How cold is too cold?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by neheskett, Dec 12, 2012.

  1. neheskett

    neheskett New Egg

    May 22, 2012
    HI all, I'm currently raising my first flock - I have six gold star hens that are 6 months old. I have been letting them free range since they were big enough to fend off the barn cats and so far we have had no problems. I went with the gold stars because I was told by the hatchery that they are a hardy breed that can withstand our Minnesota winters.

    My question is, how cold is too cold to let them out to roam? I know they probably aren't finding much by the way of bugs and things to eat, but they still love to forage and I hate to keep them cooped up 24/7. But two days ago we had a really cold, bitter day and four of the six got "stuck" at the neighbors because, I am assuming, they got too cold. We had to go over and get them and carry them home. The two that did come back were acting strange and I had to pick them up and put them back in the barn too. This was in the evening after they'd been out all day, they are always back here at dusk and put themselves in their coop by nightfall.

    I won't let them out if it's going to be too cold for them - but I don't want to keep them enclosed in a tiny coop 24/7 either. So I'm wondering, how cold is too cold? It's supposed to be in the 30's today so I'm going to let them out. Monday it was only in the single digits and it was the first really cold day they've ever seen.
  2. chickencoop789

    chickencoop789 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 1, 2012
    New Jersey
    I think that they should be fine if they have a nice warm place to retreat to. I let my chickens free range 24/7 in sub freezing temps. They have a coop with a heatlamp to go back to but for the past week they all decided they wanted to sleep on top of the grill.
  3. neheskett

    neheskett New Egg

    May 22, 2012
    They do - they've always come home like clockwork, and are roosting happily by nightfall. It was so strange to get home from work (nowadays it's almost dark when I get here) and there were no chickens. I hung up their heat lamp this weekend because I knew the bitter cold was coming.

    I just went out and opened up the door and fed/watered them, lol now they don't want to come out! I think I'll just keep them in on days that it won't get out of the teens. If it's in the 20's or above, I think they'll be ok.
  4. chfite

    chfite Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 7, 2011
    Taylors, SC
    I let mine out everyday. If they choose to stay inside, so be it.

  5. Hillschicks

    Hillschicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 17, 2012
    Only my first year as well so if im wrong so be it... But i agree with chris... Rain snow or sunshine my girls get let out every morning and go back in every evening... Even here in the cold thumb of michigan... Even if they only go out for a minute to check the weather, its good for them to stretch and run for a few... Coop is open if they want to go inside... Only times they dont get out is when we have a predator issue... Hawk on the power pole?? Probably not a good free range day lol
  6. michie74

    michie74 New Egg

    Dec 12, 2012
    This is my first winter with my girls, will they know to head in if their feet get to cold? I don't want them to have frozen feet
  7. Going Quackers

    Going Quackers Overrun With Chickens

    May 24, 2011
    On, Canada
    Mine are out today, also 6mths old.... it's 37F and snowing. Now mine are penned though, one side is totally covered with huge cedars and they have a small wooden box they can go into. If your free ranging i'd be more careful, as you said they already got to far and were to cold to come back now THAT puts them at risk.

    It was -7c(19F) yesterday so i left them in, the ground was froze and it was cold, i felt they weren't going to gain anything from being out but i have a roomy coop and provided greens and so forth to keep them happy!

    It's a judgement call and i think watching your birds is the best way to know how things are going.

    ETa; I should add my girls cannot access the coop they are separate so that does play a role in the choices of either in or out.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2012
  8. Hillschicks

    Hillschicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 17, 2012
    When we got chickens we were suprised hpw warm their feet are... I wouldnt worry about their feet getting too cold, if they dont like it they will try and get out of it... If your worried about cold, focus that worry on large combs and wattles which could frostbite, but i wouldnt even worry about that unless we are talking alaska or some place extra cold for extended periods
  9. MimiChick

    MimiChick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 8, 2009
    Glocester, RI
    What you need to think about is all the wild birds that don't have a nice coop to go into at night. They survive just fine. Chickens have nice little down coats on and will be just fine in cold weather. I'll bet the reason they were at the neighbors has more to do with the darkness than the cold. They probably didn't head for home until it was too dark to see (silly chicks). Also, be very cautious about using any kind of supplemental heat (heat lamp) in your coop. Sometimes it can cause more harm than good. They really don't need it. But if you provide it, then lose power during a storm or something, they won't be prepared for that loss of heat. So please consider that. My chicks are in New England and we get some pretty severe weather here at times, and well below freezing temps. I've never used supplemental heat, and I keep the vents open all winter in the coop. I also give them the option to go out, no matter how cold, by leaving thier pop door open all day. The only time I'll shut them in is if we're having a blizzard or a hurricane. Chickens are pretty hardy, and don't need nearly the coddling we may like to give them.

    Good luck.
    1 person likes this.

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