Extreme Cold (below zero) winter poultry care??

Discussion in 'Pictures & Stories of My Chickens' started by SouthDakotan, Feb 10, 2012.

  1. I'm interested in finding out what other poultry hobbyists are doing that deal with extreme cold (below zero) winters? I'm not referring to a "dip" late at night to below zero. I'm talking about the arctic blast that stays for days, sorta COLD!

    I deal with FROZEN heated dog dishes that formerly had drinking water! Its 'thawed' slush at the bottom, IF the chickens can break through the two inches of ice build up that happens each day.

    I'm talking frozen eggs within a short time of laying if the heat lamp isn't almost ON the eggs!

    So I'm really interested in what people are doing to cope with this sort of cold.

    How are you feeding? What are you feeding? Especially those feeding their own feed mixes, and not the commercial mix of unknown recipe.

    I'm considering raising meal worms and crickets and soldier fly larvae in summers, but how to I "preserve" that harvest so I can feed the protein in winter? Bugs don't live in winter in these temps! And they can't live in my house either since my home isn't warm enough either!

  2. featherz

    featherz Veggie Chick 8 Years

    Mar 22, 2010
    Saratoga County, NY
    Hmm.. my heated dog dishes never froze up, even at -20+. I do deep litter to help warm up the coops. I do use commercial feed, but if it's REALLY cold I'll make it into a warm mash. I also supplement with warm oatmeal, scrambled eggs, etc.
    This year hasn't been bad for temps, but last year we stayed well below zero for weeks on end.. all the chickens were fine without much special. Some peeps feed high carbo feed like cracked corn right before 'bedtime' - not sure if that's a myth or not, but the chickens would like it! :)

    There are several peeps from Alaska on the board that will probably have some good answers for you! :)
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2012
  3. project7030

    project7030 Chirping

    Apr 28, 2011
    South Central Montana
    Im in Montana. Havent had many below zero days, but a few. My coop is insulated, and I use deep litter too. Also under the coop is open for the chickens so I stack straw bales around for a little extra insulation. I have a heat lamp in the coop too, and when its negative temps, I have a heater fan hanging from the ceiling. Stays pretty cozy. It might be overkill, but I spoil em. :)

  4. project7030

    project7030 Chirping

    Apr 28, 2011
    South Central Montana
    Oh and I keep the water inside the coop.

  5. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Crowing Premium Member

    Keeping chickens in a brutal climate is hard on the keeper. I also use dog dishes, but place a small pail of water into the dish. Thus, I'm just using the dish as a heating device. Feeding them well is essential. They simply need more calories to make body heat. Collecting eggs is a pain. Three times a day to prevent freezing. It is what it is.

    Here's the thing, Before the advent of top laying, winter laying breeds and in the absence of lighting devices, there was very little egg laying in winter months. Today, we want winter eggs, we keep breeds that lay better in the winter, so we have painted ourselves into this corner, to a large degree.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2012
    1 person likes this.
  6. 400constantne

    400constantne In the Brooder

    Jan 30, 2012
    a deep litter helps, also having an area in the coop with less "airspace" and a light on.
    1 person likes this.
  7. Oh, my water was inside the coop all winter... but that wasn't enough to keep it from freezing. That's why I'm trying to figure out some additional measures. By the time I bucket HOT water to the poultry, its "cool" and so I'm wondering if Cattle can have heated tanks, that keep the ice off, why not poultry? Is it simply because the body of water is smaller and thus the heating elements aren't suitable for the space?

    Today our "high" was about 10 degrees. So in times like this is it just better to plan to water your chickens twice a day and not expect them to have water "on demand"?

  8. Andrea, is there really anything called overkill in sub-zero temps? I don't think of it as spoiling them. I think its good management of your animals. I wish I could have more birds which would help produce adequate body heat to keep each other warm, but that's not an option.

    I've been planning with the new coop to have it completely insulated but with vents for summer heat reduction. But I've been also thinking of some not so common options... like a solar panel for heat. I figure I really don't want to depend on the grid more, but I want to make sure my animals are having to consume huge amounts of energy just to stay at body weight. There is enough egg loss in winter to freezing and lower production rates, no need to loose more to higher stress in winter.

    I've been looking at "heat sink" walls to go together with my solar panel and also I'm looking at some windows facing south in the enclosed winter run, to allow the girls plenty of sunlight since it seems Winters we get plenty of sunshine, but temps that just don't match the sunshine! My though is to take reclaimed aluminum windows with screens and storms and install them so that I can raise or lower the storms depending on the weather. If its warmer weather, I can open all the windows and let the air flow thru. But in colder then cold weather, I can close em down and let the sun in, but not the arctic blasts that we often experience. I'm aware the amount of sunlight affects birds production and health. I'm not so much concerned with production as I'm game to reducing it for their own health. But I do want them to be healthy mentally and I know how I feel and my husband during our short days and long dark nights.

    so, perhaps I am "spoiling them". [​IMG] but health birds are healthy birds[​IMG]
  9. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Crowing Premium Member

    I suspect that not all heated dog dishes are created equal. The dishes I am using keep a small, one gallon pail of water, without icing over, down to -20F.

  10. Snozzle

    Snozzle Songster

    Dec 16, 2011
    Tri-Cities Tennessee
    This weather is insane. Last weekend it was 60 degrees and I was running around in a t-shirt even at night and tonight it's -16. I got an extra heat lamp for the brooders in the garage, the older guys water slushed up last night, even though they are almost old enough to go out, just not in this cold. My 2 bantams are in a large hutch and I wrapped it up with a tarp to keep the wind off them and I stuffed it full with hay. I worked a double last yesterday and didn't check on their water, I figured I had them wrapped up so well it shouldn't have frozen so quick since they are in a sunny spot during the day and it wasn't that cold when I left. This morning I checked and the waterer had busted. I gave them a dish with water and my poor little hen was so thirsty that she hopped up on my arm trying to drink from the dish, those two aren't usually that tame. The weather here changes so fast, you can have a 40 degree drop within a few hours, it's impossible to prepare for anything. I have tried different materials of water dishes, additives, different locations and even wrapping them with pipe insulation wrap and so far everything froze. All I can do is change the water twice a day until I have the better insulated coop set up which has been stuck in the mud or frozen to the ground and impossible to move for about a month now. I am so ready for spring :barnie

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