Jenna ~ mommy to Sophia Elise (1/06), Oliver Matthew (7/07) and Avery Michael (3/10)
Wading slowly and nervously into this homeschooling thing.
This will be my first winter with chickens, my friend had chickens last winter. She let them out every day, in all weather. They had access to go back in their coop at all times.. and she just let them do what they wanted. She didn't loose a single one..
Me , DH married 24 yrs.,DD #1 (89), DD #2 (91), DD #3 (05), and DD #4 (6/11/11)
Now we have a chicken tractor that just has a tarp covering one side and one half of the top of it. Last year, we didn't give them a light or anything and when they didn't want to be in the snow, they just stayed under the tarp. They can create tons of BTU's to keep themselves warm...I wouldn't worry about them unless you have subzero temps for days on end. Then just don't let them out.
Trying to build up my house, not tear it down . Got 3 wonderful kids , blessed with a wonderful husband and have the privilege of staying home full time to enjoy it all!
Mara, mama to two boys born 05/2009 and 04/2011, after four miscarriages.
I have also heard that some breeds are hardier than others, so if you are in a really cold place, you might want to consider that. When I culled my roosters, I didn't keep any of the breeds with the large combs because I've heard that combs can freeze and cause ill-health.
HTH...(I'm still learning)
Chickens can handle very low temps as long as you make sure they are dry and free of drafts. It doesn't matter how you accomplish this. You don't even need a fancy coop, as long as you meet those requirements.
To make things even better, you can get an inexpensive watering bowl that heats the bowl just enough to keep the water from freezing. It doesn't use much energy. If you can't find one, you can get one online. There are more expensive ones just for poultry too if you want.
A heat lamp is great, hung up inside a shelter of some kind. The birds can huddle underneath it when it gets very cold. Look up chicken winter care on the internet for lots of great ideas.
Chickens are definitely happier in the winter if they can still scratch around. I have seen inexpensive runs covered with clear plastic to let sunlight in and keep the ground dry. Some people have made frames from PVC pipe and covered them with plastic or tarps. It doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. I put some timothy hay on the floor just to give them something to scratch in. I add another layer every so often, and rake it all out when spring comes along. It makes great compost!
Sometimes, just to give my hens a little relief, I cook up some rice and soak it in a little milk. I serve it to them warm, and they act like they appreciate it a lot. Yes, mine are spoiled little things
Hope this helps.
like a pp said, backyardchickens.com is a great place to go and ask the pros.
I'm an unintentional weasel feeder and I suck at proofreading.
Thanks everyone for the great advice!
Some will go in when they are cold, and some, like my Silkies, will stay out and freeze to death. I don't know why that is. Silkies are not very insulated, but they seem to not get they should get out of the cold. A nice fat RIR with good feathering, fi, will be able to take more than birds who are less well insultated
Mine do love to play in the snow and that's fine, and gives them something interesting to do. It's warmish today and there is snow on the ground and they are having fun.
Sometimes combs will freeze, as people have mentioned.