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Cold climate chickens?

njoy Hatfield


Joined: Jan 24, 2010
Posts: 8
I'm a newbie here and qualify as "great white north" as I live about half way between the US and Yukon border at 3000 feet above sea level. Actually, I've lived a lot of places in the world and here is good. My DH and I are retired and have bought a small acreage and are looking forward to messing around with chickens, etc.

I hope there are other people from climatically-challenged parts of the world who will suggest what kinds of chickens to raise. We are mostly interested in meat so may not bother overwintering them. We have the space to do the paddock thing.

Cheers!
JIGGY JIGGY


Joined: Jan 20, 2010
Posts: 25
Location: Sherbrooke, QC
I am from Quebec and Get down to -30C - defenately need to keep your chickens inside, ideally an insulated building with a heat lamp or 2.

1 breed I know works is the Rhode Island
njoy Hatfield


Joined: Jan 24, 2010
Posts: 8
Thanks, Jiggy. I lived near Sherbrooke at one time. Different climate than here but comparable. We get a bit colder, though!
Chuck Freeman


Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 116
Location: Southcentral Alaska
We used to have chickens on our Alaska homestead. When we built our chicken house we made it pretty small 4'x8' with r16 in the walls and ceiling. We normally kept 20 to 30 chickens in it it was closed up at night but during the day we would open the door so the chickens could come and go as they pleased. they were fed high protein feed I also hung animal carcasses for extra protein. We never heated the coop and we only cleaned it out a few times each winter we always added new straw to give them something clean to walk on. Just letting the straw and poop compost along with the small size lept thing relatively warm even during the coldest spells, some times as low as -30 F. We had barred rock, banties, buff orpingtons, and rhode island reds. All of them did well in the cold the r.i. reds were very aggressive eaters so we didn't keep them long.






FrontierFreedom
manitoulin mary


Joined: Feb 14, 2010
Posts: 6
Location: Manitoulin Island, Ontario zone 5a
We are only in zone 5a -not as cold as you.  I have a long standing interest in heritage breeds. A club I belong to- Rare Breeds Canada- has info on cold hardiness and helpful members who might be able to answer some of your questions.

My daughter and I have ordered a few Chanticler chicks for this spring -- a Canadian breed from Quebec once widely grown that is famous for its extreme cold hardiness. It has a small comb that does get frostbite easily, etc. It is now a rare breed but has received a lot of press over the last year, making it popular again with small chicken flock holders and sustainable living folks.

It is difficult to buy this year due to the sudden surge in buyers, but by next year supply should be much larger -- chickens reproduce as fast as bunnies.

I really feel we will need the deep and varied gene pool heritage breeds of both animals and plants carry. When the climate changes and agricultural practices are forced to change in response to peak oil, etc the extremely inbred limited number of breeds currently being produced in large numbers will not be the ones adapted to the new reality.

They will need "improving" from the old gene stock. Ironic, when they were originally created as "improvements" of the old breeds.

Our small flock of chickens overwinters well in their portable chicken tractor. We push it into one end of an unheated greenhouse, where it stays for the winter. We bank the outsides with thick straw for insulation. Inside,we keep adding thick bedding every week, but don't clean it out until spring. The birds and the composting bedding/droppings provide some heat for the plants in the greenhouse and some oxygen too. We do have to take them warm water every day- it freezes in there.

In the spring we move the chicken tractor back out side and are left with a very rich planting bed where they spent the winter. We shovel some of it to other beds and then grow mongo cucurbits there.

Hope this helps

Mary


Working for the earth is not a way to get rich; it is a way to be rich.
-Paul Hawkin
Pierre de Lacolline


Joined: Mar 12, 2010
Posts: 37
Location: New Hampshire; USDA Z5
We get several nights in the -10F range every winter, and a couple of solid weeks this year in the single digits F during the day. Red Star has been a great breed. Super friendly (aggressive toward the cats, which is probably just as well). Hardly slowed down laying even in the dark of winter -- and we didn't give them any extra light. They stay in a coop in an unheated barn during the winter, just half a dozen hens.
suomi--Nicola Lloyd


Joined: Aug 19, 2009
Posts: 46
Location: Finland
Hi Chuck
We live in Finland and have cold winters just like you, its usually between minus 20--30C so pretty cold.
We are planning on building a new chicken house this spring and I was wondering what you used for insulation in your walls and roof?
Our current thought is to build a wooden structure and insulate with straw bales, but any comments and info is allways welcome!
Its still winter here.....we are waiting for spring......maybe begining of May!
Suomi.
Chuck Freeman


Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 116
Location: Southcentral Alaska
suomi wrote:
Hi Chuck
We live in Finland and have cold winters just like you, its usually between minus 20--30C so pretty cold.
We are planning on building a new chicken house this spring and I was wondering what you used for insulation in your walls and roof?
Our current thought is to build a wooden structure and insulate with straw bales, but any comments and info is allways welcome!
Its still winter here.....we are waiting for spring......maybe begining of May!
Suomi.


