How to know when it's too cold?

Agathe

Songster
Jun 1, 2021
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I have chickens that are a mix of Australops and Lohman. As far as I know at least Australops are supposed to be cold hardy. I live in a mild climate in Norway but it's currently quite cold. I don't have any heat in the coop as I've been advised against it. However, a couple of things concerns me. One is that I find they eat less in the cold, not more as I believe they are supposed to. I let them free range and all day they don't go inside to eat, although they know where their food and water is. I keep a heated plate under the water so it doesn't freeze. So I've started putting some feed on the ground for them to make sure they eat some. We have snow and although some strands of grass peek up, there isn't a lot of food to find. I've also seen my two roosters shiver a bit. Not a lot, but I wonder if it is because they are cold? They seem to stand a lot on one food in the snow and I wonder if it is because their feet get cold. Right now it's -3 C in the coop during the day when the door is open, at night it is -1 C when the door is closed. Usually it does stay above freezing but not at the moment. They spend the day outside and don't go back into the coop aside to lay eggs. My original plan was to put heat in the coop if it goes closer to -10 C or thereabout. It is rare out here, but last year we had a few weeks with -15 C so it can happen. Usually it stays above and below freezing, a lot of the time above. I am at the coast, so it doesn't get very cold. One hen might be an Orpington by the way.

Scared they were cold I took some of them on my lap and even the tough rooster seemed to enjoy having a nap on a warm lap. :)
 

3KillerBs

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Don't worry, 0C isn't cold to a chicken because they are wearing built-in down parkas. Chickens are almost always perfectly fine down to 0F -- about -17C.

As long as they have the option of going into a place that is dry and out of the wind a fully-feathered, adult chicken can be trusted to know when to come in out of the weather.

They key to preventing frostbite is to keep the coop DRY -- with excellent, top-level ventilation that allows moisture to escape.

Have you read this article yet? https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/cold-weather-poultry-housing-and-care.72010/
 

saysfaa

Crowing
Jul 1, 2017
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Cold isn't an problem until well below those temperatures as long as they have a dry, well-ventilated coop.

Do they have a light in their coop? They can't eat in the dark; at some point, it is too close to the pole to get enough daylight in the winter for them to eat enough. If they are not staying inside during the day, I would put feeders outside for them. Well, actually, I would look into making the coop as attractive as possible to encourage them to stay inside more but that is only one way to do it - other ways can work very well too.

I don't think liking to nap on your lap means it is too cold for them. Mine like to do that all year.
 

NatJ

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Mar 20, 2017
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I find they eat less in the cold, not more as I believe they are supposed to. I let them free range and all day they don't go inside to eat, although they know where their food and water is. I keep a heated plate under the water so it doesn't freeze. So I've started putting some feed on the ground for them to make sure they eat some.

You could try serving a small amount of their food wet (just add water).
Most chickens really like it that way.

If your chickens do like it, that's an easy way to get a good meal into them once or twice a day. They will tend to stuff their crops full when it is offered, so then it doesn't much matter if they eat less the rest of the day.

It is safe to serve as much wet feed as they want to eat, but of course you don't want to let it sit around and freeze because they cannot eat it very well if it has turned into a block of ice.
 

DobieLover

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I have chickens that are a mix of Australops and Lohman. As far as I know at least Australops are supposed to be cold hardy. I live in a mild climate in Norway but it's currently quite cold. I don't have any heat in the coop as I've been advised against it. However, a couple of things concerns me. One is that I find they eat less in the cold, not more as I believe they are supposed to. I let them free range and all day they don't go inside to eat, although they know where their food and water is. I keep a heated plate under the water so it doesn't freeze. So I've started putting some feed on the ground for them to make sure they eat some. We have snow and although some strands of grass peek up, there isn't a lot of food to find. I've also seen my two roosters shiver a bit. Not a lot, but I wonder if it is because they are cold? They seem to stand a lot on one food in the snow and I wonder if it is because their feet get cold. Right now it's -3 C in the coop during the day when the door is open, at night it is -1 C when the door is closed. Usually it does stay above freezing but not at the moment. They spend the day outside and don't go back into the coop aside to lay eggs. My original plan was to put heat in the coop if it goes closer to -10 C or thereabout. It is rare out here, but last year we had a few weeks with -15 C so it can happen. Usually it stays above and below freezing, a lot of the time above. I am at the coast, so it doesn't get very cold. One hen might be an Orpington by the way.

Scared they were cold I took some of them on my lap and even the tough rooster seemed to enjoy having a nap on a warm lap. :)
-15C isn't too cold.
But their utter avoidance of their coop during the day other than to lay eggs and not eating enough is disconcerting.
I feed half fermented/half dry Flock Raiser year round. I keep the ferment FR in a heated dog bowl so it doesn't freeze. You could try keeping some mash in a heated dog bowl for them. I would leave it out all day to encourage them to eat more.
Do they have a wind sheltered run to seek shelter in where they can still be in the fresh air but off the cold ground on wood chips or straw?
How large is the coop?
You don't want it warm in the coop. It needs to be dry and very well ventilated.
Can you post pictures of the coop, inside and out?
 

