Chickens and snow

Woodman
By Woodman on Fri, Jan 3, 2014 - 1:38am

We are in another blizzard here in New England, with the temperature dipping to 0F at night.  How are you chickens doing and what do you do to help manage them in this kind of weather?

Chickens are pretty adapted to the cold.  Mine are fine in the un-insulated coop out back.  I cover up some of the screened openings so it is not too drafty but still leave plenty of openings for ventilation.  I had a rooster once that got its comb and wattle frostbit when it got down to -10 once, and the frostbit parts turned black and sloughed off eventually.  Other than that the birds were okay.

They take a few days to get used to the first snowfall, but are now running around anywhere I've shoveled, including unfortunately the deck on my house.  They don't like to walk in the deep snow though.

I have a heat lamp over their water bucket to keep it thawed out.  I try to collect eggs before going to work, because any sitting around all day will freeze eventually.

Note: If you're reading this and are not yet a member of Peak Prosperity's Backyard Chickens Group, please consider joining it now. It's where you'll find lively discussions on how to raise these fun, feathered fowl. We've got great posts to help first-timers get started, plus regular discussions to keep more experienced hands learning. Simply go here and click the "Join Today" button.

19 Comments

Doug's picture
Doug
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Posts: 3157
They're fine

The coop is not insulated and they don't come out if there's snow on the ground.  Last week I shoveled a path from the sidewalk to the coop.  When they saw it they made a dash for the back porch, where we have bird feeders, to scavenge whatever sunflower seeds they could find, but scurried right back to the coop when they found the pickings slim.  If there's bare ground they are outside during all daylight hours.  Our waterfeeder has a heater that keeps the water ice free.  We also have a light and timer that keeps them in light 14 hours a day.  This is our third winter with chickens and we have had no weather related problems.

marky's picture
marky
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Joined: Jul 27 2010
Posts: 33
Cold Chicken

My girls, 15 of them, are not very happy about the new england cold.  We're in southern NE, so it could be a lot worse, but there's no talking to them!  Generally they are fine, in an uninsulated coop and a small run, with a heated water dispenser.   They usually have the run of the garden, so when they are cooped up by weather I suppose they feel it more.  We have two leghorns which lay really well but whose combs usually get a bit of winter frostbite. although it sort of falls off by spring.  And one of the the orpingtons has taken to roosting in a tree - usually I let her but last night with the cold I forced her down and into the coop.  I'm going to check the eggs now.  I've had a bit of egg eating to deal with recently, and being cooped up might be encouraging this. Hope it doesn't spread...

westcoastjan's picture
westcoastjan
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Posts: 571
here is something to make chicken owners have a laugh

http://Coats for chickens

westcoastjan's picture
westcoastjan
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 4 2012
Posts: 571
trying again...link in last post did not work

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25497109

jasonw's picture
jasonw
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Posts: 1018
Using the lamp for heating the water

Woodman - love the idea of using the lamp to keep the water from freezing.  At our previous home in colorado we would lug out water daily to fight the the really bad cold snaps (high of 20).  And those times would be when I would feel bad and set up the lamp.  Make using all that power worth the cost. 

One question I would pose to the group - Any thought on water supply and low temps when the power goes out?  I think about all the snow load and ice storms the east has gotten in recent years and wonder about keep the animals healthy and happy without power.  Sounds cold and tiring. 

As I chatted with Amanda today - I am sorry and happy to report yesterday was a shorts day.  :)

Drought conditions in the west are still severe though :( 

mike dickenson's picture
mike dickenson
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Posts: 8
coop

anybody have any killer chicken coop plans or strong recommendations?  I have a covered concrete 6 x 8 slab with water and electric, but no walls, that I want to build out for a spring flock.

sand_puppy's picture
sand_puppy
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Posts: 1884
Roof de-icing cable to keep chickens warm

Anyone ever use a plug in roof de-icing cable to put under the floor of a chicken coop or around a water pipe and bowl?  I saw one poster here on pp who used this type of roof de-icing system in a green house where plants were grown in containers that sat on top of a coiled de-icing cable that was lightly covered in dirt.  He used about $1 / day in electricity keeping the green house above freezing.

