Hens hate going out in the snow even to get water and treats

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by FreeBirthMama, Nov 19, 2014.

  1. FreeBirthMama

    FreeBirthMama In the Brooder

    Sep 3, 2014
    We had our first snow a few days ago and my wimpy hens refuse to go out of the coop. When I opened the door the first snowy morning, they all ran out as usual, but when they saw the snow they stopped and fell over each other trying to back up the ramp. (it was quite funny to watch actually) Their water is out in the run, it our well overflow so it never freezes. I don't keep water in the coop. The water is only about 6 feet from the ramp and I shoveled a 4 foot wide path to it. I've now covered that part of the run so very little snow falls there. The past couple of days I've had to go into the coop and shoo the girls out the door twice a day to make sure they were drinking. Today there is a light dusting of snow, not enough to be able to shovel, and they won't go out at all! Only one of my Barred Rocks ventured out. The others won't even be herded out, they act like I'm trying to push them into the fire!

    The other factor that may be complicating things is that we had our first hawk attack the day before the snow. One of my sweet girls was injured and we had to euthanize her. The other hens found cover and escaped, but they hid for a long time before we found them and brought them back to the coop. So I don't know for sure if this behaviour is simply the snow, or if they are still wary of the hawk. The fact that they all tried to run out the first day but stopped when they saw the snow makes me think the hawk is not a factor. They have still been laying as well as they did before the hawk fiasco.

    Is this normal? Can I do anything to convince them the snow is safe? All the breeds I have are known to be cold climate tolerant. Do I have to put water in the coop? I don't know how to keep it from freezing in there as we do not have electricity.
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    That’s one of the problems this time of year, water. At least you’ve found a way to keep yours from freezing, so you are way ahead in that part of the game.

    When mine wake up to snow, they typically don’t want to have anything to do with it for a couple of days. Usually after a few days however some or all will get brave and try it, then it is no big deal. It doesn’t hurt them to walk in it, it’s just that they don’t like change and waking up to a white world is change. I’ve had some outside when it started snowing and they never went in. Mine don’t like a blowing cold wind at all and will not go out in that, but a calm cold is not a problem.

    If you can rig up something to keep snow off a path to the water, they should do OK. The way snow blows sometimes that can be a challenge. Or try scattering some straw, wood chips, or shavings on the snow to give them something not quite as strange to walk on. Probably use whatever you use for bedding in the coop. And block wind if that is an issue. Mine like a summer breeze but really hate a cold wind.
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I shovel part of my run, no solid cover, and throw a thin layer of straw.....that gets them out there.
    Some are more tolerant of actually walking on the snow than others.
    I also throw scratch out, that gets the more reluctant ones moving.
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    When feed intake drops during cold weather, then interest in water takes a nose dive. Also, how certain are you that birds are not approaching water source when you are not looking or consuming snow. Mine consume snow and ice in a big way, especially when bored by confinement to cover patches associated with deep snow.
  5. FreeBirthMama

    FreeBirthMama In the Brooder

    Sep 3, 2014
    Over the last few days they seem to be a little more at ease coming out, but they rarely do unless I go to the run and call them out. I can see the run from the main windows of my house, so I can usually see them if they do venture out on their own. Only a few of them ever do, the same few each time. Some do eat the snow, but they have to come out to get it, and then they are so close to the water I'm not worried. They are still laying well, in spite of the cold, shorter days, and the hawk scare so I guess they must still be happy enough! I'm going to put a wind break along the North and West fences. Its kind of funny that the most likely hens to venture out are the younger ones, in their first winter. Last years hens are more reluctant even though they have experienced winter already. I don't know what their winter situation was like though as they only came to me this summer.

    Thanks for easing my mind!

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