With respect to the recent posts about chickens and cold weather: I’ve also found that my girls (and boy) do fine in 20 degree temps (they’re heavy dual-purpose breeds). It’s the humans that have problems and worry about them.
The first time I had hens, I worried and called my “chicken mentor” (everyone needs someone like this the first time they raise chickens—or any animals, really). I’ll never forget when she very diplomatically asked me, “Why do you think they’re cold?” Well, they were alternately pulling one leg up into their bellies, then the other. OK, maybe they were cold, she conceded. She recommended I put plastic around the coop’s hardware cloth walls and straw down on the hardware cloth floor. That did the trick. The hardest thing about these low temps is making sure they have water that isn’t ice. —Debbie Leung, Olympia, Washington
On the chicken front: I’ve found I really don’t have to worry about my girls when the temps are in the 20’s. My Polish hen Phyllis sleeps on one of the outside roosts even when the temps are in the 20’s. I think she’s crazy but she looks perfectly comfortable. Even when we had stretches in the low teens last year they were just fine. I just wrap a sheet of frost cloth around the upstairs coop so that wind doesn’t get in if we’re going to be in the low teens. Early on, I’d worry about them a lot when it got cold, so I’d run a ceramic heat emitter (intended for reptiles—there is no light, so it doesn’t stress the girls’ endocrine systems in the winter) above their roosting area. But, I think that was more for me than necessary for them!
The real danger for us here in Texas is with the heat in July/August. Stretches of temps above 104 with night temps close to 100 are really difficult for chickens, especially certain breeds. So now I run a fan with a misting system in the summer…quite a hoot. —Leslie Halleck, Dallas, Texas
Leslie, the hens in your coop probably kept their water warm even when the temperature outside dropped below freezing.
I read of a small CSA farmer in the Santa Cruz, California, area. She penned her chickens in large runs with tropical fruit trees in them. In winter she would cover the whole thing with plastic. Said the heat from the chickens would give her about 6 degrees of frost protection, which was enough to prevent damage to her fruit trees. (Santa Cruz doesn’t get very cold unless you go east into the mountains.) —Bill Nunes, Gustine, California
Last week when the weather forecast was for 25F overnight, I didn’t give it much thought until I looked out of my window at the pansy seedlings I just planted on the chicken coop roof. There wasn’t much chance they would live, as little as they are, so out came the bed sheet. I used to sleep on burgundy sheets, thank you. Now the chickens and flowers are nestled in them—a queen-size fitted sheet for my “Queens.”
This gives new meaning to a flower bed.
I was amazed that the water inside the coop didn’t freeze. It got down to 25F, and was windy, and the water out it the pen froze. —Leslie Doyle, Las Vegas, Nevada
Last weekend I got two 4-month-old Australorp hens (photo below). They have very sweet dispositions—really. These are huggie chickens. I had to get more hens since I built a larger pen area around my coop. No square inch of my precious and little 1/2-acre city lot can go unused.
The second photo shows the new fence I put in to keep my chickens out of the garlic and veggie beds. This is a portable fence (my design) and it is held up by the planter boxes along the outside and a couple of 15-gallon nursery pots on the inside. The coop is on wheels, so the fence has to be movable too. The gate has those hinges that close it when I forget (often).
See the pole lamp? It’s to fool the chickens into thinking the days are longer, so they keep laying. I don’t know if it will work.