Flash freeze prediction tonight... Do I heat? or not?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by FiddleChics, Jan 20, 2019.

  1. I'm at the NJ shore with unpredictable January weather. It's my first winter with chickens.
    My gut says stay natural, they'll be fine in the cold... until now. AT the moment, it's a humid 49* F outside (late morning)... But the Gov declared a State of Emergency, because of the winter weather coming in this afternoon. "Flash Freezing" (which i've NEVER heard of before) is predicted, which will drop the temps in a few short hours - to a VERY unusual -11 degrees... which they're not going to be use to!!!

    I've got 10 month old hens, one of which is being treated for an infection. I installed a Cozy Coop radiant heat panel on the wall - this past Fall. I researched it, and it was ranked the safest, lowest, fire risk coop heater out there and had good reviews. I've never used it because I'd rather the girls learn to adapt on their own, but this type of drastic, sudden temperature change may be just too much for them?

    My question is - Which is better:
    1. Would it be better to put the heater on low - all night - and through this unusual bitter cold spell?
    -OR-
    2. Just put it on, warm it up for them... or maybe put it on a timer... to go on/off every few hours to keep the bitter chill a bit more balanced for them?

    I've got good ventilation, and little or no drafts. I also have a little battery temperature & humidity level thermostat in the coop - so I can easily keep track of the humidity - which seems to stay pretty low (so no frost bite chance - I hope).

    This is - again my first winter and if it weren't for my husband... they'd ALL be inside where it's safe and warm... but I can't do that... haha... Any ideas?
     
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    21,856
    8,883
    646
    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    No heater. Rather put emphasis on keeping them dry. Such events i associate with heavy precipitation that can cause roofs to collapse. Keep them ventilated to prevent excessive condensate forming on bedding and birds themselves.
     
  3. WindingRoad

    WindingRoad Songster

    619
    1,310
    183
    Nov 21, 2018
    Maine
    With such a drastic drop in temperatures your birds will be fine. Is that panel electric? What happens when your power goes out. Your birds have a down coat on. They will roost and drape their feathers over their feet. Without knowing your breeds I can say that some combs won't get frostbite because they are very small. The other chickens will tuck their heads under a wing. If you have adequate ventilation they will be fine. I'm sure this won't be your last cold snap.

    As the previous poster stated keep an eye on your roof. Make sure there is no snow or ice on it. I have ventilation in my roof so I don't want to have the snow cover those up.
    We got 10 inches of snow last night and it's still snowing. I cleared of the roof of my hen house right after I fed those squawking birds. LOL They were hungry. 2F they didn't come out in the 10 inches of snow. Smart birds. I did have them out for breakfast at -9f one morning. They ate fast. LOL. Please keep them dry and they will be ok.
     
  4. Thank you @WindingRoad & @centrarchid. Ok that was my gut feeling on this too...but I second guessed myself... I definitely don't want to make them weak, or unable to cope... and I hadn't thought about the power going out... VERY good point. I was just worried with a near 60* drop in temp within just a few hours... that had me concerned... And with one not feeling well too... :( I've seen them when I go out at night, with their little noses tucked in under wings... that makes sense.

    I've got a brandy new coop... just built last April, it's pretty sturdy with a tin roof - but i will DEFINITELY watch for any build up of ice/snow on the roof... The ventilation is really good, and under the eves... beneath the overhang of the roof on one side. Great points from you both, thank you!
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2019
    Wee Farmer Sarah likes this.
  5. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    21,856
    8,883
    646
    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    I am sort of a sissy. When such fronts come through, I go out and check on things every hour or so. I also pop them with some high energy treats just before they go to roost. Such a temperature drop will be stressful. Feed intake may not be what you expect in the morning. Present them with water first thing tomorrow morning but do not be surprised or alarmed if they show now interest in food or water for a day or so after cold hits.
     
  6. Acre4Me

    Acre4Me Crowing

    1,305
    1,942
    256
    Nov 12, 2017
    Western Ohio
    Draft free, well ventilated (dry) coop is most important.

    You are right to be thoughtful about such a sudden drop in temp. It is akin to birds having a heat source which goes off (breaks or power outage) and they have to deal with temps they are unaccustomed to.

    However, your birds will only have these low temps for a day or two- certainly not usual low temps for your area in any year! Because they have a draft free, ventilated coop to use, they will be ok if you do not turn on the heat.

    Since you have the heater, you also should not feel bad about using it for this extreme cold snap -you are not likely to lose power, and if you did, they would not have been accustomed to it yet. Using it just makes their coop a little warmer for them.

    Birds CAN withstand pretty low temps, but a sudden 50degree drop in temp is fairly extreme!

    Either way you go (heat or no heat), your birds will likely be fine.
     
    FiddleChics likes this.
  7. Ok, good info! I check on them all the time too... (I also have little battery cameras inside the coop to make sure everyone's good)... I did get them a heated water bowl and they seem to like that a lot... I don't want to see them stressed... High energy treats... like scratch... ? I usually do that about an hour before dark... anything else you could suggest?
     
    Wee Farmer Sarah likes this.
  8. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    21,856
    8,883
    646
    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Heated water bowl will introduce moisture into system when it is already condensing. Either turn it off or make certain you have good ventilation. I would turn it off until weather stabilizes.
     
  9. WindingRoad

    WindingRoad Songster

    619
    1,310
    183
    Nov 21, 2018
    Maine
    Meal worms High protein. Check their crops. Should be full they will expend energy, read warm up, digesting. I always give my birds a bedtime snack. Also, drastic temps happen often here in Maine. We had some bitterly cold weather in Maine in NOV. and lots of snow to boot. Many years we don't even have a white Christmas. It was 30F here on Friday. Over night minus temps. The chickens will adapt. I worry about power outages. Are they predicting high winds. That can topple trees and power poles. And transformer can blow at anytime. A motorist hits a power pole Opps power out.
     
    meetthebubus, Abriana and FiddleChics like this.
  10. WindingRoad

    WindingRoad Songster

    619
    1,310
    183
    Nov 21, 2018
    Maine
    Also check for condensation on the walls and ceiling. NO WET WALLS or CEILINGS.
     
    FiddleChics likes this.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: