Few questions about chickens in the cold

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by TwistedSerpent, Nov 20, 2010.

  1. TwistedSerpent

    TwistedSerpent Songster

    Apr 28, 2010
    So I have a flock of about 25 13 week olds, two older bantams and an older hen. I live in Montana and we were just smacked by winter. This is my first winter with chickens so I'm still learning a lot. The coop has plenty of ventilation and is a few degrees warmer, plus I have a heat lamp on for them. Our temps are in the single digits here and its still below freezing in there. Yesterday I went in to check on them only to find my bantam rooster dead under the roost, and his hen fluffed up as much as possible and barely moving. The rest of the chickens seem cold but fine. I pick him up and notice he was still breathing and moving alittle, so I quickly brought him and the hen inside, got them warmed up then stuck a heat pad under. She was standing but very lethargic, he was just laying there but was starting to twitch and shiver.

    I left them in the dining room and went to work, when I came home he was sitting up much more alert and she seemed much more comfortable but very tired. I left a little food and water out for them and went to bed. This morning they are both fully awake and moving around, eating and drinking. The rooster is very shakey but he is up and alert and hobbling around a bit. Not sure what I'm going to do with them I'll deal with the poop for a few days but I dont want them inside or even in the garage pooping everywhere, however of course I'm not going to stick up back outside to freeze to death again. Any suggestions?

    So back out into the coop this morning, 4 of the younger chickens dead it actually almost looks like they were trampled by others trying all trying to smush under the lamp. They were all birds we were planing on butchering anyways so I dont feel quite as bad, I am wondering if it is safe to salvage what meat we can from them now?

  2. HorseFeatherz NV

    HorseFeatherz NV Eggink Chickens

    Does sound like the birds are too cold, and the little ones sound smashed from trying to huddle for warmth.

    You can try a higher wattage bulb for more heat. Last year I ran a small oil heater in the coop - kept it just above freezing (34). This year I am hoping I have enough birds not to have to do it. We did fine until one night it dropped to minus 29 degrees (had some frozen combs then), the night before had been 30 degrees.

    It could also be not enough feed during the day and before roost time - it takes lots of feed for them to heat their bodies. Or poor water intake, making their bodies perform poorly. Sounds silly but what I like to do is bring hot water out with me and I pour it over their feed - pellets or crumbles - pour lots of water and let the food soak it up. (not too hot, you can give them crop burns from the water being too hot)

    My girls - chicks to adults - really like this "soup" and will eat a great amount before bed. I also feed this soup in the morning. Another thing, for your older birds, check them over really good for lice/mites. Often lice eggs can be seen, clumped on feather shafts, close to the body of the bird in the vent area. Lice/mites will suck the life right out of a bird and make them very weak - making the cold harder to deal with.

    As for the dead chicks, I would not eat it myself - but I would harvest them for the dogs (or cats if you have any).
  3. True Grit

    True Grit Songster

    Maybe you could close up some of the ventilation in case there is a wind blowing on them. Is your coop insulated? If not could you put straw bales around it? I'm glad you were able to save your bantams.
  4. abhaya

    abhaya Songster

    Nov 5, 2010
    cookeville, tn
    feed them corn before bed. The birds body will generate heat from the corn they will stay warmer.

  5. Sooner

    Sooner My kids Mom!

    Mar 22, 2009
    I would cut down on some of the ventilation (not all) & provide an additional heat lamp. What kind of litter are you using on the floor or the coop? If you have nothing down you might search for the deep litter method.
  6. cybercat

    cybercat Songster

    May 22, 2007
    Greeneville, Tn
    Do not close up venaltion unless you want frostbite. But do put in more heat lamps. 13 weeks old is not old enough for your cold weather plus if they are bantams they need more help with the heat. Just make sure you have no drafts down low where the chicks are or where they perch. As long as venaltion is up high you should be OK heat rises so do not venalted down low for that would let too much cold in.
  7. stoo

    stoo In the Brooder

    Jul 20, 2010
    I would also suggest to feed some cracked corn to them as a supplement because this helps them create heat for themselves.

  8. Carrie Lynn

    Carrie Lynn Songster

    Aug 30, 2010
    S.E. Michigan
    You mentioned the roo was hobbling----frostbite toes?
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2010
  9. TwistedSerpent

    TwistedSerpent Songster

    Apr 28, 2010
    I am using deep litter, only the two I have inside now are bantams, the rest seem fully feathered but could the not have the needed down and under fluff yet? I think he was hobbling moreso from recovering as his feet look fine.

    Had to bring in a young barred rock before he died this morning, it looks like he's missing clumps of flight feathers.

  10. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging 8 Years

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri

    Make certain more than enough feed is present. Are they keeping their weight on? How frequently can they get water?

    In respect to feed, those with lots of fat may prove better for heat generation than those high in carbohydrates. Carbohydrate rich foods do produce more heat associated with the digestion process but heat generated from metabolism is greater. If volume of feed intake maxed out, then further compensation in terms increased energy intake possible by increasing nutrient density, especially in terms of energy. Fat has about 2.5 times more energy than carbohydrates. Try supplementing feedings with fat trimmings or even lard. If they have need, they will consume these foods.

    What are birds roosting on? Material?

    Can birds huddle together when roosting?

    Might consider providing nesting boxes for birds to roost in. With straw. I suspect they will retreat to such locations even during day.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2010

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