Anybody have any tips for a first winter with chickens?
We're switching our coop over to a deep bedding system (about 12in thick) to insulate them from the ground.
I also have vaseline on hand to make sure they're feet and combs don't freeze.
Having un-frozen water is also taken care of, and they'll get extra feed.
The coop has walls of 1/2in or 3/4in plywood and a metal roof.
We have 8 Americauna hens that are 8 months old, and so far they still insist on nesting in the tree branches (right above their coop, of course). I've heard that they're more cold-hardy than other breeds and that they're good about laying through the winter without too many extras (heat/light).
Google is great, but I'd love to have some first-hand knowledge.
I have only had chickens since this spring, but have no plans whatsoever to do any sort of warming for them, and I live in Eastern WA. It has been in the 20s and below at night right now. The 13 of them are in an 8 x 4 ft coop, it is just plywood/board with cardboard as insulation here and there, metal roof as well. During the day right now it is windy and cold also. They have no issues.
They run around and play and scratch during the day, and they go into their coop at night and go to bed. The coop is in the 20s or lower in the mornings at times when I let them out. It will get colder still also.
The deep bedding, if it is the type where it gets to compost a bit in there, will also generate heat as well. If they like to roost in the trees, and there is not a major predator issue, I wouldn't change it. Leave the coop open- they aren't stupid, if they get too chilled, they will figure out the coop is probably warmer for them.
I refuse to give my chickens any sort of heat or light. One, I am lazy, that involves more work. It also involves risk because if the power goes out, then they lose the warmth they are accustomed to. And the lamp is also a rather large fire hazard.
Keep their water unfrozen, or bring them thawed water during the day.
You can feed them corn to warm them in the evenings, as it creates heat as it's digested. Also cooked warm oatmeal if you feel they need it.
Very important: make sure they have ventilation in the coop- poor ventilation- humidity builds up, making them get colder, and that is when you get frozen body parts. Raising BackYard Chickens, Build a Chicken Coop, Pictures of Breeds
is a *wonderful* site. It is where I have learned most everything I am telling you now. :)
And good luck!! Chickens are fun aren't they? Sounds like yours are wonderfully taken care of!