Chickens in snow

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by MontanaDolphin, Oct 27, 2013.

  1. MontanaDolphin

    MontanaDolphin Songster

    Feb 16, 2013
    Columbia, Virginia
    This is my first time owing chickens...I have 9 total, 3 Barred Rocks (one rooster and two hens), and 6 Commercial Blacks (BR crosses...all hens).

    I have read that chickens can get frostbite in winter on combs and feet. I swapped out their pole roost for a 2x6 so their feet will lay flat and they can sit on them preventing frostbite of their toes. I have no idea how to prevent frostbite of the combs. Any suggestions?

    Also, since they can get frostbite, do I not let them free-range in the snow or really cold weather? I let my flock free-range for about 7 hours a day...from noon till dark when they put themselves to bed. I don't let them out before this because I really don't want to have to search my property for eggs. My girls almost always lay their eggs up until noon, so that's why I wait until then to let them roam. Am I supposed to keep them in their coop and/or run during snowy weather?


  2. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    Some people put vaseline on combs for prevention of frostbite...I have never tried it.

    My large fowl chickens love to run around in the snow (shallow snow...we don't get that much here). The bantams, not so much.

    I always have a shed or coop where they can stand around all day inside if they want. So I figure, I let them do what they want. If you have blowing wind and cold that is brutal I'd consider just keeping them in the run/coop area but I have never had to deal with less than 10 degree temps so cannot really speak to that.

    We usually have about two weeks of 20 degree temps and I don't do anything special for the chickens other than a light bulb for the bantams to huddle under if needed. My chickens are outside all day unless they elect to stand inside the shed. I hope this helps.

    If you are up in the mountains that is a different thing...much colder than what I deal with.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging 9 Years

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    In Virginia, you don’t have really cold weather, not as far as chickens are concerned.

    Chickens generally don’t like new strange things. That includes snow if they haven’t seen it before. Often mine will stay in the coop for a couple of days before one gets brave enough to step on it, but once one does, they are often out in it, especially if the grass and weeds are sticking out enough so they can forage. I’ve had some wade through 9” of snow to go check out my compost heap to see if there were any goodies there.

    I took this photo last spring. It started to snow while they were out roaming. I guess since it fell while they were out there, they just stayed there, not like waking up to the ground covered by snow.


    I took this shot a few years back when it was 4 degrees above zero Fahrenheit. I always leave the pop door open, regardless of the weather and give them the option to do what they want to do. As long as a cold wind is not blowing, they choose to go outside in the cold.


    I’ve seen chickens sleep in trees when it was below zero Fahrenheit. They were in a protected valley in a thicket and could move around to get out of a direct wind. It’s not like they were on a dead tree limb overlooking a bluff defiantly squawking into the teeth of a blizzard. You’d see something like that in a Disney cartoon, not in real life. Those chickens did not have any frostbite problems, feet or combs.

    When chickens squat down and fluff up their feathers a bit for better insulation from the cold, their feet pretty well disappear whether they are on something round or flat as long as it’s not real skinny. And they normally sleep with their heads under a wing to protect their comb and wattles when it is really cold.

    Don’t get me wrong. Chickens can get frostbite, normally on the comb and wattles. That’s usually associated with the coop being so airtight that the moisture from their breathing and poop can’t get out so they have extra moisture in the air. People further north than you or me have reported solving those frostbite problems by providing more ventilation above the chickens heads while they are sleeping. That ventilation needs to be high enough over their heads so a direct breeze doesn’t hit them. Think wind chill.
    1 person likes this.
  4. MontanaDolphin

    MontanaDolphin Songster

    Feb 16, 2013
    Columbia, Virginia
    Thanks for the pics Ridgerunner!

    I feel better now...I would hate to "have" to keep them cooped up when it snows!

    Thanks to the both of you!!

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