That was the temp in the chicken coop this morning. Even worse, the temp outside had dropped to 18 degrees! J. and I broke out the "chicken furnace" (a ceramic heater) for Henrietta last night since she is in an elevated dog house that isn't insulated. We set it up to blow hot air into the house and then draped a tarp over it, so she was nice and toasty all night. The other girls had to endure the 24.6 degrees this morning, but they don't seem any worse for wear from the experience. Having Henrietta separate from everyone else stretched us thin because we only had one heater. The ceiling light has a plug-in in it, so I think I'll install the brooder lamp above the roost this weekend as an option. I feel much better about having that suspended versus the ceramic heater that could catch the bedding on fire.
But silly me...I tossed and turned and worried about them all night. Would the tarp catch on fire? Would the girls freeze? I'm such a protective chicken mom. So I hurried out this morning and was relieved to find that everyone was fine.
Just one more night of this cold weather and then we're back up into the 70's for the weekend. That's 70's in December! But, hey....who's complaining?
So that brings us to the topic of how to keep your feathered friends warm and toasty when cold weather hits.
But, other than putting up heaters or brooder lamps, there are some other things you can do as well:
- Keep their water from freezing. Either use a heated dog bowl or the farm\critter supply stores sell heater bases that go under the galvanized chicken waterers. If you have neither of these, make sure you check their water regularly and break up any ice that may have formed.
- Use a wooden roost for them to sleep on. Galvanized metal is way too cold for their feet. Also, make sure there is room for at least 6 inches between each hen. When it's cold, they will fluff out their feathers as added insulation and they'll need room to do so.
- Fight frostbite. Combs and feet aren't protected by all those feathers and are susceptible to the cold - especially if you have large breed chickens with large wattles or combs. One way to prevent frostbite is to cover them with Vaseline, petroleum jelly or even olive oil. Do this after they've gone to bed for the night and it will be much easier. Trust me.
- Give them a treat. While not a replacement for daily food, feeding scratch, sunflower seeds, and cracked corn as a treat will actually help to raise a hen's body temperature. Just a couple of handfuls every evening is what I normally feed. And I've been known to give them some yummy warm oatmeal as well.
- Use the deep litter method. Rather than cleaning the coop every month, just deep clean the coop in the spring and layer on a fresh layer of bedding every month. As it packs down, it will provide insulation to the coop and the hens enjoy scratching it up if you throw some corn or sunflower seeds in there. I initially thought this would smell to high heaven but, believe it or not, it doesn't!
- Shovel a path. If it snows, clear a path in the run or the yard for them so they don't have to bust through snow and get wet. If you're a chicken herder like me, you know that chickens hate getting wet.
- Collect eggs regularly. This doesn't really help the chickens, but it will prevent your eggs from freezing.
I hope you found these tips to be useful. If you've got any other tips about keeping our beloved chooks warm (other than plopping them in front of the fireplace), I'd love to hear them. Leave me a comment!