace the feathers on your chickens, then their warm trapped air is no longer held against their bodies, either. You no longer have ventilation, you have drafts. It's the same with moisture. Your down coat will do a super job of insulating you against the cold, unless it gets soggy wet. Feathers are the same way...once they get wet, they can't do their job and keep the chickens warm. So ventilation without wind blowing right in on them, and keeping them dry, is job one!

    In my coop, I have windows and vents (similar to home heat vents) that can be opened or closed. I leave the ones on the downwind side open all of the time. The only ones that I close up are those on the side the wind and snow might be blowing in from - wind from the north, close up the north vent, etc. And I also have a gable vent above the people door that stays open. I have a mobile home exhaust fan that can be operated with the fan going, or just opened with the fan not running. It's also open all year round, as is their pop door into the run. I only run the fan during the warm months. Their run is a hoop style run and we cover that with a clear, mesh reinforced tarp during winter months. Even that is not closed in completely. The south side of the run is one short side, and it has a separate piece of plastic that we can roll down (think reversed window shade) as far as we want. So during snowstorms when the wind is swirling from all directions it's closed almost to the top...on nicer days it's rolled down almost to the ground. The west and east sides (the long sides) are only covered to about 6 inches above the litter level of the run. The north side (again, the other short side) can't be completely covered because that's the side our people door is in, but we tack separate pieces of plastic to the door and to the run on either side of the door...the section above the door is left uncovered completely. My hubby said we could have saved a fortune on wood if he'd known that we'd end up with a coop that has more openings than solid sides! [​IMG]

    Ventilation is just as critical in the run as it is in the coop! The first year we tried the plastic we covered the entire run....condensation built up so much in there that the drops of water would sprinkle down on us when we bumped the plastic - not good!! Water literally ran down the sides of the plastic on the inside of the run. So we changed that and made sure to leave air flow on all 4 sides. Problem solved. In fact, it's maintains such an even temperature in there that we raise our chicks out there almost from day one - they have a heating pad cave within a wire pen in the run in full sight of the adult birds, and they thrive - even with our springtime temps in the teens and twenties! The adult chickens wake up in the morning and head out to the run...and they stay there almost all day long, unless I let them out to play in the snow, which most of them love to do.

    For water we use a 5 gallon bucket with horizontal nipples. We have a stock tank heater (approved for use in plastic containers....watch for that) in the bottom of the bucket. Like you, we can't keep our outside water hoses going during the winter unless we want our pipes to freeze, so we have bucket we keep out on the deck. When the water needs to be topped off, we fill the bucket at the sink and haul it out there. With a 5 gallon waterer, it doesn't need to filled daily, so it's no big deal to haul water out there every few days. I happened to have a pro electrician for a hubby, so he hardwired a couple of outlets for me out there, one in the coop and one in the run. I keep their water out in the run, so it's easy to plug in the heater in winter. But a heavy duty, outdoor rated extension cord, with the point where the heater plugs into the extension cord covered against moisture entering, would likely work just fine. When we use extension cords around here, we use these heavy duty clamshell type covers for the connections...you put the connection inside the plastic cover and snap it shut.

    Well, now that I've overloaded you with more information than you probably anticipated, I'll back out of here. Try not to over-worry and overthink it all...and then make decisions for your birds based on what you think would work best for you - you're there, I'm not so you have a better idea of your prevailing winds, sunlight patterns, individual winter hardiness of your chicken breeds,etc than I do. If, in the end, you decide on some kind of heat source, be very careful about where you put it, how well you secure it, and whether panicked birds can fly into it. Good luck with everything!!
     
  7. wamtazlady

    wamtazlady Chillin' With My Peeps

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    When I was setting up my coop for the winter last year I did a lot of reading on the forums. Decided to take the advice of those who had been doing this for awhile. Don't regret it as the birds came through the winter with flying colors. Sometimes you just have to trust what people tell you, especially about heating a coop in winter.

    My setup is similar to Blooie's with two minor differences. I use a larger plastic tote for water so it only needs filled once a week. I also had a plumber change my outside faucet to a freeze free one so that I can use it to fill the waterers by just attaching one of those shrinking type hoses. The hose goes in the house after use. No carrying water for me.
     
  8. BadFitUp

    BadFitUp Out Of The Brooder

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    [​IMG]

    Do you think I should put plexiglass over the peak vents. Cover the 2 big triangles. I was going to just drill hiles in it and screw them up for winter. Just leave the openings under the roof overhangs open. They are 4 4"x2ft holes from the rafters. I was going to put something clear up top to let light in since if they are on the perches there up high they could be in light.

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