Dogs, cats, chickens, and the COLD...a question.

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by teach1rusl, Jan 8, 2010.

  1. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    I’m curious as to why some people say you shouldn’t provide any heat source for chickens because it’s bad for them, or that the temperature difference will make them sick. My dogs transition between 70 degrees and 10 degrees with no ill effects, as do my cats. They wear fur coats 24/7, and they seem to appreciate having a warm place to go (based on how much more time they choose to spend inside the house when it's really cold). And yes, I know they are mammals and my chickens are birds…

    I’m one of the minority who does try to maintain my girls coop above freezing. It typically stays between 34-40 degrees in there. The cost is my worry, just as spending money on my dogs and cats is. So far, their pop door has been opened for them every day, to give them the opportunity to go outside to their little porch area or into the run, which they usually take advantage of for short periods of time if there’s no snow on the ground. We've been having lows in the single digits, highs maybe to the mid 20s. I clean soiled bedding and scrape their dropping boards daily, and the humidity stays well below 50%...19% at last check. I have seen no ill effects from them having a warmer, more comfortable area to hang out...

    So why/how is it supposedly bad for their health???

    Here are my girls yesterday morning, after I cleared a patch of snow and threw down a bit of hay so they could reach their cabbage head...I think it was about 15 degrees.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. lilcrow

    lilcrow Chillin' With My Peeps

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    It's not the change in temperature that's the problem for the chickens, or giving them warmth making them "soft" or spoiled or anything like that; the problem is condensation. As I understand it, and I'm only sharing with you what I've read from BYC posts as I've never tried it myself; when you supply heat to a cold coop, you generally end up with moisture collecting on the walls, ceiling, etc. Chickens are very susceptible to respiratory problems, and the condensation and warmth gives mold and other nasties a perfect medium for growth, then bingo you've got sick chickens. I'm sure if you can offer a heat source with plenty of ventilation so there is NO chance for moisture to collect or develop there would be no problem with taking the chill off the coop. You just need to stay vigilant about the condition and always check the surface of everything. When I'm feeding, I take my gloves off for a bit to handle and touch things just to make sure I know what the conditions are. I want to know if there's ice or dampness that I can't feel with my gloves on.
    Your coop is enviable, there's nothing wrong with spoiling your chickens or your dogs and cats as far as I'm concerned. I do the same thing.
    My only regret is that I don't have more money to do a better job with. [​IMG]
     
  3. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    It's also my understanding that the "toughening up" young chicks process is the phase where you have to worry about the differences in temperatures. Having young chicks a few weeks old go from warm brooder to cold coop is the problem. They need time to acclimate, with some outside time not too cold in comparison to their brooder temp, before they are put outside full time without supplemental heat.

    Chicks fully feathered but coddled (for lack of a better word) in warm temps that are suddenly thrust outside - because they gots all theys feathers now - to much colder temps full time can suffer adverse affects.
     
  4. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    35 F to 15 F is not much of a temperature difference at all. I don't think you'll find much of anyone on BYC who'll tell you *that's* likely to cause problems. (Althought here are other inherent downsides to heating the coop, IMHO)

    What people are mostly talking about, w/r/t to the ill effects of temperature differences in/out, is much larger differences, like between 35 F and - 15 F or even larger. I know that housepets go in and out (to some extent) between those temperatures and survive, but my observation with horses in heated barns is that they do rather poorly healthwise when turned out or exercised in weather *much* colder than their stall. Also, people who live in regions where the weather can be "60 F daytime, 30 F nighttime" one day and plummet to "20 F daytime, -15 F nighttime" the next day can attest that animals often DO have problems with that sort of thing.

    Thus I would be pretty cautious with it with chickens too.

    Do what you think is right.... but I hope people are basing their decisions on personal experimentation and observation, not just on an abstract or emotion-based theory clung to without serious examination of what chickens DO under different conditions.

    Good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  5. chookchick

    chookchick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:That is the point that I take issue with...the assumption is that the chickens are more "comfortable" in a warmer coop, and it seems to me that this is mostly based on the posters own feelings about the outside temperatures, and not on any objective observation of the chickens. I have not found this to be the case with my chickens. They are far more concerned with whether it is raining or snowing than with the temperatures.

    The multitude of posts from those in very cold climates, with happy healthy chickens (and usually many years of experience with them), proves to me that they are indeed able to survive and thrive in colder temps. When people say "I want to treat them like pets, rather than just livestock--like some people do", the implication is that those who don't heat, don't care for their pets properly. I find this slightly offensive, as if those who don't heat, don't care about their chickens, and don't try to make them comfortable.

    If you want to heat, and spend the money to do so, that is your prerogative. I myself have used a small wattage bulb in the past to keep their water unfrozen. I just don't understand why one would risk burning down their coop with a 250 watt heat bulb, to get the temperature inside up from 20 degrees, when it really is not necessary. The incidence of frostbite seems to be much more correlated with lack of ventilation than with cold, in fact "near freezing" temps (rather than colder) may be the most dangerous.

    Acclimation is a whole other issue, probably much more relevant to those who bring them indoors...
     
