winter Q - large building, few chickens, cold climate

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by patandchickens, Nov 9, 2007.

  1. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    I have 3 chickens that lived in a tractor during the warm months. They will be spending their winter (my first winter w/chickens) in a 16x35' building that used to be a dog boarding kennel. They'll be in a 6x11 chainlink pen (several former dog indoor runs with the dividers removed) with lots of shavings and a heated dog waterbowl. I wasn't planning on lighting for egg production, they can take a break if they want.

    The kennel building has an insulated floor where the chickens will be and a cement slab everywhere else, insulated drywalled walls, and an insulated drywalled ceiling. There are 2 smallish windows I could crack for ventilation if needed.

    I will build them a small (maybe 6x8?) outdoor run, under a roof and mostly wrapped with clear plastic, so I can open the dog-run door and let them out if they want on days with reasonable temperatures.

    Last winter the temperature in the kennel only got down to about -12 C (which is the single digits, Farenheit). However that was with nobody ever going in and out. I am guessing that with me opening the door several times a day the temperature is likely to get much colder, probably approximating our horse barn which spends a month close to -20 C (which is slightly below 0 Farenheit). These aren't just night temps, these are all-the-time temps.

    So, questions:

    1) Do you think I will need to provide heat, or a small enclosed roosting area to trap body heat at night, or anything like that? If so, what do you recommend. The girls have good-sized single combs.

    2) If I clean the poo out frequently, do you think that with just 3 chickens in such a large building I can get away with leaving the windows closed? If I crack them, it will get even COLDER in there - we get temps down to -30C (minus 20s F) and this is a very windy property...[​IMG]

    All opinions and advice gratefully appreciated!

  2. schmoo

    schmoo Songster

    May 7, 2007
    West MI.
    #1 - I would definetly enclose a little spot for them to roost and provide a red heat lamp. I doubt the lamp would do much in such a huge area, but they can always hang out under it if they are too cold. You can put vasoline on their combs to prevent frostbite and make sure they have the type of roost that they can sit on their feet, so they stay warm. Since its windy make sure there are no drafts.

    #2- I think it should be fine with no windows, if you keep up on the poo.
  3. arlee453

    arlee453 Songster

    Aug 13, 2007
    near Charlotte NC
    Dont' have any particular wisdom about your winterizing efforts, but....

    GEE, I know there are those folks who enjoy winter, but below 0 FOR A WHOLE MONTH!!

    I'm such a southern girl - I'm fretting if the temps get below 20 degrees F for just a few hours at night!

    Stay warm this winter!!
  4. LittleChickenRacingTeam

    LittleChickenRacingTeam On vacation

    Jan 11, 2007
    Ontario, CANADA
    Pat, I think a small enclosed coop/roosting area would be a good plan.

    A small enclosed coop say 4ft by 3ft & maybe 3-4ft high would at least allow their body heat to build up & be warmer than the surrounding kennel. You could build this from hay bales & use a piece of plywood with hay bales as a roof. I'm not a big fan of heat lamps in the winter, cause this can cause more problems if you lose power like I do in winter storms. The birds can't withstand the sudden change in temp.

    Since I am about 1 hr from you, I know the type of weather you are talking about. My chooks no longer spend nights outdoors, but in the past when I had only 1 chook, she spent her first winter outside in a small coop with no extra heat at all. I had put 3inch styrofoam around her coop & then covered it with plastic. I made some small vent holes near the top that I could open & close. It was at least 5- 10 degrees higher Celsius inside than out. And that was with only 1 chicken. They have a high metabolism & can crank out body heat very efficiently. Just make sure they have plenty of food at all times.

    The heated dog waterer will also add some warmth if you place it in the coop. Pick up a couple of cheap thermometers at the $ store & put 1 in the large kennel area & 1 in the small coop. You will be surprised at the difference in temps.

    As long as your birds are protected from the wind chill/drafts I'm sure they will be fine.

    Oh & yes I think in a 16x35' building you can leave the windows closed. If you notice a strong smell of ammonia, then by all means crack the windows for a few hrs during the day & keep closed at night. If you are cleaning poop often. I don't think this will be a concern at all.

    Good luck & happy chickening!!

  5. LindaN

    LindaN Songster

    Jul 28, 2007
    Just a there any reason the chickens can't share the barn with the horse? Seems like the more animals the better for adding extra warmth in the winter!
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:Our horses live outside 24/7 (blanketed, with a big shed for shelter which they use a lot less than you might expect). The barn is just for storing hay and tack, and for the couple of times a year when it is SO nasty out that it only seems fair to put the horses inside to dry out awhile. They're much happier and healthier this way, especially the older arthritic TB who gets incredibly sore after even just a few hrs cooped up in a stall.

    I don't think the chickens want to spend the winter outside with the horses [​IMG]

    Oh, plus the barn is always raccoon-infested, sigh, and in the process of gradually falling over. So believe me, the chickens are better off in the kennel. It's probably better built than our *house*, in fact [​IMG]

  7. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    Thanks schmoo and LittleChickenRacingTeam for the input, it is very appreciated! Glad you think I can probably just keep the windows closed - I was worried about that.

    I am leery of heat lamps, largely because of our electricity bill -- I ran a heat lamp a few yrs ago out in one of the kennel runs for an injured feral cat, and during the month or so we were using it, our hydro bill actually went up noticeably! Of course I would use a lamp for the chickens if necessary, but I think at the moment I'll plan on going with:

    Quote:<lightbulb going off over head> Hey, I'll dismount the 'house' part off their tractor -- it is 4 x 2 1/2 by about 3' high -- and move it into the chicken area, replace its roof with some (covered) heavy foam insulation board, maybe insulate the sides too. Then they can tuck themselves in there at night. That sounds like it would be almost exactly what you're talking about! Cool [​IMG]


    Pat, who got 6 tons of hay for the horses delivered today and is feeling MUCH more secure about the whole 'winter' thing now.

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