Question regarding keeping chickens warm in the winter...

Fowlerville, MI(Zone 5b)

I have 8 chickens, 2 of them are frizzles. Do they need a heat lamp inside the coop during the winter? Keep in mind that I'm in Michigan, my coop is under a huge lean-to on the back of our garage so it's exposed to the outside temperatures, and that 1 side of the coop is wire. ...I'm certain that my grannies didn't heat their coops, but they had more chickens and lived in Kentucky where the winters are milder. I appreciate any input you can give. I don't want to wake up one January morning and find out that I have chickencicles. ~:>

Antrim, NH

Well, I'm going through something similar. I have 13 chickens. 4 are silkies, 1 is a frizzle, 4 are standard hens and 4 are bantam hens. I'm in NH, so I assume we have similar climates.

Okay, I've gone through one winter with the girls and it was tough. They didn't get a lot of light, and the water froze up.

this year I have made the coop bigger, and my plan is to cover the wire windows with plexiglass, so they still get light, but no breeze. I think that is the most important thing. I also bought a heated dog bowl waterer thingy that'll keep 6 quarts of water thawed out until -20 degrees. That way I know they have water.

Water, food and no breeze are key, from what I've heard.

THey are birds, like the little songbirds that live out in the cold all winter, so they should be relatively fine. The little chick-a-dees always are, remarkably!!

My other question to you Glenda, is how many birds do you have the roost on the ground? You want to make sure they can huddle for warmth. I am going to put out a heat lamp for the girls if it gets into negative numbers, i think. They'll probably be fine, but I'll be happier LOL!

Also, you want to make sure there is lots of shaving material in the coop to help insulate those toes! if it gets dirty, just pile more on top until the springtime. THe other thing you could do, if you don't have plexiglass, is to cover the wire with transparent or translucent plastic sheeting, so the breeze is blocked, but the light comes in. That is what I did last winter, and it worked okay.

THey get bored in there all day, I think. I try to give them an apple, or squash or something to peck at other than each other as often as I can. My mother gives her chickens a pine ( not hemlock) branch every day. THey strip the whole thing of needles and bark every day and it keeps them entertained. So I am on the look out for pine trees on my property.

That's my plan!

Shenandoah Valley, VA(Zone 6b)

Glenda, I forget what breeds you have? And how many fit in what space at night? A lot can depend on that.

I keep winter-hardy breeds (Orpingtons, Australorps, Wyandottes, Ameraucanas, Brahmas): I'm a little concerned that my Australorp rooster will suffer b/c his comb is so high. They get frostbite and it can ge infected and necrotic, and it's just really hard on a bird. He may just be one of the roosters that we have to get rid of, and I'll keep on the Brahma, who has a comb very close to his head.

We will probably put the red brooder lamp back in the coop soon, just to keep things from getting too frigid. Our coop is all walls and glass, but there are definitely chinks in the wood here and there. Another thing we were careful to do is have the roosts very wide, so that the birds' feathers cover their feet. We give them warm water winter mornings (I use the black rubber bowls in winter), and whatever oatmeal or eggs we have left over from breakfast, along with their regular feed. I have two chicken largish yards: one gets more winter sun and one gets more summer sun, and there are places they can get out of the wind. Honestly, it's the hot summer days that worry me more.

Littleton, CO

Backyard, I have never heard of the pine tree branches, but what a great idea.

Will the eggs start tasting any different with the pine needles?

How wide of roost is good for the med-large size hens? I'm getting ready to rebuild my coop and will be making new roosts.

Are the square or round roosts better for them?

Other than the 'after-the-fact' of frostbitten combs,,,,is there anyway to know if they are getting too cold @ night and that I need to intervene ??? I have heat lamps I can use.

Thanks gang

Antrim, NH

I have recently learned that square roosts are better. I've been using a peice of trim wood that I have which is about an inch/inch and a half wide. It fits perfectly between the two bumpy parts on the end of a cement block, so it doesnt fall off.

