Chickens and the COLD/SNOW- help!


In the Brooder
7 Years
May 22, 2012
I am new to having chickens; we started our flock last Spring. We love it! We are worried about the chickens (6) now that the weather is colder and we have 4 inches of snow from last night. Do we place a heat lamp in their coop or not? do we let them free range when there is snow on the ground? Will the chickens become cold? We are thinking of moving hte coop into the garage! Thanks for all the information.
Mine have no heat and its been cold here in Maine with snow & sleet last night. My flock appears fine. I left the coop door open just enough for them to slip in & out today but they aren't into it with the freezing rain. To be honest I am hoping the snow will dissappear in a few days so the flock can still free range all during daylight hours. I think they are happier and healthier when they can..
Unless it's very stormy, I leave the coop open so that my chickens can wander in their yard, regardless of whether it's snowy or not. I've found that some prefer to stay in the coop and out of the snow, but others are just fine with foraging and scratching in it. I don't use a heater for mine, but if I have a bird that is a warm-weather breed that's noticeably suffering from the cold, I move them into the garage where the temps aren't so bitter.

If you're worried about them being warm enough, you might also try giving them treats such as cooked rice and cooked oatmeal. It helps them to stay warm
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I can feed them cooked instant oatmeal? I will try that! So the chickens don't need a heater in their coop- not even for those coooold nights that are yet to come??
So long as the coop is insulated in some way, they should be alright without a heater. Even the plywood walls of a coop count as insulation. Remember, though - no matter how cold, chickens will still need a little bit of ventilation. They give off moisture and can be susceptible to frostbite, otherwise.

I know that some folks do prefer to put a little heater or a heat bulb in their coop through the winter months, and it's really up to you what you prefer to do. Once my chickens are feathered out, I stop putting a light in the shed/garage/wherever to provide supplemental heat. Some breeds are very cold hardy and won't mind in the least.

And on the oatmeal, if you are using instant oatmeal, you might want to avoid any of the really sugary kinds. They may not be as good for your birds as plain oatmeal.
It kind of depends on the breeds you have. Some breeds are really cold hardy and handle northern winters very well. Also depends on comb type, with single blade combs more vulnerable to frostbite. A winter hardy breed with rose, walnut, or pea comb, will generally do just fine without supplemental heat. But all breeds need adequate shelter from wind, rain, and snow.

Since you just got your birds this past spring, they are probably not in a hard molt, but next fall they will very likely undergo a noticeable molt. If you have a late molter and an early cold snap, you might find yourself with a bird that cannot cope. I'm in Massachusetts and one of my birds has her new feathers not quite fully opened over part of her body. She struggled a bit through yesterday and today. I made sure she got plenty to eat and drink today, and I am so relieved that the forecast is for warmer weather for the next week.
You can also give them some scratch about an hour or so before they go to their coop for the night.
I got my chickens from a friend this summer and am new at this also. How do you know what breeds are cold climate birds? I have a RIR and 3 Americanaus
Your chickens will be fine. You will not be doing them any favors by heating their coop. What if the power goes out in a storm? You will have chickens that are not acclimated to the cold, in a cold environment. They will be more susceptible to cold-related problems. You do not need an insulated coop. You do need some ventilation in your coop so it doesn't become too humid in there. That's more often the cause of frostbite than the cold. Basically, what your chickens need to get through the winter is a draft-free ventilated coop, water, food, and some nice, deep bedding in their coop. They don't need special foods. They don't need heat. They don't need insulation. I live in MN. We're in the middle of our first blizzard of the year. Right now it's 14* F, with a wind-chill of -36*. My chickens are fine. You can let them out of the coop if they'll go. Mine prefer not to, but sometimes I spread straw or leaves on the snow to lure them out. It's perfectly OK to let them out in the snow and cold. Do you have wild birds where you live? How do you suppose they survive without heated coops and special food? Now, take a deep breath. Let it out and relax. Go check on your chickens, and then come back in and fix yourself a nice hot cup of cocoa. They'll be fine.

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