In Como, I have “some” chickens (remember the first rule of chicken math, we never admit how many chickens we have), all were hatched on April 1, 2018, and have been together since they were hatched and shipped to me. They include EEs, Cuckoo Marans, Welsummers, Black Australorps, and a Speckeled Sussex. All are currently laying. Some of the others in the picture stayed in Aurora. I do not look forward to adding more to the flock in Como, next year. They are a pretty tight knit group.
Anyway, they have been out in their coop/run for about four months after making the trip from Aurora. I took some pictures of the initial work done on the coop/run back in June.
I had some available time, so I figured that I should winterize this coop/run kind of like what I have done for my coop/run in Aurora. I made some major changes this year, in Aurora, too. I will get some pics posted, soon.
Anyway, Como can be a huge challenge not just because of the altitude but because of the high winds that we get which lead to some ugly drifting for snow. I made the following changes to the coop/run.
- Gray tinted panels to block wind and snow drifting – I have learned that the polycarbonate panels are easy to work with and are pretty durable. The only time I have had an issue with then was with some really large hail, which would damage most materials. I use the clear panels on the roof to help capture the heat from the sunlight. In the picture, you can see the one side is lined with these gray panels. Three of them, on their side, gave me 6 feet in height and 8 feet in width. It is a nice clean look, too. Of course, underneath the panels is the welded wire, the hardware fabric for about 3 feet up, then chicken wire for the rest. You might notice that there is some plywood and clear glass panels that were put there by the previous owners. I decided to leave them as is.
- More sand and PDZ – If you aren’t doing this, start. The mix of sand and PDZ provide great flooring for them as it provides drainage if water gets in, and the PDZ helps minimize ammonia. The biggest benefit, though, is the additional thermal mass helps keep the temperature more moderate in the extreme cold.
- Another PVC feeder – I found that I just couldn’t get the right “cup” angle to minimize them “billing” the food out onto the ground, so I mounted them at an angle and kept them high enough to keep any rodents that might get in from eating all of their feed. I added the third feeder to reduce the squawking when they compete for access.
- Waterer heater – I have two waterers, but I only got one de-icer because I wanted to make sure it would work. I have heard from many people that they do not work with bottom nipple waterers. As you can see from the picture, I have both the side nipples and the bottom nipples. I started with just the side nipples, as an experiment, and found that they just didn’t like them, and would take on very little water. they were getting dehydrated, so I had to do something. As soon as I added the bottom nipples, though, they were very happy birdies and would drink as much as needed. They are well hydrated, now. They almost never use the side nipples.
Water Heater – I want to spend a couple of minutes on this option. I have used some of the commercial heated waterers in the past with good success. However, what I found with them, even when raised off the ground a bit, was that the water became very dirty very quickly. This year, I went to nipple waterers just because of the cleanliness of them, and I want to keep using the nipple waterers in the cold weather.
Anyway, I thought that a de-icer would be good enough to keep the water flowing in the nipple waterers. I decided to give it a try. The model that I got has the option to be used as a floating unit, or to be set on the bottom. I took off the top of the unit, and placed it in the bottom of the bucket, as shown from above. When I checked, the outside temp was around 12 F, and the water was not frozen on the bottom or sides. If you look closely at the picture, above, you can can see water droplets on the nipples from where the chickens were just drinking. There was just a tiny film of ice on top of the water. I will check on it later when it gets even colder, but it looks like it will be a success. BTW, please, if you are going to get a de-icer, make sure it is safe for plastic buckets, like this one.
Please don’t heat your coop/run. There are way too many examples of people burning down their coops, losing their chickens in the fire, and burning down their houses. It isn’t worth the risk. Birds are very capable of handling cold weather. If you doubt it, just look at the little birds flying around out there in the freezing weather.
That said, there are steps that we can take to protect our chickens from extreme weather, keep them happy, and keep them producing. I have addressed some options, here. As a result of my work, I checked the temperature, multiple times over really cold days, and I was seeing about a 20 F difference between the outside temp and the temp inside the coop/run. The chickens are definitely warmer.
What is funny is that I did all of this work knowing that “Winter is coming” soon. However, I didn’t know that we were supposed to have freezing weather with snow so soon.
Yep, I had some lucky timing, and my chickens got the benefit just at the right time.