Posts Tagged ‘temperature’

Chickens and Cold Temperatures


We’re due for some VERY cold temps here in Chicago (in the negative degrees F, and windchills even lower), and a number of questions have come up about chickens and cold temps.

Here’s a list of ideas I’ve compiled. If you have suggestions, feel free to post.

Bedding

  • Keep bedding loose and dry. Deep bedding helps trap heat.
  • Clear snow from bedding.

 Coop

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  • Cover the coop and wire-covered areas (such as the run) with a plastic tarp, greenhouse plastic, dropcloth, or plywood.
  • Fill in cracks and crevices in the coop with newspaper or cardboard.
  • The coop should not be completely airtight; allow some air circulation to prevent frostbite.
  • Stack strawbales around the sides, esp on the sides with northern/western exposure to act as insulation.

Roosts

  • Make sure roosts are in the least drafty place in the coop.
  • Use wide roosts for toe coverage (2-4 inches in width)

 Supplemental heat

  • If ceiling is higher than 2 feet above the chickens, you may want to install a heat lamp above the roost that will turn on when the temp is below 35 degrees.
  • Be sure that the lamp cannot be damaged by a flying bird and that it is not a fire hazard.
  • If you bring the birds indoors, make a gradual transition to warmer temps – e.g., from 0 degrees to 20 degrees to 45 degrees, NOT from 0 degrees directly to 45 degrees.
  • Note that overheating can lead to obese birds. If you supplement heat, set the thermostat to just above freezing.

Frostbite

  • Watch toes and combs/wattles for signs of frostbite. A little petroleum jelly on combs and wattles can prevent frostbite *however* be careful not to overapply – petroleum products can coat the feathers, reducing their insulating properties.
  • Do not allow them to be out in the snow for extended periods of time to avoid freezing their toes.
  • Clear snow out of sections of the run so they don’t have to walk in it.
  • If chickens do get frostbite, treat with aloe vera, can use aspirin solution for pain (three 325 mg tabs per 1 gal water), don’t massage, don’t heat up rapidly. Allow tissue to die/fall off naturally.

Food and Water

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  • Check water several times a day to be sure it’s not frozen.
  • Feed mash mixed with warm milk or water. Some folks feed warm oatmeal. Make sure it is not hot, so the birds don’t burn themselves.
  • Provide a few handfuls of scratch grains in the evening before the hens go to roost. Can also feed a handful or two of scratch in the AM.

Laying

  • Extreme temperatures can stress the birds and cause hens to go out of lay.
  • Collect eggs so they do not freeze and lead to egg eating.