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Old 03-12-2007, 05:35 PM   #1
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Can chickens stand the cold???

I am thinking about getting some chickens this spring/summer and was wondering if they need to be kept inside in the winter or can they go outside as they choose?

I live in central Michiagan and we can get pretty cold weather in the winter. Hubby says they can be outside in the winter and it won't hurt them. I say they need to stay in.(in their coop) We are trying to figure out how big/what kind of coop to build. We would like to get about a half dozen egg layers, so opinions on what kind of chickens to get would be helpful too.
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Old 03-12-2007, 05:37 PM   #2
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I live in Michigan too, and our neighbors have chickens that live in a coop year round that I don't think is really heated for the winter. But I have no personal experience with chickens, sorry
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Old 03-12-2007, 05:44 PM   #3
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We're here in Massachusetts and they have 30+ laying hens at our barn. They are let out to roam around during the day and then if there is a fox or coyote aorund they are put in at night.
They survive fine. We haven't lost one to freeze yet. They know how to take care of themselves and I would think they'd be better able to regulate their body temp if they could move around.
Theres two groups of "renegade" chickens too that were hatched out of the coop so they're wild and won't let anyone touch them.
They've survived no problem w/no help from humans for over two years now.
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Old 03-12-2007, 07:36 PM   #4
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What is the coldest temp you can get. In my area it can drop to -20 deg with a wind chill factor of -40. My birds are free range. The center barn isle is left open on the east facing side year round. My birds have no special coop. They are free to roam where ever they choose. We have a kicker bail wagon stored in the barn. Some birds choose to roost on it at night. Others have been seen in the rafters or on the bales of hay in the loft. My heavy breeds roost on the floor in nooks and crannies.
The main thing is they need a draft free place to sleep or they can loose toes and parts of their comb from frost bite. They need fresh water (unfrozen if there is no snow) and feed. I fed fat and finish and cracked corn. One of the draw backs to having birds free range is collecting the eggs. I have red and black sex link birds (dual purpose birds) that are egg laying machines. They are not and I repeat not setters of eggs. You want to hatch some of these you need a broody hen of another breed such as a bantam or an incubator. We have found nests in the loft that contain 20 to 30 eggs in them. Never eat an egg that you found and you have no idea how long it was there.

I think it's great you want some birds. Don't stop your thinking at chickens. Keep an open mind to the other varieties available. Ducks, turkeys, peacocks and others can be fun to own and their eggs are edible too! can be a place to go to see the multitude of birds that are out there.

My oldest birds are 5 or 6. I have not lost one of them to cold weather but there are other dangers that befall them. Dogs, water tanks, high speed cars just to name a few. Providing you don't get a mean rooster, owning chickens can be fun and rewarding. My grand kids love to feed them.
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Old 03-13-2007, 05:42 AM   #5
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Good points Farmer, we have a turkey, 5 ducks, 4 pigeons etc that all roam with the chickens.
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Old 03-13-2007, 06:42 AM   #6
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I put mine up when it dropped below 20F, but mine were the small bantams, several with the large single comb on top of their heads. If I left them out, the combs would turn dark purple and I was worried about frostbite.

I had a celler in the basement, the only door into it was on the outside. So I put wire cages in there, and that became their winter quarters. I could leave a light on to increase the "day light" and we would have eggs through the winter. When it warmed up to be over 20 during the day I'd open the cages and they'd go up the steps and outside. They'd return at night on their own and all I had to do was close the cages and shut the door. I kept track of who got along with who so that I would know how to cage them in the winter. Each rooster to his own cage, and his chosen hens. They maintained the balance on their own when coming in, though sometimes the hens would switch.

For a coop though, You will need atleast 4 laying boxes for 6 hens. Each hen will need 3 square feet for winter quarters, so for 6 your coop would need to be 18 square feet, give or take. You can convert a stall in the barn if you have a spare. If you let them out on the warmer days when there's little/no snow, then you don't need so much space. But for full-time winter housing they'll need that square footage to stay healthy.

They'll need airflow, but no drafts. You won't need to heat the coop, just being out of the wind is enough. Heated water stands is a good idea, otherwise you'll have to replace the ice blocks that will form in their small dishes.

As far as breeds go, the larger the hen, the larger the eggs. Some breeds will lay brown, some will lay white. You can check out laying breeds here...

White eggs...

Any hen will lay eggs. Usually one a day when they're on a good egg laying pellet feed.

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