I don't think the egg taste changes from pine. I'll have to ask my mom.

Bemidji, MN

I'm in northern Minnesota and wintering just four birds, two bantams and two cross breed medium hens in an insulated (2 inches of foam) solar greenhouse, which really means it's a shed with greenhouse plexi on one side. I've cut out most drafts. I'm concerned about one of my birds in particular, one of my bantams is still molting and is shivering when I pick her up, it's around 30 degrees during the day. She warms up nicely under my jacket (She's a favorite, bit of a lap chicken) but I wonder if I should introduce a red heat lamp now rather than wait until it gets subzero. Has anyone had any experience with small molting birds and cold weather?

Fowlerville, MI(Zone 5b)

212212, this will be my first fall/winter with my 8 chickens so I'm still learning. My smallest, least thick-feathered frizzle has started shivering, like yours. (I think she is starting to molt even though I leave lights on 24/7.) I've already installed an infrared heat light and positioned it low enough that the heat reaches my frizzles. There are times during the day that I will go out to the coop and find my smallest frizzle setting under the heat lamp. We're also having 30-40+ degree days and 20's at night. So, I suggest installing one in your coop right away, even though it's not quite winter yet. And even if down the road I learn that they really didn't need it right now, then at least I felt better knowing that I had done everything I could do to keep them warm. ...I sleep better at night and don't worry about them as much.

My standard size chickens love to snuggle each other on the roost but my frizzles insist on sleeping alone and on the coop floor despite the fact that I built them a low roost of their own that they can get up on; they just won't use it. Why? I don't know. They sleep on the floor. So, I went to Tractor Supply and bought one of those 12 inch diameter black rubber bowls that they feed dogs, etc., in, put it on the cage floor, and filled it with bedding for my smallest frizzle. If I don't find her under the heat lamp, I usually find her snuggled down in the bedding in her black bowl. It is also where the bantams lay their eggs. Today, I found in the black bowl, one of the smallest eggs I've ever seen. It was perfectly formed, hard, and the size of a big peanut M&M.

I think that I will build a ramp up to the big roost and see if the frizzles will go up there and snuggle with the big chickens. I'll feel a lot better if they can get up there and let the big birds keep them warm. ....I'll let you know if it works. Please keep me posted on your little frizzle and anything that works for you.
:) Glenda

Bemidji, MN

An egg that small? How odd. If they stay that way you could make those fabulous vietnamese soups which use quail eggs. Very cool.

I no longer think she's molting, but there is a problem. He feathers are sticking together in points around her neck, and when I rubbed them between my thumbs a bit they crumbled a bit, so that's not good. They have a tub of sandy loam with wood ashes in the coop and she bathes in that, so I'm hoping it's not mites. But I think I will bather her and blow dry her and see if that helps. Does anyone know what dry crumbly feathers mean? The others don't crumble, it's just around her neck.

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

i have no idea. but i do know that feathers are a great source of nitrogen for the garden, and they are a good source of protein fo rthe birds if they happen to eat them. so maybe she needs some protein in her diet to ehlp her feathers???or maybe she got pooped on alot at night, or got ainto a broken egg? when it dried it would sure make it sticky ... so regasrdless, a bath would not be a bad idea, poor thing. i hope it isn't mites, that she just somehow got into something...

i got my lights hooked into the timer this morning, only to find out that we will be int he 80s for the next two days, so i will have to unplug them LOL. but i set it so that the white lights are not pointed towards the nestings boxes, but instead bounce off the wall, and stay on for twelve hours. then teh red ones come on an hour before the white ones go out, and go out two hours after they come on in the morning, just to give time to warm up.

have 13 eggs so far today! this is getting egg-citing!

Bemidji, MN

That is an impressive timed lighting set up! I might try the timer too. Someone told me that running the 250 watt heat lamps is expensive so I'll be watching my electricity bill.

