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Thinker
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OK, this might be a dumb question, but someone asked me, and I didn't know the answer, so... If you live in the northern states where it gets below zero in the winter, what do you do with your chickens in the winter? Do you get them a heated henhouse, or do you butcher them before the snow flies then start new ones the following year?

Aside from digging an underground greenhouse and setting aside an area for chickens and small livestock, I'm wondering how to economically keep chickens in the winter (without paying high heating bills), or if it's even worth it. A neighbor of mine is moving away and I can get a small coop from her fairly cheap, now it's just a question of logistics.
 

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Christian mingler
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Well my grandma used to just keep them in coop. Hay bales stacked against walls. If it's a hardy breed, they will be fine. It isn't recommended to use a space heater or heat lamps. Coops r filled with feathers, dust, and hay. Could easily start a fire. If coop is insulated and some hay in it, they will be fine.

Chicks may take a little extra care during extreme cold snaps.
 

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Chicken Collector
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My chickens didn't go anywhere this winter. No cases of frostbite, and they were all fine at -15F. Heat lamps in the coop are a serious fire hazard, and the extra heat prevents the chickens from acclimating to the cold so a bulb burning out or a power outage could easily kill them.

The two main things is to keep ventilation and prevent wind.

Ventilation is necessary to avoid it getting humid in there. That could just as easily chill them as being wet. So have plenty of wire-covered holes in your coop to let it out.

Wind is the second largest killer. Chickens fluff up their feathers to trap a certain amount of warm air against their skin. Winds ruffle their feathers, and again, chill them.

A properly built coop is essential in colder climates, but if you have out with the above two features, there should be no problem.
 

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All over Europe
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My hen house is next to a large polytunnel. I have it arranged that during the winter, their coop entrance opens into the back door of the polytunnel. That way they can get into the coop to lay eggs and go into the coop in the evening. I have access to their door and nest box through the front door of the Polytunnel, although I have to walk the length of the polytunnel inside to let them in and out and collect eggs. The hen house has another door for use in the summer that allows access to the field outside so they are kept out of the polytunnel in growing season.

It works fantastic. They have a place to run freely all winter, I can feed them chicken feed and table scraps without having food lost in the snow, they're protected from the foxes, And they spend the entire winter fertilizing the soil for next year's veggies.

By the way, it goes down to -40 here in the winter, and they manage just fine. No heat in the henhouse either.
 

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The only thing I do different for my chickens in the winter is to keep extra waterers and change their water out three times a day. It's not good to give them warm water, but you do have to make sure it's not frozen. They sell heated waterers, but we don't have electric in our coop. The lowest it was here last winter was -27. On the coldest days I would keep them inside, feed and water them inside too, but usually they liked to go outside for short periods.

For baby chicks in the winter we kept them in a brooder in the barn. They were fine with the heat lamp and keeping the doors shut to prevent drafts.
 

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8 was working on a grocery frozen food chest and found a sparrow on one foot with his head tucked under his w8ng. Not _frozen solid but dead.
 

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It got nearly to -20 here this winter, with several times having several days in a row of below 0. The only "heating" in my coop is a 13 watt light bulb. I didn't loose any to the cold this winter.

Just make sure they have access to UNFROZEN water. In the coldest days, that means bringing them new water 3 or even 4 times.
 

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we had below -40 this winter without the wind chill & some storms with over 60 mph north west winds.... it was brutal... we have 3 separate pens , each with a heated waterer, & a 250 watt heat light, & didn't lose a bird over the winter... both roosters did get a little frost bite on their combs, but are none worse for wear now...

our runs go out the north side, so the doors are closed tight, during the winter, & we have big screened windows on the south side, & they were covered with clear plastic... the ceiling has 1.5" of styrofoam under the steel roofing, & 4" of insulation in the walls, & concrete on the floors... we pull the plastic off in the spring, & use a timer for white light, & keep the red heat lights on through the coldest of weather...
 

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I have an area in the henhouse sectioned off to keep food and useful thing in it. On very cold nights I run a space heater in the area the hens cannot get to.

I have heard that mice nibbling on wires is a leading cause of fire, so I made a hole in the door to run an extension cord out: I want any wires where I can SEE them!
 

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60 watt incandescent light bulb is all I ever used and that on a thermally controlled switch .
I find the cold seems to make them get along better, needing one another's warmth.
Keeping the wind off is probably the most important thing.
The cold here only get to freezing but for watering I have a drip system line that runs continuously at a drip literally on a trough I made from 3/4"PVC split in half length wise and about 6' long . moving water generally doesn't freeze and in a trough it stays fairly fresh 24/7/365 .
If I were in the mountains where the temps are significant I might put heat tape on the water lines and trough and use an inverter and battery with wind and solar power the rest of my system work on.
I also have LED motion sensor lights in the area my chickens are, to detour predators and make it easier to check them out at night if i feel so inclined.
 

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My chicken house is 3 feet off the ground with a wire bottom.

This winter we got 3 inches of snow. Several times the temps dipped down into the teens.

Two of the most important things you can do:

1. Pick a good cold hardy breed. Look for breeds with a rose comb. If the chickens have a raised comb, the comb can get frost bit.

Dominickers and Wyandottes are examples of a rose comb.

2. Chicken house that blocks the wind. The wind will bite through their feathers.
 

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its good to have a area of your chicken house that is insulated and small where all your chicken can crowd into.

If it get cold enough the chicken will mass together and share body heat.
 

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off-grid organic farmer
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We have eight chicken coops, each with a dozen birds. Our coops are made of loading pallets on end, tied together to form walls, with chicken-wire stretched around the outside. Then pvc hoops over the top with tarp roofs. The sides obviously have a lot of open space between the pallet slats. So there is ventilation.

We have two coops with turkeys, one with ducks, the rest are chickens.

It never gets any colder than -20F here.

We do not have any heat-lamps.

We use rubber bowls 1 foot wide for water, they freeze solid every day through-out winter. I flip them over and kick out the ice, then I put 2 inches of fresh water in them. I do this routine once/day. From day to day, they will consume maybe 1/4" of water. I would guess maybe 2 cups of water per day for each dozen birds [1 or 2 roos, the rest hens].
 
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