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Depressed Chickens?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Stephanie-n-Hayden, Jan 16, 2010.

  1. Stephanie-n-Hayden

    Stephanie-n-Hayden Songster

    Aug 15, 2009
    I think my chickens may be a bit depressed or something. It has been very cold here this past month. We have had below freezing weather (single digits, possibly below 0 at night) and several inches of snow. My small flock would not step foot in the snow, which I can understand. They spent a lot of time in the coop. Now that it is warming up a bit, the ground is no longer frozen and the snow is gone, they still don't seem to want to come outside much. I threw seed out this morning for them to scratch around in, but that only lasted a few mnutes. Is this normal behavior for chickens in cold weather or do mine sound depressed? And if they are, what should I do. I should note that I have gotten some ideas about "toys" and things to make them from others here to keep them from getting bored. But, they don't seem real interested in the things I put out there for them. And as far as I can tell, they don't much mess with the stuff either. They all look and act healthy, no one seems sick. Perhaps just lazy? I am new to this stuff and this is my first winter with chickens. They are all under a year old. Any ideas on what is going on with them?

  2. spammy

    spammy In the Brooder

    Aug 17, 2009
    I moved the feeder outside after a similar situation. They now ignore the snow. Anything new takes awhile. After 1 day moved feeder back inside.
  3. JakRat

    JakRat Songster

    Apr 22, 2009
    Mine seem the same way... I feel bad for them but my boyfriend wont allow them in the house lol...I give them treats when I can and I pet them and hold them but maybe that just makes me happy [​IMG]
  4. stretchc1

    stretchc1 In the Brooder

    Jul 16, 2008
    This is my first winter with chickens, too. I have 5 hens who seem to be adapting pretty well to the cold and snow. But I worry about them all the time, so these are the things I have done so far to try to make them as happy as possible given the circumstances:

    --I stacked hay bales on one side of the run to block the prevailing winds.
    --When our first big snow was on the way, I covered one end of the run with an old sheet of plywood. This can't be permanent because I didn't build the run to support a "roof" long term, but it has meant that there's a much less exposed portion of the run for the hens to hang out in. Others on this site have built "huddles" inside the run that look really cool.
    --When there was snow on the ground, I shoveled a path to their heated dog bowl and their feeder inside the run and an oval "track" in the back yard so they could walk around without freezing their tootsies when I let them out.
    --When I see kale or collards on sale (they ate all that I had in the garden down to stubs), I buy a bunch of them and give the chickens healthy greens as treats--especially on days when I can't let them out of the run. I just throw the leaves into the run, and the hens have some "work" to do to get them into bite-sized pieces. They pick up the whole leaf in their beaks and then sling the leaf so that all that's left in their mouths is a shred. It's pretty funny and it keeps them busy for a while. I can't help but think that the vitamins are good for them in the cold.
    --I do try to let them out as much as I can. I tend to do this in the evening, just before dark, when I get home from work. That way, they can roam and scratch and then they go in of their own accord when it gets dark. Cold or no cold, they always seem happier when they are roaming around, scratching and pecking.

    We have a lot of winter left here in CT, but the hens have been laying right along and their feathers and eyes look bright--no signs of frostbite.[​IMG] But I think we'll all be happier when spring gets here!
  5. fancbrd4me02

    fancbrd4me02 Songster

    Your chickens do sound as if they are not feeling thier best. They might be feeling too cold, depending on the breed, weather and type of pen you have. Also, if they are young they might be generating thier own body heat adequately. Do you have lighting in the pen that they stay in most of the time? If they don't go out or get light they will act lethargic and depressed. You might want to consider lighting the pen during the day.
  6. CityChook

    CityChook Songster

    Apr 9, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    My Coop
    Quote:Here in MN, we can have snow on the ground for 5-6 months of the year. I have a difficult time getting mine to go out into the snow, too. Their run is covered and I try to keep it as snow-free as possible, but the ground is completely frozen and hard. I don't blame them for not really wanting to go outside - there's not much for them to do and if I had the choice of a nice big, heated coop or going out into the cold/snow, then the choice wouldn't be a hard one...

    I don't know what breeds you have or what sort of coop they are living in. Is it possible that they are simply saving their energy reserves to make body heat?

    It has been my experience that chickens tend to be creatures of habit and are comfortable with what they are familiar with. Maybe it's just that they've been in the coop for awhile with the cold weather and they've become accustomed to it? Does it have windows and is there enough room for them to move about? If so, they'll come out when they're ready. If you think that a little sunshine and fresh air would be good for them, give them a good reason to come out. Put some REALLY good treats outside (I like to give mine a few live crickets from the bait store to chase about when the ground is too cold for bugs). Maybe close up their coop door so they have to come out and stay out and then sit out there with them so they are safe. Even tho my girls H.A.T.E. snow and hate ice even more, by late January they have had enough of being cooped up and will venture out to sunbathe. I set up a small roost for them on my back patio that is next to the house for a wind break and reflective warmth and so their feet don't get too cold on the concrete. They love to sit up there and catch some rays.
  7. kelidei

    kelidei ~*Dances with chickens*~

    Mar 18, 2009
    Northern Illinois
    There are some really good suggestions here--- one more I would suggest--- I also built a wind block on the north and west sides of my coops and yards--- which helps but I had a similar problem getting them to stay out so I took a couple of the straw bales (one in each run) and broke them up over the snow and frozen ground and--- instant cure! Due to the cold I have been giving them more scratch in the morning--- this seems to keep them busy because the straw makes it more difficult to find the scratch--- they are out there searching a good chunk of the day.... [​IMG]

  8. magsrags

    magsrags Songster

    Aug 12, 2008
    Staten Island NY
    I also suggest as other's have a good dry footing and treats.....treats.....treats..........mine lay me an egg every day right now in this cold....especially if I give them those extra treats. Lettuce...kale.....collards or any other greens turning from your local produce guy. I picked up 2 cases today from my local market because I established a relationship with one of the workers. Imagine...........about 15 lbs. of free/clean greens cause I give him a coupe of $$ each time he hands me some. Worth it's wait in gold come wintertime and no good ranging to have in an urban yard. (that and the darn hawk that has discovered my girls). :<))

    I also give them any cooked meat/grains scraps run through a blencer/grinder when I have some. Seems to me it really pays off if you have a small group to care for. I couldn't do it for a barn full.[​IMG]
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2010

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