chickens in winter.

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Help! I’m schtuck!

We’ve had the most annoying kind of winter weather in the last few days. We got about three inches of snow Thursday night, but because the temperature hovered right around freezing, it was already too wet in the early morning to clear with the snowblower. (When the snow is too wet, it just kind of breaks into shoals that get pushed around by the snowblower chute.) So I had to clear our driveway by hand with the big sled-type push shovel.

Temperatures on Friday and Saturday were in the 40-something range, which means all the snow turned into slush and water. The chicken coop was a muddy mess that looked like the birds were reenacting WWI trench warfare on the western front. I had to put down a few pallets to give them dry feet temporarily.

Last night, temps dropped down to fifteen degrees, and guess what happened to all that water and slush? That’s right: SKATING RINK.

I always feel bad for the birds when temperatures dip that low, but the feed store assured us that these are cold-hardy birds that are fine without any sort of heat in their coop right down to zero degrees or less. And sure enough, they were hopping out of the coop this morning for their breakfast just like any other day. I’ve actually read advice against providing them with heat, because they’ll get used to it and then end up freezing when the power goes out and they have to spend a night or two without their heat source. Seems a little harsh, but people have been keeping chickens in the winter for thousands of years without the luxury of indoor heating, I guess. The coop has electricity via weather-proof extension cord from the garage, but the only things hooked up to it are the electrically heated water fountain and the chain of Christmas LED lights for added daylight on the fringes of the day to keep the egg production going.

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This is my first livestock of any kind, so it’s still a learning process. But hey—they’re still alive and active, so I must be doing something right at least.

13 responses

  1. The Chicken Whisperer (podcast and Facebook) is constantly railing against heating for chickens for the reasons you mention, plus the fact it seems to result in a lot of coop fires.

  2. If it gets cold enough long enough the worst I’ve seen is chickens losing combs or some toes. At the most you’ll have some funny looking chickens. The eggs taste the same.

    Must say too that you’ve put up one nice coop and run.

  3. Please to not lean shovel on poultry netting. Hang on hook, for to not corrode badly in cold, cold ground. Also, rake on ground, do not want! See Tom & Jerry cartoons for showing the whyfor thereof.

    Thanking you.

    ;)

  4. Re: the driveway/walkways. I’m thinking one of the first things I would have aquired for your property would be a riding mower or small tractor. Preferably one that has the factory option of mounting a small plow blade. If no factory setup is available, I’d have mounts made to handle one. My dad had both types at his property. Although both could cut grass (the tractor had a tow-behind unit consisting of a bunch of reel type hand mowers), the mower spent most of it’s working time pushing/towing vehicles and trailers around the place. Dad made a ball mount tow hitch for it. The low gearing made it easy to move even a 30+ft motorhome. I think both units were rated at 12hp. Blade might have been 3ft wide. It could move dirt, gravel, sand, and snow.
    Middle of winter, a riding mower or garden tractor might go cheap.

  5. Say . . . my folks put a 100 watt light bulb (the old type, with the filament) in the coop to help maintain warmth and there’s something about the light on 24 hours/day in that it will also increase egg production. Give them plenty of straw and block any cold air-drafts.

    All the best.

  6. Yeah, animals that are acclimated to conditions generally do quite well. My dogs have a nice, straw-filled doghouse AND a door into the garage, but on a cold day with bright sun they’ll find a spot in the sun to nap in. And if you let them in the house, after maybe 15 minutes they want back out.

  7. The GranMarnier stuck in a couple inches of ice, seriously? You’re joshing right? A little rocking should break it free in <15 seconds.

    If not a little just normal room temp -30 rated windshield wiper solution along the tires/ice interface would weaken the ice/rubber bond.

    Or you can wait a few days.

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