Winter is Coming! Checklists, tips, advice for a newbie

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by LadyCluck77, Sep 9, 2013.

  1. LadyCluck77

    LadyCluck77 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Greetings fellow bird lovers!

    I live in inland Maine and woke up to a slight frost this morning. (It was a very light one, but a good reminder of what is to come). My birds seemed fine, marched down the ramp as normal, and began scratching the ground.
    I've been searching the forums for do's and don'ts, and it seems that some people do certain winter preparations and others do not, ie, some place heaters or red brooder lamps in the coop and some don't.
    Some people use a heated water system (whether an aquarium heater or heated dog bowl, or an intended avian heated waterer) and some do not- opting to bring out fresh water twice a day. I'm guessing that is mostly linked to whether the timing works for you and your work schedule.
    Some people use hay around the coop and run to block the wind out. Some people use clear plastic or tarps to block the wind. Some people have insulated coops and some do not.
    Some people use Vaseline on the larger-combed birds, like leghorns, to prevent frostbite, others swear that it won't help much.

    My coop has two small vents at the very top, with plexiglass anchored to leave about a one inch gap for airflow. My husband built this assuming it would block winds but still allow moisture to escape.

    I don't want to go nuts, as I don't have a huge budget to work with, but from what I have read about frostbite, I do not want to loose any combs or toes if I can help it. I certainly don't want any casualties. This got me creating a mental checklist for "things I need to do before winter arrives".


    What do you typically do to prepare for winter?
    How do you feel about heaters or red lamps in the coop on cold nights?
    Do you use a tarp or cover in your run area?
    What advice would you offer to someone starting out?



    Thanks to anyone willing to pass on some wisdom! And if I forgot to ask related questions, feel free to jump in! :)
     
  2. thomasboyle

    thomasboyle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    My winter prep starts with wrapping the outdoor run in clear vinyl shower curtains I by for $5 each at a local discount store. This keeps the wind and snow out of the run, so I don't have to shovel the run after each snowstorm. This also keeps the run area quite a bit warmer - my waterers stopped freezing during the days. I stock up on hay so I can make the bedding deeper - I have ducks in with my chickens, and they enjoy a nice thick bed of soft dry hay. This year I am adding DIY heated bases for my top fill waterers. I am taking 10 gallon galvanized tubs, and putting them upside down in the run. The waterer goes on top, and a utility work light goes underneath, inside the tub. I'll have to play with the wattage of the bulb in the lamp, but I think 40 watts should do it. The lamp has a hook on the top of the bulb protection cage, and I will add an eye bolt on the inside of the tub to hook the lamp too, keeping it up off the ground, close to the top of the tub.

    I'll be doing most of this in November, usually at 10pm right before the first snow storm is coming!

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  3. LadyCluck77

    LadyCluck77 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Maine
    Thank you for sharing about your winter preparations :) I was toying with the idea of wrapping my run in painter's drop plastic sheets.

    That's an incredibly beautiful coop and run!

    The galvanized tubs sound very useful. Where do you find them?
     
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  4. Hokum Coco

    Hokum Coco Overrun With Chickens

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    I have been around the sun 63 times.

    It is not my first "Rodeo!"

    Nobody "I know" heats a chicken coop.

    Healthy "cold hearty" chickens die from heat not cold.

    I live in Canada last year was subject to -40º (C or F take your pick) no light or heat in coop NO PROBLEMS.

    Chickens have been raised on this continent for over a hundred years without heat.

    If you feel you must supply heat to your chickens I suggest keeping your chickens in the house that way you can huddle with your birds when the hydro goes out.

    Chickens will die from cold if not given the chance to acclimatize. Hydro is more apt to go out in an ice storm or blizzard when subject to below 0º temperatures in my opinion.

    How would you supply heat then to your un-acclimatized birds ???

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    Check out my Link:

    Chickens Arctic Conditions

    Prolonged Periods



    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/738994/chickens-arctic-conditions-prolonged-period
     
  5. GrafixMuse

    GrafixMuse Out Of The Brooder

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    We had some chilly nights this past weekend in Southern Maine too. No frost here yet, but it was 40˚F this morning. It is hard to believe that it will be mid-80s on Wednesday but it looks like nighttime temps will be back in the 40s this weekend. Winter is coming.