I used fiberglass for our chicken house but I don't see a problem using straw bales. I've seen homes made of straw bales up here they seem to retain heat well. I think the most important thing is to keep it relatively small. I trap so I would hang animal caresses for protein in the winter. We don't hve full time power on our homestead so our short days wreaked havoc on their laying during the winter.   
suomi--Nicola Lloyd


Joined: Aug 19, 2009
Posts: 46
Location: Finland
Thanks Chuck

I think we will go ahead with the straw bales as they are free! 
We plan on the new chicken house being south facing to make the most of the light,although just like you our winters are long and dark, so we will put in a low energy light for them.
its always a challenge living in a climate such as ours, so we just keep experimenting.......
Im off to stack wood in the sunshine now....
suomi.
Chuck Freeman


Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 116
Location: Southcentral Alaska
suomi wrote:
Thanks Chuck

I think we will go ahead with the straw bales as they are free! 
We plan on the new chicken house being south facing to make the most of the light,although just like you our winters are long and dark, so we will put in a low energy light for them.
its always a challenge living in a climate such as ours, so we just keep experimenting.......
Im off to stack wood in the sunshine now....
suomi.


Free is my favorite word
holisticist Hatfield


Joined: Apr 19, 2010
Posts: 4
Brahmas make good free range cold climate meat birds. they are an heirloom breed with small combs and feathered legs. Both good traits for cold places.
small, well insulated housing with south facing windows is best. Straw makes great insulation.
Tim
have lived in zones 2 or 3 manitoba and saskatchewan
Chuck Freeman


Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 116
Location: Southcentral Alaska
holisticist wrote:
Brahmas make good free range cold climate meat birds. they are an heirloom breed with small combs and feathered legs. Both good traits for cold places.
small, well insulated housing with south facing windows is best. Straw makes great insulation.
Tim
have lived in zones 2 or 3 manitoba and saskatchewan


One thing you have to watch about Brahmas  in cold weather is if they get their feet wet they will freeze. Their feathers don't dry by theirselves.
holisticist Hatfield


Joined: Apr 19, 2010
Posts: 4
Thanks, I didn't know this. So I guess they are best for dry cold then. need to rethink which birds I'm getting. I'm on the coast of B.C. canada, on one of the gulf Islands..sorta like cascadia.. so our cold is usually wet, one of the features of a temperate rainforest.
Chuck Freeman


Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 116
Location: Southcentral Alaska
holisticist wrote:
Thanks, I didn't know this. So I guess they are best for dry cold then. need to rethink which birds I'm getting. I'm on the coast of B.C. canada, on one of the gulf Islands..sorta like cascadia.. so our cold is usually wet, one of the features of a temperate rainforest.


We had our best luck with banty's they seem to be the most adaptable.
Emerson White


Joined: May 02, 2010
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
Bantys don't handle cold well, in real cold all the animals seem to get bigger, better volume to surface area ratios that way.

Wynandotes, and orpingtons, both are good solid breeds for the cold.
Chuck Freeman


Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 116
Location: Southcentral Alaska
Emerson White wrote:
Bantys don't handle cold well, in real cold all the animals seem to get bigger, better volume to surface area ratios that way.

Wynandotes, and orpingtons, both are good solid breeds for the cold.


We had chickens for several years our banties fared the best over all. We had other large breeds that did OK but for over all adaptability I'll still put my money on banties. However I will that qualify myself, I would buy local stock and not from a mail order place in the south some where. We also feed them all the animal protein they wanted I kept carcasses from my trapline hanging in their house during the winter. Our part Alaska has temps from freezing to -50 Fahrenheit with an average snow fall of 15 to 20 feet mixed with rain during the warmer spells.
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 943
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
I'll second what Chuck said about Brahmas and their feathered feet (hi, Chuck!).  We had Brahmas, with some other breeds, when we lived in Tok, which is in the Interior of Alaska and gets even colder than where Chuck is, although less snow.  Our 'barn' for a couple of milk goats, three rabbit cages, the chickens, and a pair of geese, was twelve by sixteen feet, only partly insulated, and not closed up very well (which was probably for the best, as all the animals need good ventilation).  We had no electricity, no lights in the barn, and no heat out there either.  The Brahmas would get ice balls in the feathers on their legs and feet.  We also had, IIRC, a couple of Easter Egger/Ameraucanas, some Barred Rocks, and some Australorps.  Those all did better than the Brahmas. 

