• How Are The Chickens?

    by  • December 23, 2010 • City Chickens, Parent • 6 Comments

    girl with chickens in snow“How are your chickens?,” I am asked frequently.

    The follow-on question is, “Are they ok in the cold?”

    We chose backyard chicken breeds specifically for cold hardiness.  Indeed our Orpingtons, Australorp, and Speckled Sussex seem to be surviving quite well, though they are not clucking and cooing with pleasure as they did in the summer and fall.  Maybe they miss their visits from Lil, far more infrequent in the cold weather.

    Winter Chicken Keeping Tactics

    We took pity on the girls when the high temperatures dropped below freezing and installed a ceramic heat lamp in their coop.  This gives enough heat to melt snow on top of the roost lid.

    We frequently add layers of bedding so they can nest in dry spots.  The biggest risk to chickens is frostbite on their combs and feet.  We are checking their health daily and thus far see no evidence of harm.

    We change the water as often as three times a day to prevent it from freezing.  backyard chickens in snow

    We refill the feeder every two days.  The hens are consuming a lot more dry feed than they did over the summer when we filled every three or four days.

    Lil and I are growing sprouts for them to eat.  They love the greenery and sprouts provide great supplemental nutrition.

    The chickens free-range in the yard very little, seemingly fearful of the snow.  We question whether they are smart enough to return to the coop when their feet are cold, so we limit their snow play to an hour or so at a time.

    Winter Egg Laying

    backyard speckled sussex moltingAs we expected because of reduced daylight, we are collecting far fewer eggs.  Our current average harvest is 10 eggs a week whereas in summer we were collecting 25.  Sussey the Speckled Sussex seems to be molting and not laying at all while she regrows feathers.

    The eggs we do collect are more precious than ever.  We use them for dishes where egg quality is most noticeable, such as sunbread and breakfast scrambled eggs.  As much as it pained us to do so, we bought eggs from the store this week to fulfill our holiday baking needs.

    Thanks to all who have asked about our girls!  We love to talk about them and are very glad they are doing well so far this winter.

    Added to Simple Lives Thursday.

    About

    I live to eat and eat to live, planning every meal to include as much local and seasonal abundance as possible. I often wear purple and never refuse a drink.

    http://www.harmonioushomestead.com

    6 Responses to How Are The Chickens?

    1. December 23, 2010 at 9:57 am

      Seems like we’re all in the same boat, lol! I’m just happy my 3 youngest have started laying their pullet eggs but yes… the eggs are so precious right now ;) Have a merry Christmas :D

    2. December 23, 2010 at 10:05 am

      Very cool. Do you sell the eggs you don’t use? That’s a pretty good yield.

    3. December 23, 2010 at 10:14 am

      I’m glad to hear they’re doing well! We’ve come up with a way to keep the water from freezing using a microwave-heated pet bed warmer. Email me if you’d like more details!

    4. Dawn
      December 24, 2010 at 7:33 am

      Hello! Popped on over from Simple Lives Thursday. We live in lower Michigan and have 18 chickens (down from our original 20 that we started with this summer). We’re still getting a fair amount of eggs because we have lights installed in our coop that go on a timer. One of the lights is a heat lamp. Our local farmer said 12-16 hours a day will help the chickens to keep laying. We also have a cookie tin water heater that my husband made to attach to the bottom of our waterer and while I have to replace the water everyday because they’re drinking (and eating) more daily, it keeps the water from freezing. I found the inspiration on backyard chickens website. If you’d like some more instructions, email me and let me know. I also read on that website that if you feed the chickens right before nightfall, that will help them to stay warm through the night as they’re digesting their food, so we take that time to fill the free feeding black oil sunflower seeds and/or organic cracked corn. We also freely feed oyster shells for calcium and I’ve noticed they’ve been eating much more of them once it’s gotten cold. And my girls too don’t care much for going out in the snow. My uncle came over and shoveled a path to the coop for me from the house the other day and all the girls followed me on the path but wouldn’t come out in the 1″ deep snow. So funny!

    5. Meredith Cope
      December 31, 2010 at 11:20 am

      Our 9 chickens are doing great also. We’ve keeping them in their coop on cold days, but we’ve let them out also. Ours do seem smart enough to go inside when they get too cold. We also put down a board for them to stand around on outside of their coop, that way they can get their sunshine and fresh air without freezing off their feet.
      We installed a heat lamp in their coop and I get up at 6:30am to turn it on, and then we turn it off at 9:30pm. This has kept up their output to around 8 eggs a day. Plus, it’s been nice for me to get up that early and get stuff done while everyone else is still asleep. At the moment I have 6 dozen surplus eggs in my fridge, even with all of my holiday baking. Don’t buy eggs from the store again… just drive out to Delaware. :)

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