  6. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    I'm very vigilent about monitoring my girls conditions, because they really are pets to me, plus they give me "Chicken Therapy," just hanging out with them relaxes me. I use an old weather station sensor in their coop so that I can monitor things from the house. Plus I'm out there several times a day. Since I just have a few chickens, I pick up droppings/soiled bedding I see anytime I'm out there, so it's really more than once per day. I think having more space with less chickens helps w/humidity too. It did get up to 57% one night several weeks back when we had some torrential rains, but that was the only time it made it above 50%....it's usually 40% or below.
    And I'll take the advice of avoiding chicken saunas and overnight bahamas cruises for my girls...and offer just a little warmth for their birdie tootsies and for my hiney when I'm out visiting them...
    If spoiling them is the worse thing I'm doing to their health, then I can live with that... [​IMG]
     
  7. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    "That is the point that I take issue with...the assumption is that the chickens are more "comfortable" in a warmer coop, and it seems to me that this is mostly based on the posters own feelings about the outside temperatures, and not on any objective observation of the chickens. I have not found this to be the case with my chickens. They are far more concerned with whether it is raining or snowing than with the temperatures."


    I can only speak for myself. I have and do observe my chickens quite often. So when I observe my young girls choosing to hang out in the coop moreso than stay outside, that's the logical conclusion I make. Their pop door is left open during the day. Now, they don't like snow, but even before the snow hit, other than a quick visit to the chicken porch or to gobble up a little scratch I might throw down to lure them out, they would head back to the coop until it warmed up a bit outside. If there's no or very little wind, they will venture out for longer periods of time when it gets around 20F, but they still don't stay out for long periods. That tells me that MY girls don't care for very cold weather. Maybe my girls are wusses...or maybe it's because they're younger. I guess I'll find out next winter...


    "The multitude of posts from those in very cold climates, with happy healthy chickens (and usually many years of experience with them), proves to me that they are indeed able to survive and thrive in colder temps. When people say "I want to treat them like pets, rather than just livestock--like some people do", the implication is that those who don't heat, don't care for their pets properly. I find this slightly offensive, as if those who don't heat, don't care about their chickens, and don't try to make them comfortable."

    Some people may, but I certainly am not pointing fingers at people. I know people who love their dogs and/or cats, but don't want them in the house. If they provide adequate shelter, food, and water for them, I certainly don't think they don't care about their animals. I grew up with outside dogs, and we loved them a lot. My dogs now are indoor/outdoor because that's what I want. My chickens are housed the way they are because that's what I want. Funny you should say that though, because I've kind of felt the same way, in reverse, like anyone who says they're going to provide a little heat for their chickens gets jumped on here on BYC...like they're doing some wrong that's detrimental to the chicken's health (which combined with other factors could be in some cases). I think there are many different levels/attitudes of animal ownership here on BYC...from basic livestock (probably w/barely adequate shelter, food, water), to basic livestock w/strong sense of responsibility toward animals, to "love my animals, but hey, they're still animals," all the way up to spoiled rotten....and everything in between. I'm not gonna dress my dogs up in clothing, but some people do (heck, some people dress their chickens up in clothing...lol).
     
  8. fancbrd4me02

    fancbrd4me02 Chillin' With My Peeps

    All I know is comfortable chickens lay more. Tells you all you need to know. If you heat your pen and they are acting normal, not getting sick and laying, you are doing okay. Lots of people don't heat thier pens, but then again there are a lot of cold related health issues that occur (frostbite, frozen limbs, freezing deaths). You need to use your own judgement. If condensation is a problem, then if you heat you should put in a dehumidifier of something like that. Do what you want with your chickens, and observe & change if need be. Chicken keeping is a learning experience that never ends. Many things depend on the birds you have, the sort of buildings you have constructed, where you live, etc. I would say that if you can heat your chicken pens and do so without condensation issues than why wouldn't you? You would probably get more eggs, or need less feed (chickens burn less energy).
     
  9. stephhassler

    stephhassler Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I think this may have more to do with the individual chicken than anything else. I am in Iowa, and if you have been watching the news you know how cold it is here. Today the expected low is -35 degrees with the wind chill. It's been like this for many days. Each morning I get up and think, there is no way the chickens are going to leave the coop in this cold. But I go out there and open up the door for them and out they come. They walk in and out of the coop all day long, despite below zero temps. My coop is not heated, but it is certainly warmer inside the coop than being out in the below zero wind chill.

    In other words, my chickens don't seem to mind the cold and snow at all, and rather seem to like being outside no matter the temp. If your chickens don't like the cold or snow, then why not let them stay inside or give them a little heat - so long as it doesn't hurt their health.

    I got home a little late last night - around 5:30 pm and it was already dark. So, I had to feel around in the nest boxes for the eggs, because it was too dark to see. Some of the nest boxes had hens inside them, bedded down for the night. I was amazed at how warm it was inside those nests. Their ability to stay warm in below zero temps is almost mind boggling.
     
  10. mdbokc

    mdbokc Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 22, 2009
    Oklahoma County, OK
    And that point about the individual chicken is the key. With our weather shifts based upon whether it is a north wind or south wind, the shifts are quick and dramatic. When in NE, I don't recall mine having the reactions to the changes experienced here (Duh...we didn't have the changes we do here). I have a couple who when the temps are below 20 and it is windy, they get chilled. I can pick them up after they have hunkered down, they are not warm beneath the feathers and they are shaking/trembling. Put them inside so they can warm up, out of the wind, and they are visibly more relaxed. Coop temp is same as outside but no wind.

    But they have liked their little 50W lamps at night on these single digit nights. That is obvious to us. We'll be back to near 50 degrees in 36 hours and -25 wind chills will be gone...for now.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2010

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