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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My wife and I have just gotten into the world of raising chickens. We started off this spring with six chicks. Two layers, two bantams, and two Rhode island reds. Since then our flock has changed. One of the bantams was a rooster and was dispatched since meat wise he wasn't much more than a nugget. We took him as a learning moment. Our Rhode island reds also turned out to be roosters and we let them grow to maturity and just last week butchered them for some meat. Our three remaining hens have started laying in the last few weeks which has been a welcome and exciting treat. However now that its starting to get cold out, I'm wondering how I need to protect them from Iowa's winter? Can they stay warm enough on their own or should I put a heat lamp on them? Any thoughts or experience, words of wisdom ectera
 

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<--My Faverolle Chicken
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It might help to let us know what kind of housing you have for them and how cold you expect it to get during the winter. If it is a coop with 4 walls and a roof over head with some ventilation then you should be OK to leave them as-is if it will be a huge deal to provide the light. I do have a lamp on mine but it shuts off after 10pm and it comes back on @ 6am. The light is more for my benefit so I don't trip over them when I'm in there refilling their food/water. I'll also leave it on all night if the weather is not expected to get above the 30's. That is more to keep the water from freezing. There are some people that just get a heated waterer to take care of that.
 

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As long as they are protected from weather and drafts they should be ok. Keeping their water from freezing is a priority. If there are long periods of extreme cold, insulation might be helpful. Increase the amount of fat in their diet when the temps are low. Lots of commercial feed is very low on fat. Light to extend their length of day will cause them to lay more eggs.
 

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One of the big things you can do to help them is to help them put on weight right now. Let them eat as much as they want and supply them with "fat builders".

I saw a video on Youtube not long ago where a guy was feeding his chickens oatmeal covered in bacon grease. Fat is always at a premium in nature, it's the energy storehouse that gets animals through hard times.

Another thing you can do of course is to provide them with a heat lamp in their coop. I have one in our coop but I only use it when it will be REALLY cold, it just makes it a little easier on them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The girls are currently in an old one car garage thar we don't use for the cars. Here in Iowa it gets pretty cold in Jan and Feb.
What other ways can I "fatten" them up besides the Bacon grease?
 

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Can they stay warm enough on their own or should I put a heat lamp on them? Any thoughts or experience, words of wisdom ectera
Chickens have a great ability to withstand cold weather. A chickens internal body temperature is something like 107 degrees.

Protect them from wind and drafts.
Keep them dry.
If possible, give them a 2x4 to sit on so their feet are under their feathers.
 

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The girls are currently in an old one car garage thar we don't use for the cars. Here in Iowa it gets pretty cold in Jan and Feb.
What other ways can I "fatten" them up besides the Bacon grease?
Cracked corn will put weight on chickens pretty well. Layer formulas are just that they are made to help produce eggs not necessarily to put meat/fat on the bird. Make sure they have plenty of fresh water, they won't eat if they don't have good water.
 

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Frank Opinion
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I have a nice coop for my 8 Rhode Island Reds and previously Production Reds. I just winterized my coop by running the extension cord to it from the pole barn, and putting in their 250 watt red heat lamp and heated waterer.

I'll turn the light on when the temperature is going below 20 degrees at night and never let their water freeze. Ventilation is said to be more important than heat for chickens so, I'll close everything up except the little door to the 6 x 6 run. That prevents any really bad drafts.

I use the deep litter method, that is, during the winter I add pine chips / straw to the coop and don't clean it out. The chicken droppings mixed with the pine chips / straw mulch ferments and produces a tiny bit of extra heat in the coop.

We normally have left-overs from supper so the next morning the birds usually get a treat and they are fat and healthy. Want some chickens for best friends for life? Give them warm left-over noodles, corn bread as treats and to cut back on feed. Other than that they get hen laying pellets and 5 grain scratch and a tiny bit of oyster shell every other day.

Fresh eggs are great! Good luck.
 

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future Dryad
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Yes, protect from wind & drafts. I know ppl who feed their chickens and other livestock Manna-Pro in the wintertime to help keep them fat.

also give them very deep bedding, surround their roosting spot with straw bales and provide a thick layer of wood shaving and straw on top of the wood shavings. Since you only have 3 hens just give them one roost bar maybe 6 in. off the ground and stack the bales of straw on 3 sides around there roost bar and...if possible...stack more bales on top to make a roof over their roost bar, no more than 12 inch. of space above their heads... this should help retain a lot of heat in their sleeping area if using deep bedding, walls and roof of straw. 3 hens...particularly if one of them is a bantam, does not create a lot of community body heat like most flocks do, so they will need more insulation to help them.

I think if I was in your shoes I would put 4 straw bales on the floor, make a rectangle with them with open space in middle, fill that open space with pine shavings or straw about halfway up the side of the bales, lay a 2x4 in the middle to provide the roosting bar, stack a bale on either side of the roost bar to hold it in place and a 3rd bale on one side (and leave the other side open) and then a 3rd layer of bales on top to provide more headroom...then possible use cardboard or more bales of straw for the roof.
I've never used the above idea before, but just off the top of my head it seems like it would provide a very cozy sleeping place for your hens during the coldest days of winter.
 
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