Chickens and snow
Like Lnorris, I too insulated my coop slightly when it was built. I added a thin layer of insulation and some tar paper to prevent wind getting in. My coop's door for the chickens is at the lowest level of the coop so that any cold air that enters stays below the chicken roosts higher placed higher up.
An IR heat bulb is placed high in the coop for heat. I don't bother with a thermostat control. I have a heating plate that keeps their water in a liquid state. During the day, the chickens will walk to the hoop house/green house where they can scratch and 'dirt bath' when the sun is out. I almost always throw some scratch grain in the hoop house along with any table scraps in there as well. A hand full of sand or two helps with digestion.
One more thing. The door to the hoop house is removed for Winter. I then cover most of the entry with a large piece of carpet leaving a chicken crawl space below. When the chickens want in, they just duck under that carpet and then hop up about 3 inches into the hoop house, Works like a treat as they say.
I have the 'ribs' reinforced via 2×4 center support stretched from one end to the other with a 4×4 post in the center for any snow/ice load. I brush that off when I get to it after clearing the driveway and house.
This is just what I've done for my New England chicks having experienced -25 degF for two weeks ages ago. Those cold fronts do come down hard, and when they do they have a tendency to overstay their welcome.
anybody have any killer chicken coop plans or strong recommendations? I have a covered concrete 6 x 8 slab with water and electric, but no walls, that I want to build out for a spring flock.
This is the one we want to build. http://howto.wired.com/wiki/Build_a_Chicken_Coop
One cheap way to keep your chicken's water from freezing is to build a cookie tin heater. Put a light bulb socket and a low wattage 20 or 40 watt bulb inside one of those metal tins leftover from Christmas and place a waterer on top. When it's really cold though the top of the waterer can still freeze but the bottom tray where they drink should stay liquid.
I also tried putting a droplight with a 40watt bulb in a wooden box with a round hold on top just smaller than the drop light light reflect so it held it pointed up. Then I put a metal waterer on top. This worked pretty good until water and crud eventually messed up the light bulb socket.
Right now I have a 250 watt heat lamp that I use normally for chicks hanging over a bucket in the coop, but that's a pretty expensive rig to run continuously though, about $.90 per day at my electricity rate, or 50% of my normal electric bill. I could get a lower wattage bulb.
There's some basic elements in all good coops like nesting boxes and roosts, but there's no one perfect design. It depends on your site, objectives, and needs. I designed mine to be semi portable to move from paddock to paddock. The size was as large as would work with a 4×8 plywood sheet for the roof. For winter, I move the coop to the garden area where nothing but garlic is planted right now so the birds are close to the house and an extension cord will reach the coop. I'll post a photo if I can get it work later.
See Backyardchickens.com for tons of ideas for coops. good luck!
Thanks, Wendy. There are really great ideas with this one!
There are similar chicken "coats" available on Ebay listed under chicken aprons. I bought several to keep an overly aggressive rooster from scratching the hen's backs. The girls hated the aprons and the rooster "passed away." Deborah in SC
We have a run wrapped with heavy plastic and a non insulated coop. Heated dog water dish in the run, and heat lamp inside the coop are connected to a temperature activated plug. At 39°F, the plug activates and turns them on. The heat lamp is throwing off enough light that it's confusing the chickens a bit. With 8 chickens, we're still getting 6-8 eggs per day. Our chickens are spoiled… but not nearly as much as a friend of ours that actually has her new rooster with free run of the inside of her house.
Glad I saw this thread. We've been talking about getting chickens for a few years now but were concerned about how they would do in the winter. Weather has been crazy lately with -10 two nights ago, 55 and raining today and supposed to be back down in low single digits tonight, but it sounds like chickens are pretty resilient.
After reading all these ideas about keeping water unfrozen the first idea that popped into my head was an aquarium heater. They use little power should do the job. Our fish tank is in a room that is often below 50 during the winter but with two heaters it keeps the 20 gallon tank at a toasty 75+. Seems like it might be a good alternative to use for chickens?
Quick google search for chicken water aquarium heater finds ideas like this:
But some concerns with aquarium heaters can be found here:
I haven't used these for a chicken waterer, but I have used it to heat seed trays in my greenhouse. I have some older exterior LED lights that use 36 watts for a 12' length. I tack the lights in an "S" pattern on a piece of plywood that is 4' long and about 14" wide. I can place 2 Jiffy seeders on these. It works well. I've used these for 4 seasons so far. A little spillage of water doesn't affect them, but I wouldn't submerge them.
I can't think of any reason that these lights wouldn't work under a waterer. Whatever energy they consume will be converted to heat. Woodman's suggestion of a pie plate sounds good. Coil the rope lights under the inverted pie plate, attach an extension cord, and test it out. You may have to get something bigger (like a garbage can lid or an oil drain pan if the rope lights won't fit under a pie plate. Light pollution may disrupt the girls' laying cycles.) You should be able to find something cheap and functional at any auto parts store.
Since Christmas is over, there should be some good clearance sales on outdoor (or indoor/outdoor) rope lights. If you're exposed to temperatures in the range treemagnet describes, you may want to get 2 or 3 sets of lights to double or triple the wattage. Only hook up as many as you need, or if you want to be fancy, add a dimmer switch. After a while, you'll figure out a good rule of thumb for your particular situation.