Monday, December 3, 2012

Chickens and the cold

It has been extremely cold recently.  Well, not below zero, but 5 degrees a couple nights in a row.  To me, that is cold!  If you have been following along with my chicken journey, you would know my biggest concern is what to do with them during the winter.  Is it too cold to let them out?  Do they like snow?  Do I need to keep a heat lamp in their coop?

I have been researching for months it seems on all of these questions.  My problem has been that there are always two answers for all of my questions.  So instead I am trying to figure it out on my own.  What works for my specific chickens?

We do not have access to an outside outlet.  What that means is that we are not heating our chicken coop, nor are we keeping a water warming plate.  After that first really cold night I was definitely concerned that I would find frozen chickens when I went out to the coop.  Surprisingly, they were happy as can be, jumped out of the coop and ran for whatever grass they could find.  Their water had turned icy, but wasn't frozen completely solid.  I filled up another container with fresh water and left it outside their coop for the day, since they were running around, and they were happy and stayed outside (in 18 degree weather) all day long.

What does this mean?  Well, I think it means that my chickens are a bit heartier than I had previously thought.  I think they have acclimated to the cold weather.  A benefit of not having a heat lamp out for them at all.  I am really happy with how well they seem to be doing.  We are still averaging 6-7 eggs each day.  I always have 5 or 6 eggs from the white chickens.  The araucanas lay an egg every other day it seems, so not as good on the laying front, but they are still fun to have around.

I know that when we get into January it is going to be a lot colder here for longer periods of time, but the fact that they have been doing so well right now, I have confidence they will be fine.  I hope that we will get enough snow to keep the coop insulated from the outside, and I plan to keep fresh pine shavings in their coop to keep them comfortable.  We have had a bit of snow, which always seems to melt away, but when it is snowing they are out digging in it and having a good time.  I think I lucked out with chickens who actually like the cold climate I live in!

Do your chickens like the cold?  Do they dig in the snow too?

Linking up at the Barn HopClever ChicksFarm Girl Blog Fest and Your Green Resource


  1. Obviously my chicken knowledge is limited but they sure are cute :)

  2. Great post! We keep chickens and ducks and I enjoy your blog so much. I would love for you to come share at my weekly Farm Girl Blog Fest:

    Fresh Eggs Daily

  3. Your chickens are gorgeous! Not sure about chicks and cold, mine have to deal with the heat which they seem to be ok with. They have the run of the garden (and the house, to be honest), and go to bed in their chicken house when the sun goes down. strangely enough they always stay outside when it rains, getting completely soaked...

  4. Oh I love this as I'm now living vicariously thru your chicken journeys :) I would think they should be fine--are they a hearty winter breed? I would think they must be since they're still laying--impressive! I know that last year our chickens went out and pecked around in the snow and they did fine all winter in the shed with just two. You have more so I'm sure they'll help insulate each other if needed!

  5. A few winters ago we did have one chicken get frostbite on her comb, but it was an unusually cold night. Other than that, we haven't had any issues.

  6. Good subject. Same one I am having. I think I may have solved some of it.
    Looks like you are one step ahead if your girls are laying well.
    Drop by and meet my Northern Vermont flock:

  7. I'm glad you decided to keep it natural! Trusting in nature is usually the wiser bet. As long as they have ventilation, they should do very well in cold. If the coop is cold AND humid from breath and droppings, then you'll have more frostbite and respiratory illness. Have you ever heard of open air coops? Back in the day, they'd have one entire side of the coop open with just wire to allow maximum ventilation even in places like the Dakotas! I haven't gone quite so far myself, but I am always sure to keep at least one large window's worth of ventilation open all winter. Great topic!

  8. Cute chickens! Ours don't seem to mind the cold too much. We don't insulate the coop and don't provide heat and they do just fine. 2 years ago we had an ice storm that lasted for a week and it was in the single digits all week long and they did just fine.

    There is A LOT of info out there on chicken keeping and a lot of different opinions, you just have to figure out what works for your flock like you said. Seems like you've got it figured out! Keeping chickens really is a lot of trial and error.

    Visiting from the Barn Hop today.


  9. Our chickens don't seem to mind the cold either. We do have a heat lamp over their waterer but only turn it on when it gets really cold. They were a little hesitant to leave the coop the first time it snowed but otherwise they were fine.
    See what I'm up to at:

  10. Thank you for linking up with the Clever Chicks this week; I hope you’ll join us again!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

  11. We had chickies in the cold Canadian climate - they did just fine! We stuff our coats with feathers - right ... (our chickies were sadly attacked by a weasel in Springtime though - no more chickies for us - make sure even the bottom of your coop is secure!)


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