Chanticlers should do well in a cold climate, as that is what they were bred for.  Also try Wyandottes, Buckeyes, Dominiques, the Ameraucanas (Easter Eggers) -- I think I'm missing one, but those will get you started.  The Wyandottes will lay through the winter -- not at as high a rate as during the spring and summer, but if you can collect the eggs before they freeze, you will get some eggs even without supplemental light.  Make sure they have water available and keep their protein levels up.  Also, if you can, maybe sprout some seeds and give them the sprouts for winter greens.  Or give them root-cellared rutabagas and such.  They will do better if they get some fresh food all winter.

Kathleen
ajandres Hatfield


Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 2
Location: BC/Alberta Canada
Hi Suomi

Friends of ours are using a mix of clay and sawdust in the north wall of their cob house, apparently the R value of this mix exceeds any commercial insulation they looked at.
Humblebee McCoy


Joined: Nov 01, 2010
Posts: 6
Location: Hilliers, BC
Our best winter layers are our Brahmas. We have dark and light. The hens are good layers and quite docile despite their size and their feathered legs look so cool    The roosters reach a nice size for butchering and aren't aggressive either, we found them best at about 16 weeks but have had some as late as 8 months and they were delicious! We regularly keep ours outside all winter but it's not too cold here, you have lots of good advice about lighting, insulation etc. but the most important things we've found are good ventilation and keeping the floor dry. A nice dry floor makes everything nicer for the chickens and cuts down on the dampness in the coop. If you just can't shovel it out all the time (and who really wants to) just keep some nice dry bedding on top and make sure they're not living in a bath of ammonia fumes.


"Success is usually earned by persevering and not becoming discouraged when we encounter challenges. Paul Harvey, the famous news analyst and author, once said: 'Someday I hope to enjoy enough of what the world calls success so that someone will ask me, "What's the secret of it?" I shall say simply this: "I get up when I fall down" '
Jay Cannibalriot


Joined: Dec 27, 2010
Posts: 15
Location: Inland North Atlantic
I keep a couple of red sex (brown hens) and one leg horn. All of three of them are grade A large layers and it gets pretty cold here in the Maritime provinces. I built a small hutch for them on a sort of "A" frame principal. It has an above section that I've filled with straw and I stuff their downstairs living quarters with lots of straw too. It opens up in the front where I've got around twelve square feet enclosed with chicken wire. I can move it around by hand but I let it stay in one spot for the winter and build up the snow around it so that adds some insulation as well. I bump up their ratios by twenty five percent and make sure they get water three times a day, that's about it. Small building is better for keeping them warm. None have ever died from the cold and they seem fairly content.


Every where you came and left you came in the name of love and left a wake of happiness and tenderness and sweet conflict - sweet conflict.

You don't come round......whispering, everywhere, everywhere....calling, I'm calling your number, calling, calling your number, calling, calling, you're everywhere to me.
klorinth McCoy


Joined: Feb 13, 2011
Posts: 37
As two of the others already stated... Go with the breed created for The Great White North; the Chantecler!!

The Chantecler was created in Quebec as a breed that could be very productive even in our freezing temps and low light levels. They are extremely hardy and can do well in confinement if necessary.

I have White, Partridge, and Buff. My Partridge have spent most of the winter completely exposed to the winter weather. They have been outside in a very simple shelter that is nothing but a plywood box and a tarp covered run. The wind and snow blows through the enter thing. With temps down into the -40 degree range they have done very well. They continued to grow, reaching about 8 pounds. The hens laying eggs as well. Not a single one lost to the brutal weather. I lost others in the two coops, but not one of the Chantecler out in the exposed enclosure.

If you need a bird that can handle anything the weather can throw at it, you are not going to find a better breed then the Chantecler. After this experiment I can't imagine not recommending them for cold climates. They grow and lay no matter how cold and dark it seems to get.

If you need any more information on them or help finding a breeder near you, feel free to email. I maintain a list of small flocks across Canada.
Odonata Hatfield


Joined: Feb 07, 2011
Posts: 30
Location: Ontario, Canada

  Chanteclers are a great choice.  I'll be getting some this year.


  I've had Barred Rocks for three years now.  My older Roo got a bit of frostbite on his comb but other then that this breed as served me well in terms of cold hardiness.  This winter they regularly wander around in the snow (except when it's really windy) and lay consistently all winter.   

I'm changing this up a bit this year though and am going to get more ducks (runners) then chickens.  I got three at the end of the summer for the first time.  They stopped laying in January but other then that they're like little snow babies.  The cold and wet doesn't seem to phase them at all.  They even roll around in it.  They're also been great at helping keep the water feeders ice free on top for the chickens. 
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    2
JIGGY wrote:
I am from Quebec and Get down to -30C - defenately need to keep your chickens inside



We had our chickens in open air all winter and it gets -20 C and colder on a regular basis.

