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Keeping chickens warm in winter

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  • Keeping chickens warm in winter

    My local newspaper has announced that they're finally looking at measures to allow those of us in the city to keep a few backyard hens. I am excited because I have always wanted chickens and a duck. (I might sneak in the duck, because I have a good backup home for him if he gets evicted, but I don't think anyone would notice. I just want a duck.)

    However, I am in Buffalo, and we are not exactly noted for our balmy and tropical winters. How does one keep chickens warm in winter? I'm used to barn chickens that seem to get by as long as they come in at night... but that's with added horse warmth. I'm not sure how cold a backyard coop would get, and my husband is very adamant about not wanting free-range chickens roaming the kitchen while he chops up their unfortunate cousins on the counters. Would I need to plan for a heat lamp, heating system, etc.? Or would they be okay with each other in a small coop? I'm talking 3 hens most likely, and the potential duck... I figure I should look into this before I get my hopes up...
    "Remain relentlessly cheerful."

    Graphite/Pastel Portraits

  • #2
    Insulated coop will help, and should be fine without additional heat until the water starts freezing a bit at night. When temps hit that, add a heat lamp - one of the red ones, not a white one.
    Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

    Member: Incredible Invisbles


    • #3
      I've heard sooo many debates about insulation vs not insulating, and I'd really love to hear form those who have a season or more of experience either way. Apparently insulation can cause a problem with rats/mice/small varmint?

      How many birds are you thinking of having? The important thing is to keep the coop the appropriate size so that their body heat heats the coop- much in the way that horses help heat a barn.

      "Deep bedding" method also poses some interesting ideas about the composting of the manure in the bedding created some added heat too.

      www.backyardchickens.com <--- lots of fabulous info, and a wonderful forum!

      Good luck with your ladies- I'm enjoying mine beyond reason, they're so much fun! We have ten now, and I just ordered five ducks! It's addictive, and so much easier to get carried away with than horses! I can see this already becoming a problem...


      • #4
        An oven set on 350, for about 45 min, until golden brown????


        • #5
          My chicken coop was a kid playhouse. We added in insulation (pink foam board) and concrete board floors over that (or else they will eat the insulation). Never have had a problem with unwanted vermin. I think you might if you use the fluffy stuff, but this is the hard foam board. I would think the foam board is better because it doesn't have the fiberglass in it. The windows are covered in chicken wire so they stay cool in the summer, but I cover them with insulation and plastic covering in the winter. They also have heat lamps on in the winter. I bought a thermostat outlet from Farm and Fleet ($6) that will turn the lamps on automatically when the temp gets below 35, and turns off at 45. This way their water doesn't freeze and they don't freeze, but it still stays chilly enough that they don't get used to the warmth. Also, some extra bedding on the floor, and make sure you keep the house extra clean or else it will SMELL!

          The good thing about the heat lamps is that they will continue to lay throughout the winter. No light=no eggs. Lots of light=lots of eggs! I got more eggs during the winter than I do now when they are free ranging in the spring and fall.

          This past winter was the worst with snow and cold, and everyone survived just fine. My roo got a bit of frostbite on his comb, but other than that, even when it was -35F out for a few nights and never about 0F for a few days, everyone stayed warm enough.

          My chickens don't like the snow, so they spent a large part of the winter in their house. I woudl open the door for them, but they would just poke their heads out, look around, and then go sit on their roost.


          • #6
            Do you have to provide them with a larger shed since they aren't going out in 3' deep snow all winter?
            "For some people it's not enough to just be a horse's bum, you have to be sea biscuit's bum" -anon.
            Nes' Farm Blog ~ DesigNes.ca
            Need You Now Equine


            • #7
              Just shovel them a yard when it snows.
              "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
              you have a right to be here." ~ Desiderata by Max Ehrmann


              • #8
                My hens always did fine in an uninsulated shed. Just give them a place to roost up off the ground, and they'll be fine. I never ran a heat light for them. I'm north east of you, so my weather is probably colder and drier than you would experience.
                My Equestrian Art Photography page


                • #9
                  Originally posted by jetsmom View Post
                  An oven set on 350, for about 45 min, until golden brown????
                  \"For all those men who say, \"Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free,\" here\'s an update for you: Nowadays 80% of women are against marriage. Why? Because women realize it\'s not worth buying an entire pig just to get a little sausage.\"-


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by draftdriver View Post
                    My hens always did fine in an uninsulated shed. Just give them a place to roost up off the ground, and they'll be fine. I never ran a heat light for them. I'm north east of you, so my weather is probably colder and drier than you would experience.

                    Ditto. My chickens live in a spare stall in my old barn that I converted into a chicken coop. They can come and go as they please out into the weather and have never had a problem in the winter. If you want eggs year round you will want to keep them under lights, but they don't need heat.
                    Lapeer ... a small drinking town with a farming problem.
                    Proud Closet Canterer!


                    • #11
                      i hold our rooster he likes to sit in my jacket
                      MIDWAY SOCCER 08' First Season!!!!!!


                      • Original Poster

                        Thanks all... my husband is still selectively deaf whenever I mention chickens, but I might just bring him around. It's nice to sit and dream of chicken coops. (:
                        "Remain relentlessly cheerful."