Well Beeper, the hen with feather "issues" has head lice, I think. Pale spidery mites seen occasionally, and the black stuff attached to her feathers around the head and neck are probably eggs. Tons of dark stuff rolled off when I dug around scratching her neck, and something had to be done so I thought I'd start with a bath. I didn't have any insecticide and the only soap which seemed suitable as an antibacterial hand soap. (I know, all soaps are antibacterial, but I was hoping this had something a little stronger in it. The water was warm and she loved it, much to my surprise. Nothing like trying to bathe a cat, I can tell you. I got as many of the eggs off as a could, and I now realize that a soft toothbrush would have helped tremendously. I may do it again in a couple of weeks with a toothbrush. And she just adored the blow drying, turning into the dryer where she wanted it, "do me there" she said. Well she did make a couple of small sounds I hadn't heard before. So all clean, dry and re puffed, I set her back in the coop where she ate more heartily than I'd seen in a while, and she made a lot of cheery beeping noises. (That's why she's called Beeper) I'm off to Cenex today to see what sort in insecticide the have.

Shenandoah Valley, VA(Zone 6b)

I use diatomaceous earth in their dusting areas and sometimes dust them with that as they go out of the coop. No lice... yet!

Argyle, TX(Zone 7b)

Hi all, I bought a thermostatically controlled device called easyheat from lowes today for about $12. I bought it for my well house even though we usually do not have much severe cold here, not enough cold days last year for my apple trees to produce. The instructions say to plug it in and then plug any 120 volt heater, heating cable, electric heater, or heat lamp and easyheat automatically turns off at about 50 degrees F. Take care, Mike

Shenandoah Valley, VA(Zone 6b)

Thanks for the tip, Mike!

Argyle, TX(Zone 7b) Could go to EBAY and type in chicken heater to find electric water heaters. I think they are not for plastic waterers and they might be for inside use only. Some of them already have a built in auto thermostat control device.

Saskatchewan, Canada

it's cold here and my chickens are cold. I was wondering, before they leave the hutch for excersize, should i put vaseline on they're cones? I did today with my rooster. Do the other ones need it to?

Reynoldsville, PA(Zone 6a)

that i'm not sure for vaseline but for waterers a good friend of mine just showed me a neat homemade trick she used last winter to help keep them from freezeing. take a big cookie tin with a lid and cut a hole in the side of it and place a receptical or light fixture through the hole(holds a normal 60 watt bulb). place the lid on it lay it in the coop with the plastic like 1 gal or 3 gal waterers on them and plug it in. it will keep them unfrozen and also help to warm the house. she also used plexa(sp) glass over the wireing she has them in a walk in coop with open wired fronts to block the drafts. then the baby pens also have brooder lights.
hope this helps,

Saskatchewan, Canada

ok, thnx. I am tired of thawing out the water :P lol

U know anything about they're feet? won't they get cold on the snow? One of ours is starting to get red toes when she's outside.

(Zone 5b)

Chickens do not need a source of heat if they have a draft free coop, are fed free choice feed with an addition of cracked or whole corn during the late fall - winter months and have warm fresh water daily.
Hot water can be mixed into laying mash which most chickens will gobble up. Only mix up what can be eaten in a short time.
We've had temps as low as - 25 degrees and everybody survived just fine with no suplemental heat although birds with large combs and wattles are susceptible to frost bit which doesn't harm them.
The frozen parts will blacken then eventually fall off.
I've had chickens for 30 years and never lost one to the cold.
Maybe tiny bantams might need some extra heat but healthy, well fed and watered chickens do not require a heated coop.

Saskatchewan, Canada

blacken and fall off?! lol..... i heard that u had to put vaseline on though.....and y won't they're toes freeze? I thot they could easily.....especially on cement.

sorry for all the questions.....i just want to know whats best, even though most of it has been answered.

(Zone 5b)

"won't they're toes freeze? I thot they could easily..especially on cement."