Their house had two parts. They lived underneath an extension on our home, with nothing but chicken wire and hay bales stacked against the wire, two bales thick. There was about 6 inches between the bales and the side of the house which was completely open air, to allow light and airflow in. They also had the run of an 8' X 6' unheated greenhouse which was placed up against (but not attached to) our home. There was a small hole cut in the plastic of the greenhouse to allow them to run in or out. Most of the time they spent in the colder area under the house, not in the greenhouse.

The chickens did just fine, kept their weight and vigor up all winter, with no heat lamps.


http://www.greenshireecofarms.com
Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada
Kathleen Sanderson


Joined: Feb 28, 2009
Posts: 943
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
Travis Philp wrote:

We had our chickens in open air all winter and it gets -20 C and colder on a regular basis.

Their house had two parts. They lived underneath an extension on our home, with nothing but chicken wire and hay bales stacked against the wire, two bales thick. There was about 6 inches between the bales and the side of the house which was completely open air, to allow light and airflow in. They also had the run of an 8' X 6' unheated greenhouse which was placed up against (but not attached to) our home. There was a small hole cut in the plastic of the greenhouse to allow them to run in or out. Most of the time they spent in the colder area under the house, not in the greenhouse.

The chickens did just fine, kept their weight and vigor up all winter, with no heat lamps.


I had chickens when we lived in the Interior of Alaska (Tok area) for a while.  They lived in a 12' X 16' barn which was partly insulated, but it was very drafty and had an open portion.  We had a few frost-bitten combs, and a couple of birds lost some toes, when it got down to minus seventy degrees F for a period of time.  But they all survived, and we even got some eggs all winter (frozen if we didn't get them as soon as they were laid, though!).  We didn't have electricity, so no heat lamps, nor even a light in the barn.

Kathleen
klorinth McCoy


Joined: Feb 13, 2011
Posts: 37
Standard size chickens are actually very hardy birds.
It is impressive what they can handle. You and I would be dead and long gone in the same conditions.
Laura Jean Wilde


Joined: Aug 03, 2011
Posts: 54
Location: LAKE HURON SOUTHERN SHORE
I kept Buff Orpingtons with out supplemental heat in our old barn. they ran in the greenhouse and roosted in a pen with perches. a draft free area seems to more important than temperature control it got 25 below here for quite a while. and they overwintered OK also if you can supply them with corn free choice, they will eat it to keep warm.


Wilde on Turtle Island
Walk Gently on our Mother Earth
Mac Nova


Joined: Jul 24, 2011
Posts: 24
If you are looking for breeds adapted to cold climates, here are a few suggestions:

Chanteclers were developed as a Canadian breed. Their small combs are well suited to cold weather and they are good winter layers. They are big birds, cocks weighing more then 8 lbs and hens more than 6. When the last rooster being kept at the University of Saskatchewan died in 1979, the breed was declared gone, but small flock owners across Canada had maintained them. They are a modern composite breed, so they can also be re-created. As a result, there is some discussion about purity and whether birds come from original or re-created lines. You may determine for yourself to what extent you wish to be involved in that discussion. To Get the Chantecler combine Dark Cornishes, White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, White Plymouth Rocks and White Wyandottes, creating the White variant of the Chantecler.

Wyandottes were developed in New York State in the 1870s, another location known for cold winter weather. They feather out well and come in several colors. The Columbian color pattern comes from Wyandottes that were exhibited at the 1893 Columbian Exhibition at the Chicago World’s Fair. They are a good dual purpose breed.

Dominiques, with their rose combs, are reliable and sturdy. They have a long American history going back to Colonial times, so they have survived many cold winters.

Buckeyes are the only American breed credited to a woman, Mrs. Nettie Metcalf of Warren, Ohio. They are named for the Buckeye state and the Buckeye whose color they have. They are well-suited to those cold Ohio winters and a good all-around breed.

Javas are considered an American foundation breed, although they take their name from the Asian island of their origin. They have a small single comb and adapt to any climate well.

Norwegian Jaerhons are a 20th century breed of Scandinavia. They are smaller, 5 lbs. for cocks and 3 ½ for hens, with attractive patterns. A good choice for a hardy dual purpose breed.

Silkies, with their hair-like feathers, are subject to chill if their feathers get wet. Keep an extra eye on them.

I plan to put a mix of these breeds on 320 acres of paddock and allow them to forage for themselves, the stronest rosters will breed and all survivors will intermix and in a few years I will hopefully have a flock cold weather foraging birds.

Horses and sheep will keep the colver and wild grains exposed over winter Pigs rood and eat cow paddies. The mob winter grazing method works well year round with the cows sheep and pigs chickens will prove to be as successful I'm hoping.
andy careaga


Joined: Nov 10, 2013
Posts: 3
How do these breeds do during summer time? We don't near as cold as you guys way up there and I like the idea of cold tolerant birds. However, what are your summers like. Down here there sometimes is spells where the temps can push 105 deg F. Can the breeds mentioned above take that also?
 
 
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