                        Graphite/Pastel Portraits


                        • #13
                          S&S, I too live in Western NY ( Rochester area ) and snuck chickens into my suburban backyard a few years ago. Unfortunately our town doesn't allow them and they were evicted, but I miss them so much! I say go for it. My husband wasn't thrilled on the idea but they grew on him and would love to have them back if we could. However the question was warmth. We did insulate mostly because drafts are a problem for the chickens and living near the lakes that can cause that issue. We put insulation between wooden boards so they wouldn't peck at it. We also installed a heat light if it got below 20 degrees. Plus they will need supplemental light to lay eggs once of age ( they need 13+hrs.light/day). Another method to keep them warm is something called "the deep litter method". A GREAT website for you to learn and get ideas is www.backyardchickens.com. It was my bible for the first 6-12 months. Everything I'm telling you here you can find plus more on there. We built a chicken tractor but I think it was a waste of time and should have built something more permanant. I suggest standard or full size birds ( suitable for the climate ) and specific breeds good in the cold. This is a great site to choose breeds from http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenders...ks/chooks.html
                          Hopefully these sites will get you off to a good start, but if you are going to start them, start soon. If you raise them from day olds you do so inside till about 6+ wks. when they are fully feathered and you won't get an egg till around 19wks of age. Seems like a lot of $$ to start the hobby with but they brought me, my husband and the kids a lot of joy. Good luck!
                          "If you've got a horse, you've got a problem"


                          • #14
                            I kept my chickens outside year-round on my farm in VA. They had a shed or a little rabbit hutch that I converted into a chicken coop (had a ramp up through the bottom. I never used heat lamps on adult chickens and neither shelter was insulated. For the water, I just poured in clean water every day when it would freeze.
                            Ducks need a pool or something with water in it so they can take a dip. I had some ducks, but gave them to a friend, just too much maintenance for me at the time.
                            If you want to start with a few little bantams, that might work for you in town. I love the silkies!!!
                            Proud to have two Takaupa Gold line POAs!
                            Takaupas Top Gold
                            Gifts Black Gold Knight


                            • #15
                              My chickens would get frost bit on their combs during the winter. So I always had a heat lamp on them. Not too close, but enough to keep them warm and also to keep the water from freezing.
                              MnToBe Twinkle Star: "Twinkie"

                              Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


                              • #16
                                Some breeds of chickens are more cold-tolerant than others--worth looking into a cold-hardy breed where you live! We're in a similar climate, and I chose Buff Orpingtons because they tolerate the cold well.
                                Click here before you buy.


                                • Original Poster

                                  Thanks for the websites! I like the Ithaca one with its compare-and-contrast sorta format... good to see which chickens are most cold hardy. My BOs have some Buff Orpingtons and they're super-friendly.

                                  Because I have a dachshund, I was delighted to find the Scots Dumpy. It's a dachshund chicken! Where do you buy chicks in all these odd breeds? My local TS just seems to have Generic Chicken and Generic Duck every spring...
                                  "Remain relentlessly cheerful."

                                  Graphite/Pastel Portraits


                                  • #18
                                    Maybe we could split a chick order?!? I don't want what TSC has to offer, but I don't want 25 from mail order either!

                                    I recommend rose comb varieties. The biggest problem is frostbite on their combs. My mother kept a heat lamp in her un-insulated coop all winter, and her rooster's beuatiful tall comb still froze .

                                    My coop is insulated, and we kept a small space heater set at 55. You have to be very careful about dust and flamables though. I'd recommend just the heat lamp with insulation.
                                    ::Sometimes you have to burn a few bridges to keep the crazies from following you::


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by SarahandSam View Post
                                      Thanks for the websites! I like the Ithaca one with its compare-and-contrast sorta format... good to see which chickens are most cold hardy. My BOs have some Buff Orpingtons and they're super-friendly.

                                      Because I have a dachshund, I was delighted to find the Scots Dumpy. It's a dachshund chicken! Where do you buy chicks in all these odd breeds? My local TS just seems to have Generic Chicken and Generic Duck every spring...
                                      Make sure you get your chickens from a reputable breeder...the "store bought" peeps are put through terrible stress and tend not to be as hardy. The best place to get them is from a local producer really. Make sure you get breeds that are cold hardy, we have Araucanas, Plymouth Rocks, Dominques and Silkies. All thrive in the cold with some nice deep bedding and roosts in their barn coop. For ducks I highly recommend the Cayuga! There is tons of info on cold hardy creatures on our website. www.farmatnanticokecreek.com
                                      I Loff My Quarter Horse & I love Fenway Bartholomule cliques

                                      Just somebody with a positive outlook on life...go ahead...hate me for that.


                                      • #20
                                        I bought mine through an online hatchery. There are several companies but I ordered through Meyers Hatchery and they are in OH, so they didn't travel far. All survived and I only ordered 5. However you get charged for orders less than 25 because of needing a heat source, it can get expensive. ( I think my bill was $65+ for 5 chicks ) There is also Murray McMurray ( sp?) but all of these can be found at that backyardchickens site. Craigslist is another option but you may not know what kind of place they are coming from. The Hatchery chicks can be vaccinated if you so desire too.
                                        As far as freezing combs, yes you do need to be careful but it is also suggested to put Vasoline on them to protect in extreme cold. But I just kept a heat lamp in there and never worried about it. It also helped prevent the water from freezing.
                                        Some of the best breeds are Buff Orphingtons. I had Black Austrolorp, Plymouth Barred Rock, Deleware and Silver Laced Wyandottes. The BA was my favorites. If you want colorful eggs, look at any variety of Easter Eggers. You never really know what your gonna get but the blue and blue-grenn eggs add a nice touch to the basket.
                                        "If you've got a horse, you've got a problem"