    I am a new flock owner this year and will be watching this thread for advice as well. I was just visiting this forum to do some research on when to button up the coop for winter. I have ventilation in the eaves that will be left open, but I was wondering at what nighttime temperature to close up the two large windows. I don't plan on heating the coop, but I haven't figured out how to keep the water fresh either. I will be watching this thread for ideas.
     
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  6. thomasboyle

    thomasboyle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 28, 2013
    Northwest Hills of CT
    I bought two 7 gallon galvanized buckets at Tractor Supply. They have then for $12. They are around 18" across on the bottom, 12" on the top, and 8" high. My waterers fit perfectly on them.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2013
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  7. thomasboyle

    thomasboyle Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 28, 2013
    Northwest Hills of CT
     
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  8. Hokum Coco

    Hokum Coco Overrun With Chickens

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    @ thomasboyle:

    If you click on my link in my previous post you will see a diary of my chicken keeping through Arctic Conditions for about a week or more.

    I was receiving any where from 2 to 4 eggs a day from my six hens last winter without the aid of any light.

    I will admit egg production was down but I still had ample eggs for my breakfast table.
     
  9. LadyCluck77

    LadyCluck77 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 5, 2013
    Maine
    Hokum,
    Thank you for sharing.
    I looked through your thread, and I like your approach to keeping things simple. I had a few questions about some things. The breeds I have are Red Sex Links, White Leghorns, Silver Cuckoo Marans, and an Easter Egger.

    You mentioned an avian house you have that is made of wood material. My coop is made from 2 x 8 lumber boards, paneled with them as well and sealed with caulking. Do you think I should add extra insulation? I was thinking the wood would act as an insulation, and I do have small vents in the top, I could close them off with plastic or plexiglass. From what I understand, helping moisture escape has to be balanced with the point where the poop freezes solid hard and no longer gives off ammonia odor. I'm talking about the January two-week long periods of -20 F. Would you suggest closing up the vents in that type of cold?

    Am I understanding correctly that moisture, and the 20-30 F weather is more likely to cause frostbite than the really cold, dry weather?


    Another worry I have is the cooped up birds starting to get bored and beat each other up. Some people suggest hanging toys, treats, etc. for them to find, and keeping a "flock block" for them to peck at (instead of each other). What are your thoughts on this?
    Do your birds seem to get "cabin fever"?

    Thank you again for the wisdom and experience!
     
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  10. Hokum Coco

    Hokum Coco Overrun With Chickens

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    Dec 6, 2012
    New Brunswick,Canada
    I am not fimiliar with Silver Cuckoo Marans, and Easter Egger.

    The other two breeds can stand cold temperature I know.

    I have sex link hens as well.

    When I was getting -40º moisture was not a problem in my coop. I was concerned with frost bite on the birds combs but that was no issue either. I have a Delaware rooster that I was watching over but no problems.

    I did keep my vents closed through those periods I remember. I only open the vents in my doors when the temperature was above freezing. I have since installed a ¼ hardware cloth screen door behind the left hand door of my coop. I intend to open that up during the winter for even more ventilation on above zero days.

    I have my 4x8 metal shed insulated with 2 inch Styrofoam it is insulated against the heat.

    If it had been a wooden structure I would not have bothered.

    I have 3 levels in my coop and I have housed as many as 15 birds over the winter with no issues with pecking or the like.

    My birds stayed inside the coop during the winter and did not venture out in the snow until the green grass started poking through. I did give them stale bread and table scraps but nothing was bought special for the hens. My egg production was down but I am not against buying a dozen eggs when need be. I figure it all balances out over the life of the bird.


    My converted baby barn has only ¼ plywood between birds and the elements and my pigeons thrive in there. I had one pair of pigeons raise squabs that hatched December 26th, 2012.

    I did house my squabs in a Styrofoam cooler when they were too large for the parents to incubate.

    Styrofoam and chickens do not mix just for the record.

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    Last edited: Sep 10, 2013
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