http://www.lowes.com/ProductDisplay?partNumber=24487-72436-ADKS-300&langId=-1&storeId=10151&productId=3115535&catalogId=10051&cmRelshp=req&rel=nofollow&cId=PDIO1

Or a water pipe heat cable?

http://www.lowes.com/ProductDisplay?partNumber=23496-72436-AHB-130&langId=-1&storeId=10151&productId=1065647&catalogId=10051&cmRelshp=req&rel=nofollow&cId=PDIO1

And I second mike dickenson's request (above) for favorite coop plans/recommendations!

treemagnet's picture
treemagnet
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 13 2011
Posts: 344
0 is cold!

For the next several days the weatherman is talking about -30 to -38 far., the coldest I've personally ever seen is -46.  Funny thing is my chow chow was comfy and wouldn't come inside....bare belly INTO the wind.  Anyway, how would you guys suggest I raise chickens here, I want to - but jeez!   Is a light bulb enough?

P.S. You know how you know you're talking to someone who knows cold?   There's no "and that's without the windchill......" Added.  It's a given, like how everyone who "gets it" knows your freezer is about -10 (without the windchill!)

Lnorris's picture
Lnorris
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Posts: 105
-4 last night

I placed a red heat lamp in the coop this week. Two eye bolts spaced apart in the ceiling keep the casing mounted and secure. When we built the coop we insulated it. The remote thermometer read 10 degrees above the outdoor temps last night. There is a heating plate under the water as I too lugged water out each day the first winter we had them. The chickens seemed no worse for the wear when they all ran down the ramp this morning.

GM_Man's picture
GM_Man
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Posts: 74
Heat and water

Like Lnorris, I too insulated my coop slightly when it was built.   I added a thin layer of insulation and some tar paper to prevent wind getting in.  My coop's door for the chickens is at the lowest level of the coop so that any cold air that enters stays below the chicken roosts higher placed higher up.

An IR heat bulb is placed high in the coop for heat.  I don't bother with a thermostat control.  I have a heating plate that keeps their water in a liquid state.  During the day, the chickens will walk to the hoop house/green house where they can scratch and 'dirt bath' when the sun is out.  I almost always throw some scratch grain in the hoop house along with any table scraps in there as well.  A hand full of sand or two helps with digestion.

One more thing.  The door to the hoop house is removed for Winter.  I then cover most of the entry with a large piece of carpet leaving a chicken crawl space below.  When the chickens want in, they just duck under that carpet and then hop up about 3 inches into the hoop house,  Works like a treat as they say.

I have the 'ribs' reinforced via 2x4 center support stretched from one end to the other with a 4x4 post in the center for any snow/ice load.  I brush that off when I get to it after clearing the driveway and house.

This is just what I've done for my New England chicks having experienced -25 degF for two weeks ages ago.  Those cold fronts do come down hard, and when they do they have a tendency to overstay their welcome.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Posts: 1988
great coop plans, how-to-wiki

mike dickenson:

anybody have any killer chicken coop plans or strong recommendations?  I have a covered concrete 6 x 8 slab with water and electric, but no walls, that I want to build out for a spring flock.

This is the one we want to build. http://howto.wired.com/wiki/Build_a_Chicken_Coop

Woodman's picture
Woodman
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Posts: 1028
Keeping chickens' water unfrozen

One cheap way to keep your chicken's water from freezing is to build a cookie tin heater. Put a light bulb socket and a low wattage 20 or 40 watt bulb inside one of those metal tins leftover from Christmas and place a waterer on top.  When it's really cold though the top of the waterer can still freeze but the bottom tray where they drink should stay liquid.

I also tried putting a droplight with a 40watt bulb in a wooden box with a round hold on top just smaller than the drop light light reflect so it held it pointed up.  Then I put a metal waterer on top.  This worked pretty good until water and crud eventually messed up the light bulb socket.

Right now I have a 250 watt heat lamp that I use normally for chicks hanging over a bucket in the coop, but that's a pretty expensive rig to run continuously though, about $.90 per day at my electricity rate, or 50% of my normal electric bill.  I could get a lower wattage bulb. 