3KillerBs

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But their utter avoidance of their coop during the day other than to lay eggs and not eating enough is disconcerting.

Mine rarely spent any time inside the Little Monitor Coop when they could be outside despite the excellent ventilation. They even went out on rainy days at 40F.

But not eating enough during short days is certainly an issue that should be addressed.
 

DobieLover

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Mine rarely spent any time inside the Little Monitor Coop when they could be outside despite the excellent ventilation. They even went out on rainy days at 40F.

But not eating enough during short days is certainly an issue that should be addressed.
Well, yes, but you're in NC, not NY or Norway. We get a tad bit colder in our climates.

I saw, on my coop cam, my entire flock inside the coop just hanging out and preening yesterday morning after I finished chores. It was only 29F but they decided that is where they were going to hang out until it warmed up a bit more. Tarps are up on the run and the wood chips are dry and loose so it's not too cold for them out there. They just preferred to hunker down on the thick bedding of the coop floor vs heading out to the run where the food and water are or outside where they can still find grass to graze.
 

Agathe

Songster
Jun 1, 2021
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Cold isn't an problem until well below those temperatures as long as they have a dry, well-ventilated coop.

Do they have a light in their coop? They can't eat in the dark; at some point, it is too close to the pole to get enough daylight in the winter for them to eat enough. If they are not staying inside during the day, I would put feeders outside for them. Well, actually, I would look into making the coop as attractive as possible to encourage them to stay inside more but that is only one way to do it - other ways can work very well too.

I don't think liking to nap on your lap means it is too cold for them. Mine like to do that all year.
I do have a light in the coop and I even put in a small night lamp for them so they can see even after I turn it off at night because some of the hens start laying before I get up, and when it started getting dark earlier, they couldn't see the nesting boxes and laid their eggs on the floor.

They stay inside the coop when it rains, but seems to prefer to be outside when it's dry.
 

Agathe

Songster
Jun 1, 2021
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-15C isn't too cold.
But their utter avoidance of their coop during the day other than to lay eggs and not eating enough is disconcerting.
I feed half fermented/half dry Flock Raiser year round. I keep the ferment FR in a heated dog bowl so it doesn't freeze. You could try keeping some mash in a heated dog bowl for them. I would leave it out all day to encourage them to eat more.
Do they have a wind sheltered run to seek shelter in where they can still be in the fresh air but off the cold ground on wood chips or straw?
How large is the coop?
You don't want it warm in the coop. It needs to be dry and very well ventilated.
Can you post pictures of the coop, inside and out?
I don't have anything covering the run, like wood chips or straws. I did put in a layer of leaves I raked off the lawn but it is snowed down now. I don't have a sheltered run either. They mostly stay outside the run now anyway when they are allowed to free range and when they aren't wandering around the garden like to hang out by our front door or near the coop area. The coop isn't super big but should be sufficient. When it rains they mostly hang out in there and many of them prefer to do that on the roosts. There are plenty of nesting boxes and also various levels, but not super much floor space if they all decide to hang out on the floor at the same time, which they only usually do in the morning when they wait for me to let them out. I keep the coop as clean as I can given they are chickens, and have a tray under where they roost that I clean off daily. I also always remove wood shavings when it's wet or soiled and put on new. Water is changed daily or more often if needed, food is always available. They normally finish the whole feeder throughout the day, but I find they eat less than that now because they are outside so much. Which doesn't worry me when there is grass and plants to eat, there just isn't now. So I'll give them feed, leftovers, oatmeal sometimes, mealworms and so on outside. Water is hard to keep outside though because it would freeze.

The coop is ventilated but I am considering adding more ventilation to be on the safe side. I see there can sometimes be a bit of moisture on the window, but then the same thing will happen in my house, like in my bedroom when it's cold and I sleep in there, so I'm not sure it means that it's not ventilated enough. During the day the door is open so there should be plenty of air flow in there then at least and no reason for them to avoid it due to it not being dry enough.

They usually go in to sleep earlier than they'd have to, so I'm not sure they're avoiding the coop as such and as I said, when it rains, they'll hardly set foot outside. When it rains a lot and the wind hits the door of the coop, I always close the door to avoid it getting wet in there, otherwise the door is usually left open during the day.
 

Agathe

Songster
Jun 1, 2021
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Thanks so much all of you for your input! I see it's -6 C outside now, which really is unusually cold. It is not uncommon that we have no snow all winter. When I was outside now they had gotten back into the coop without seeming to have gone to bed, so it might have been that I only recently started letting them free range on a daily basis and they just found it exciting. I would let them free range in summer when I was outside to keep an eye on them (so they didn't eat my vegetables), then it rained most of fall. They also sometimes started going outside the fenced in garden and out on the road. There isn't a lot of traffic here, but most people wouldn't expect to suddenly see a chicken on the road, so I got worried they could get run over. With less plants to eat they seem to wander less though and I can more safely let them go as they please.
 

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