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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi!! i have had my chickens since April, they have done wonderfully, laying eggs all summer. I am concerned about winter, never done this before. Any tips for preparing my coop and my chickens for the cold weather? They are free range, will they free range this winter? How do I keep them warm? How do I keep them laying eggs? The days are shorter and we keep lights on to improve the amount of eggs we have been receiving, so far so good. In the spring we plan on getting more chickens, how much room do you need in a coop per chicken? I would appreciate any feedback ;). Thanks so much!
 

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Hello! What an exciting path you have chosen to raise chickens. We have had ours almost a year as well, but I'de like to believe that we have acquired a lot of information both before and after our purchase of those four Buff Orphingtons.
Your coop looks very nice...nicer than ours even. I guess that's the way things go when you are using an old coop that your grandfather built back in the 40's! Blessing indeed. Anyway, regarding heat and winter, we have heat lamps that we turn on when it gets down below freezing. Their combs and wattles get frost bitten easily, even if they are in a coop. If they have this problem and they are pinned up throughout the winter, I would first start checking for drafts. Ventilation is another big one, as is insulation if you live in bitter cold climates. We have none of the above besides a few heat lamps and our first flock did very well throughout winter. However, keep your coop clean! There is no such thing as over cleaning...especially if the don't go out much. There's nothing quite as heartbreaking as surviving the winter with your first flock, only to have one of your girls die of mite infestation. RIP PATRICIA. Of course, we are learning as we go, but I will say that if you decide to utilize heat lamps, make sure they are safely installed and you do not run them all the time. The sunlight produces a great amount of heat, even when temps are cold, and if your coop is set up right with bedding and insulation, drafts sealed and proper ventilation, it will be conducive to storing the heat from the daylight to suffice for the remainder of the night. Again, each flock is different. You will get to know a great deal your first year, as the seasons change from one to the next. So take your time, enjoy your birds, and listen to them. If you spend much time with them at all, you will find that they will show (tell) you what they need.
Regarding the free range...I think it is a lot healthier for them than staying in a pen day after day. As long as they have shelter and a place to seek refuge from the elements, they will not only do good, but thrive!
Also, supplements are always a good idea for birds in the winter months to compensate for the lack of nutrients in the winter months. Check with old farmers, farm supply stores, and watch your birds. They'll let you know what works, what they like, and rather noisily they will show you what you don't like.
Happy happy chicken-ing!
A happy flock (low stress) is a healthy flock
 

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Oh, and regarding you question as to how many birds you should have, keep in mind that more birds produce more heat. So, depending on the number and behavior, a small coop with 10 birds will produce enough heat to get by without using a heat lamp. Again, this differs from one to another. The disadvantage to a large number of birds is the poop. If you can clean the coop frequently, this shouldn't be a big deal, but the last thing you want is birds getting sick because they are overcrowded and stressed, so use your own judgement
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Peafowllover thank you for the reply!!! RIP Patricia indeed. We lost two to predators this summer and were devastated, especially my 6 year old daughter who loves her birds dearly! I am glad to hear they can free range this winter because they are so happy to do so!
 

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crackedegg said:
Any tips for preparing my coop and my chickens for the cold weather?

Let them acclimate to the cold so that they can slowly get used to the decreasing temps. It will stimulate feather growth and ease them into the cold. Try to develop a deep litter system in your coop. It probably won't start to compost as the weather is so cool but it will keep things cozy and insulated under their feet. It will prevent a smell from building up and you won't have to clean it during the winter. Make sure your coop has adequate ventilation. The cold itself will not cause frostbite. Cold and wet equals frostbite and if you overheat them in their coop and their wattles/combs and legs gets moist-then the are exposed to the cold they will for sure lose appendages to frostbite.

They are free range, will they free range this winter?
They can continue to few range. Maybe snowblower a few paths for them so they have somewhere to go.

How do I keep them warm?
They will keep themselves warm. All you need to do is provide dry, draft free shelter. Fresh water and adequate feed to keep their systems working to digest it. I wouldn't heat the coop. Imagine you are a chicken. Put on leather boots to your knees. Then a down or fleece sweater that goes to the top of your boots. Then put on a feather jacket and feather hat. The only areas on you exposed is your chin and around your eyes. Then sit with your entire family in a small room all night long wearing all of that. Then put on a heater and see if you can get comfy. Anywhere a pigeon can survive outside-so can a chicken. Keep in mind, if they are used to artificial heating and the power goes out you could lose your whole flock in one night. They won't be use to the temps and that sudden drop will kill them.

How do I keep them laying eggs? The days are shorter and we keep lights on to improve the amount of eggs we have been receiving, so far so good.
This is up to you. For the health of your flock it is recommended to not add extra light at all. They take the break in the winter because their bodies need it. If you light them up to stimulate/force laying, they will burn out faster. To continue getting eggs in winter, a lot of people arrange to have point of lay pullets in the fall. In their first year they will continue to lay regularly through the winter, extra light or not. I don't really know much else about this question but I did hear that there is a recommendation for maximum hours of artificial lighting per week. Hopefully someone who knows better will weigh in and answer for you.

In the spring we plan on getting more chickens, how much room do you need in a coop per chicken?
The minimum recommended is 4sq feet per chicken but more is always better. Even though you free range and possibly think you could do less because they only sleep in there, don't. They may need to be all confined in case of emergency and they will be happy for the space.
 

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Hello and Welcome! Your birds will huddle to keep warm, no heat lamp is needed. The only difference in winter than other times of the year , in regards to free range, is the lack of free food. Your feed bill will go up but thats about it. I give mine a handful of cat food or cracked corn in the afternoon to help up their protein and heat. If you have small water containers they will freeze so be prepared for that. And as for getting more chickens, the basic rule of thumb is 3-4sqr ft per bird in the coop.
 

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What a beautiful coop! Glad you joined chickenhood. :) I know for me, it was the best thing I ever got talked into. Ya, for once, I repeat, once, the old man was right. :p
 
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