General Question

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Chickens in cold weather?

Asked by DrasticDreamer (23988points) January 1st, 2015
12 responses
“Great Question” (3points)

How cold is too cold to let chickens out of their coop?

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Coloma's avatar

Chickens are fairly hardy but can suffer frostbite on their feet, combs and wattles. If there is snow on the ground or freezing or below freezing temps at night just be sure they have a draft free, but ventilated coop and they usually will huddle on their roosts for extra warmth. If you notice black spots on their combs or wattles that is a sign of frostbite.
We had a cold wind storm the other day and our 7 hens were miserable, huddled by some boulders in their large yard and all upset. The wind was insane, chairs blowing around, raging.

Even though their coop was open they just stood out in the wind looking miserable so we actually went up and carried them all into their large coop and locked them in.
Chickens don’t win any prizes for problem solving. lol
It is also good to feed them scratch grains before bed to help keep them warmer at night in cold temps.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Thanks @Coloma :) Our chickens hate the wind so much they refuse to even come out when it’s blowing too hard, which I’m glad about, because we’ve had a couple of really bad windstorms so far this winter. It’s about 27 here today, and I didn’t let them out because I wasn’t sure if it was okay or not. We have a heat lamp, but I’ve heard both negative and positive things about them, so I’m not even sure if we should be using that? We only have two birds.

Coloma's avatar

@DrasticDreamer The only problem with heat lamps is that the extra light this time of year can force laying or moulting. I made that mistake one Jan. about 10 years ago when one of my geese had the sniffles. I made him a sweater and put a heat lamp in their barn because it was in the low 20’s and that started the female laying in Jan. haha

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@Coloma Oh, okay, I didn’t know that. Will they be okay if we don’t use the heat lamp in these temps? They’re still young and haven’t laid at all yet, but I honestly don’t know much about when they start in general. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, but it’s a lot to keep up with.

Coloma's avatar

They should be fine if they haven’t started laying yet, probably start this spring, March-April when the days get longer again. They need at least 12 hours of light to go into laying mode. Most pullets ( young hens ) start laying around 5–7 mos. old depending on breed and season. Typically hens will moult in the fall after their first year and stop laying at that time as all their energy goes into making new feathers for several months.

Then, winter is on and they drop off laying as much during the shorter days.
Just feed them well and you can feed extra treats too, oatmeal, pasta, carbs, grains, as long as they are primarily eating their complete feed.
Do you have them on a laying formula like “Layena”? They will need the extra protein and calcium of a complete layer diet once they start laying.

If you feed too much scratch they won’t be getting enough calcium. Keep the grains at at a 30–40 to 60% ratio of grain to lay rations. Fresh fruits and veggies are really good too. Don’t feed garlic, onions or fish, these will make their eggs taste off but most won’t eat them anyway. haha
They LOVE tomatoes, rice, beans, melons, pastas, oatmeal, chopped apples, squash pulp and seeds, pumpkin seeds.

You can give much of your produce trimmings to them except for iceberg lettuce. No nutrition and can cause diarrhea.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Thank you very much for all of the information. :)

I can’t remember the name of what we’re using right now, but I think it says something like “complete laying feed”, or something along those lines. I’ll write down “Layena” and I’ll double-check to be sure. Luckily, they get a lot of fruits and veggies from our garden, and when it’s not too cold or windy out, they’re free to roam the yard. We got them some meal worms for treats about a week ago, which they seem to enjoy a lot. When I go out to check their water to make sure it’s not frozen, I’ll put some meal worms and oatmeal out for them, too.

Is it alright if I PM you with any questions that might pop up in the future? I know this is kind of your area. :) And again, thank you very much for the advice.

Coloma's avatar

Sure anytime.
I know quite a lot about common diseases, parasites and ailments too. Keeping Chickens is lots of fun. :-)

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Adirondackwannabe's avatar

We kept chickens year round in temperatures down to minus 20 F. They had a roomy house with nice roosts and nesting boxes. We gave them plenty of bedding. Never had a problem.

longgone's avatar

@Coloma The laying, is that due to the heat lamp’s light, or its warmth? If it’s the light, wouldn’t it be possible to just hang some kind of fabric between chickens and heat lamp?

Coloma's avatar

@longgone Yes, it’s the extra artificial light that spurs the laying cycle. Commercially kept hens are kept under 14 hours of light year round, to keep them laying unnaturally until they drop dead. I’m not sure how you could fully block out the light without any fire danger from the heat source. Only other option would be some sort of space heater but that is dangerous in any farmy outbuilding with hay or shavings and wood construction.

longgone's avatar

^ Thanks for teaching me something new! That sucks, though, for all the cold chickens.

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