winter roost questions

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by zzGypsy, Oct 21, 2011.

  1. zzGypsy

    zzGypsy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    so this will be my first winter with chickens and turkeys (I've overwintered ducks and geese before.) We're in SW Missouri so I expect freezing, occasional snow, and probably an ice storm or two. local weather data shows the mean low temperatures are a few degrees below freezing during Dec-Feb, with mean highs in the mid-fourties.

    here's the setup we're currently using, looking for feedback on if we need to make a change.

    what we've got is a LARGE kennel building with inside/outside runs. the roof overhang fully covers the outside runs. the run fences are about 6' high and the top bar is 2" square metal pipe. We've added some 2x4s crossways to the pipe, and some heavy branches stepping up height-wise across the back of the runs, however the majority of the turkeys and all the chickens prefer to roost on the pipe, not the wood.

    the area is fully covered from the top, and the slope of the roof is good, so even in bad, windy storms, the area they roost in stays dry. it is, however, entirely open to the outside on 3 sides so it can be windy.

    the birds free range during the day, and roost on the tops of the run fence at night. there are dog-doors in each run so the birds *could* go inside the building (which is still ambient temp, but mostly out of the wind) but while they occasionally go in there, they *always* roost outside.

    when the birds roost, they are getting their feet clear up inside their feathers so their toes are covered, but they are perched on metal rails. they're all in good weight, and fully feathered (we just finished with the majority of turkey molting and none of the chickens seem inclined to molt.)

    so. here are my questions...

    1) will they / can they get frostbite on their feet from the metal rails once it gets colder? do I need to prevent them from roosting on the pipe?

    2) If I add top wire, I can prevent them from roosting on the metal rail but still have roosting space on the branches and 2x4s. they will still be outside (protected from rain /snow, but not always from wind). will they freeze / get frostbite from roosting outside if protected from rain / snow?

    3) do I need to make them roost inside the kennel building? it's not heated, but it is relatively wind-free.
     
  2. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    If it gets cold enough, I think they could get frostbite from the metal pipe. However, I don't have any idea *how* cold it would have to get. More importanly is the wind isssue. I think they'd be much better off if you could encourage them to roost inside out of the wind.
     
  3. frostbite

    frostbite Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You've heard of people (usually not very bright people) getting their tongue stuck to a metal flagpole? It's a school yard trick. When metal is below freezing, it can cool whatever touches it because it's such a good conductor, and anything moist that touches it can freeze to the metal when the moisture freezes. Ya gotta pour warm water over the poor sucker's tongue to get them free. The colder it is, the quicker it freezes up. We try not to touch bare metal with bare hands when it gets below about 10 degrees. I'd replace those metal perches with two by fours. Or just add enough two by fours for everyone and they can decide when it's too cool for the metal ones. I would think they'd pick whichever perch was more comfy. But below freezing, moist chicken feet might not do well on cold metal pipes.
     
  4. zzGypsy

    zzGypsy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:replacing isn't an option - the property is leased (we don't own it) so we're not able to make major modifications to the building and the pipe is the top of the run fencing.

    we do have enough wood roosts for everyone, and I thought they'd be making the choice for wood by now, given that we've started to have frost in the morning, but they don't seem to be. the only one that seems to roost reliably on the wood is my turkey with the bent toes - and I'm guessing she does because it's easier for her to roost on a flater wider surface (the 2x4) than on the narrower pipe. so far, the rest haven't figured out the wood is warmer. probably because when they roost, the temperatures are just starting to drop, and won't get below freezing until the early morning hours.

    will they move in the night once roosted if they get too cold? when I've been out there at night, the turkeys, even though roosted, seem alert enough to notice and move around. the chickens less so... their torpor seems more complete than the turkey's. but I don't know if they'd make an adjustment in perch during the night if they got cold feet...

    with the ducks and geese, I don't worry about this because they're active at night. they'll move if they have a reason to. but turkeys and chickens... well I have things to learn there.
     
  5. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    I'm pretty sure that chickens will not move in the night. They'll most likely just sit there and get colder. Is there any way you can lure them inside in the evenings and shut them in?
     
  6. JodyJo

    JodyJo Chillin' With My Peeps

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    if you can't get them inside, although with treats you could I am sure...can you cover the metal pipe? Say with burlap or some other material you can just wrap and staple?

    Ideally, they need to be in out of the wind, and they may take care of this for you and just go in....
     
  7. scooter147

    scooter147 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    They will not move off the roost once it's dark. It's the reason chickens are easy pickins for predators that get into a coop. The can't see in the dark.
    I would definately "train" them to roost inside. You may have to move them yourself for a while in hopes they get the message.

    Maybe wrap the pipe in carpet or burlap sacks.

    I think frostbite or damage foot pads are a real concern once frigid temps arrive
     
  8. zzGypsy

    zzGypsy Chillin' With My Peeps

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    so far, "lure" hasn't worked, but sounds like time for a strategy change.
    I can start feeding them inside, and closing them in with the dog doors.
    sounds like I'm gonna have to build new roosts this weekend ... the existing ones work in the outside run but won't work in the interior part of the run. <sigh>
    ok. it needs doing. just not sure how to make this work yet - the interior part of the run is pretty small and the turkeys are pretty big. gonna have to figure out a way to give them a roost, plus flapping room to get on it. and they're definitely not going to like the lower ceiling. oh well, they'll have to adjust.
     
  9. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    I like a 2x3 or 2x4 laid "fat ways" to quote my grand daughter. In other words, a wide roosting bar works best. It allows them to keep they balance and not have to wrap their feet around the bar, but just lay ON the bar, covering their feet with their bodies to keep them warm.

    I also would wrap metal bars with something substantial. No way I would put my bare feet on a cold metal bar in in zero weather. My warped mind goes to that Christmas movie and the "tongue on the flagpole" scene. [​IMG]
     
  10. scooter147

    scooter147 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Old wood ladders can make good temp. roosts. It's what I used in the garden shed until the new coop was finished after the April tornado destroyed the chicken coop.
     

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