Woodman's picture
Woodman
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Posts: 1028
chicken coop design

There's some basic elements in all good coops like nesting boxes and roosts, but there's no one perfect design.  It depends on your site, objectives, and needs.  I designed mine to be semi portable to move from paddock to paddock.  The size was as large as would work with a 4x8 plywood sheet for the roof.   For winter, I move the coop to the garden area where nothing but garlic is planted right now so the birds are close to the house and an extension cord will reach the coop.  I'll post a photo if I can get it work later.

See Backyardchickens.com for tons of ideas for coops.  good luck!

mike dickenson's picture
mike dickenson
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Joined: Oct 4 2010
Posts: 8
coop

Thanks, Wendy.  There are really great ideas with this one!

spotted turtle's picture
spotted turtle
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Joined: Jul 22 2010
Posts: 6
coats for chickens

There are similar chicken "coats" available on Ebay listed under chicken aprons. I bought several to keep an overly aggressive rooster from scratching the hen's backs. The girls hated the aprons and the rooster "passed away." Deborah in SC

phecksel's picture
phecksel
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: May 24 2010
Posts: 204
We have a run wrapped with

We have a run wrapped with heavy plastic and a non insulated coop.  Heated dog water dish in the run, and heat lamp inside the coop are connected to a temperature activated plug.  At 39°F, the plug activates and turns them on.  The heat lamp is throwing off enough light that it's confusing the chickens a bit.  With 8 chickens, we're still getting 6-8 eggs per day.  Our chickens are spoiled... but not nearly as much as a friend of ours that actually has her new rooster with free run of the inside of her house.

thebrewer's picture
thebrewer
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Joined: Nov 7 2012
Posts: 110
Aquarium Heater

Glad I saw this thread. We've been talking about getting chickens for a few years now but were concerned about how they would do in the winter. Weather has been crazy lately with -10 two nights ago, 55 and raining today and supposed to be back down in low single digits tonight, but it sounds like chickens are pretty resilient.

After reading all these ideas about keeping water unfrozen the first idea that popped into my head was an aquarium heater. They use little power should do the job. Our fish tank is in a room that is often below 50 during the winter but with two heaters it keeps the 20 gallon tank at a toasty 75+. Seems like it might be a good alternative to use for chickens?

Woodman's picture
Woodman
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Joined: Sep 26 2008
Posts: 1028
Re: Aquarium heater for chicken water

 

Quick google search for chicken water aquarium heater finds ideas like this:

http://www.avianaquamiser.com/posts/Heated_bucket_waterer_with_aquarium_heater/

But some concerns with aquarium heaters can be found here:

http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/389587/using-aquarium-heaters

Grover's picture
Grover
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 16 2011
Posts: 839
LED Rope Lights

I haven't used these for a chicken waterer, but I have used it to heat seed trays in my greenhouse. I have some older exterior LED lights that use 36 watts for a 12' length. I tack the lights in an "S" pattern on a piece of plywood that is 4' long and about 14" wide. I can place 2 Jiffy seeders on these. It works well. I've used these for 4 seasons so far. A little spillage of water doesn't affect them, but I wouldn't submerge them.

I can't think of any reason that these lights wouldn't work under a waterer. Whatever energy they consume will be converted to heat. Woodman's suggestion of a pie plate sounds good. Coil the rope lights under the inverted pie plate, attach an extension cord, and test it out. You may have to get something bigger (like a garbage can lid or an oil drain pan if the rope lights won't fit under a pie plate. Light pollution may disrupt the girls' laying cycles.) You should be able to find something cheap and functional at any auto parts store.

Since Christmas is over, there should be some good clearance sales on outdoor (or indoor/outdoor) rope lights. If you're exposed to temperatures in the range treemagnet describes, you may want to get 2 or 3 sets of lights to double or triple the wattage. Only hook up as many as you need, or if you want to be fancy, add a dimmer switch. After a while, you'll figure out a good rule of thumb for your particular situation.

Grover

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