I am a veteran chicken owner and I've long believed in the virtues of not heating the coop. I've read all the threads before, and feel pretty knowledgeable about chicken care in cold weather but I'm having some very specific trouble today so I thought I'd come for some advice. This isn't the usual "should I heat my coop or not" question!
I have 5 barred rocks and live in Portland, Oregon, where it rains a lot but rarely freezes. I have an excellent coop that was built by someone who took every possible detail into account for our climate, IMO. It has a raised, enclosed roosting area, with a 2x4 for a roost and a sliding door that can be left open during normal weather but shut tight during freezes. It is a completely enclosed box with good sized ventilation holes near the ceiling. There is a tiny bit of air leak at the nesting box door, but it is seriously a very thin crack. There is no waterer inside the roosting area. I normally feel pretty secure in my coop's ability to fend off the cold but let out moisture so that my chickens' body heat can do its job in keeping them warm.
One of my hens, Bluetta, was adopted as an adult and has always been an outcast and picked on by the others. She also molted late this year, so she's not very well feathered right now. This morning when I went to check on the ladies after a very cold past 2 nights, I noticed that she had a tiny bit of frostbite on her; just a bit of a black spot at the tip of one of the peaks on her comb. Not too surprising due to her lack of feather cover and the fact that she probably does't get much cuddling on the roost. But I did everything I had time to do this morning to keep the hens warm and comfortable. I kept their waterer filled with warm-ish water a few times during the day to help them stay hydrated and warm up and kept them inside their coop today just because the winter wind has been blowing the door shut and I didn't want them separated from the feeder and waterer. By nighttime, when I went to go check on them, the outcast hen's comb had worsened, which I did not expect, and was now bleeding slightly. So instead of just putting vaseline on her comb and refilling their nesting area with nice, clean, deep shavings, I brought her in and put her in a cage in the garage.
Now I'm worried about the rest of them out there tonight. Normally I don't worry, but normally my hens don't get frostbite in freezing temps and normally it doesn't get down to 21 degrees F. I know that to a chicken keeper in Buffalo or Alaska or Minnesota, 21 is nothing, and your stories do calm me down when I start to worry, but I feel like the fact that I have one hen with frostbite already is cause for concern for the others tonight. I was able to put vaseline on two hens' combs and wattles tonight, but couldn't reach the other two.
I'm also worried that Bluetta's reintroduction to the flock is going to be troublesome, since her relationship with the other ladies already wasn't good.
Oh, and to make matters worse, we've got an extended cold spell until Monday but I leave town on Saturday and my roommate is not exactly the type of person who's going to feel comfortable catching chickens to coat their combs and wattles with vaseline!
Can I get some advice from the BYCers on any of these topics? Should I do anything else for the ladies in the coop before I go to bed? What can I do for the outcast hen? Any information is greatly appreciated.