I don't know if very many people who have cement floors in their chicken coops and even if they had to sleep on a cement floor I'm sure the owner would have a thick bed of straw or shavings.
Most people provide a roost for their birds to sleep on and they sit on their feet whcih provided warmth. I've never had a bird with frost bit feet. I imagine they could if they had to sleep outside in the snow.
Too many people place human needs on farm animals and don't realize they are equipped to withstand severe weather very well with some decent shelter and enough high quality food for energy.
BTW snow shouldn't be considered a water source.
My chickens go outside year round. When we get a lot of snow I dig an area out for them and on decent days they are out sunbathing and pecking in the snow.

Reynoldsville, PA(Zone 6a)

where i live they do need extra heat it get's up to -10 degrees at times and 3ft of snow. spells of 5 degrees for 3 weeks or so on end at a time. sometimes winds of 55mph so that's why we plexa glass them also.

yes it is very easy for them to get frostbite and now that i think about it if i remember right that is suppost to help prevent it or make it to lesson the damage of it.

i'm a worry mom so i take all precaucions. i have well over 100+ chooks in my flock and alot of money invested in my exhabition lines. i'd rather be to safe than to sorry they are like my kid's and looseing one is one to many. my coops are all built off ground in the air. for a cement one i would sugest lots of bedding to aid in that one.

(Zone 5b)

I live in Michigan and it gets - 25 below zero here and I've never had any problems in 30 years of raising chickens.
I've only had a few roosters with large single combs get frostbite, where the top half of the combs tips were effected.
They suffered no ill effects from their ordeal.
I do understand that with Silkies (not a very hardy breed) and small bantams some supplemental heat may be needed and I did state that above but most chickens especially large fowl will be fine without heat.
I'be even had bantams breeds that do well with not heat. Infact most farm animals and birds do much better with no heat and not being cooped up all the time.

I should also add that I only provide warm water if its been really cold, like sub zero for a long time. Cold water is fine when temps are above freezing.

Saskatchewan, Canada

kk thnx :P. so i should continue with vaseline on cold days? or do you think it's useless

Woodsville, NH

I posted the similar question on another site, and there is also a lot posted about roos and frostbitem anyone can join

Saskatchewan, Canada

k thnx

Anza, CA(Zone 8b)

Cottage_Rose, Thank you. I am planning a chicken coop and was worrying about winter.... and it doesn't get nearly as cold here, although we do get some snow. So, now I'll quit worrying about how chickens do in the cold and get on with the coop.

Reynoldsville, PA(Zone 6a)

it's only been down to 20 degrees here and i have had chickencicles already but my friends have had them worse since they have ground runs. sorry i'll stick to what i know best. when i do i don't loose any at all. without takeing precausions i've lost 4 this week already, just because i didn't think it would be cold enough to bother them so i didn't put lights out in the coops or headed bases. they froze plain and simple thanks to good old mother nature. fyi, i raise LF and bantams not just silkies,lol.

(Zone 5b)

If you've have lost 4 this time of year it must be due to something besides the cold.

Moxee, WA(Zone 4a)

FWIW ... we lost 2 chicks ..... 7 weeks old ..... last week to a feral cat and the other jumped into the horse trough and nobody noticed for a day or two. We still have more than 50 Game Fowl.

Cicero, NY(Zone 5a)

I agree with cottage rose
Its gets below -25 here
If they have adequate shelter they're just fine
They are not stupid
I've had Sumatra's with cold feet jump on top of the horses and roost on their backs
Vaseline works well to try to prevent frostbite(Foot and combs)
But it can't work miracles(it holds the moisture in the comb)
as for roosts....
I was always taught by the oldtimers that regular branches are the best roosts
They are uneven so they have to use different muscles in the feet depending on where they roost
the bark isn't as slippery as a 2x4

and they are and easily replaced

I rarely use a heat lamp,
too expensive to run.....
I use 100 watt bulbs....regular everyday bulbs

Belvidere, IL

I have only one chicken. do the rules for not supplying supplimental heat still apply?

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