Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

Dangerous Cold: Don't Forget Your Animals!

Sunday, January 05, 2014

It's 7 degrees outside right now. Brrrr! Put a negative sign in front of that and that's where our temp is supposed to be when morning breaks. With the wind howling outside (I can hear my wind chimes singing on the deck), the wind chills are going to be around -30 to -40 when we head off to work.

Folks, that's dangerously cold and in a territory that hasn't been seen around these here parts since I was born over 40 years ago. Temps like that can freeze exposed skin in a matter of minutes, so be careful to get all bundled up if you have to go outside.   (By the way....check out what the Almanac says over there on the right sidebar.  "Warmest on the 6th", my *^&$%##%%$!)

Okay, I know you guys know this but it's probably worth saying again.  Remember.....if the cold is dangerous for you, it's dangerous for your animals also. Please bring your pets inside if at all possible. If you can't, make sure they have a warm place to get to and keep an eye on them for any signs on hypothermia (shivering is a good sign). Obviously, you probably aren't going to bring your chickens in to hang out in the family room with you (although my friend Paula used to!). But I thought I would trot out some tips from one of my original posts from back in 2012 on how you can keep your feathered friends warm and toasty when cold weather hits.

Chickens basically have nice feathered coats, so they're relatively cold hardy.  We prepared for the cold by shutting them in the coop, putting the brooder lamp up over the roost and adding a ceramic heater.  As a result, the current temp is running 20+ degrees higher than the outside temp.  Also, the hens put off quite a bit of their own heat as well so they'll keep each other warm while they're roosting. 

But, other than putting up heaters or brooder lamps, here are some other things you can do to keep your hens toasty:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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. 
  7. 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!


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