Keeping hens healthy in very cold, harsh winter

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by SDmommy, Dec 30, 2015.

  1. SDmommy

    SDmommy New Egg

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    Dec 30, 2015
    South Dakota
    Hello everyone,

    My husband and I ranch in central South Dakota. It gets extremely cold here in the winter (frequent days/weeks in single digits or below zero).We recently added laying hens to our ranch (this past summer). We used an insulated shed for their coop, and my husband built them an outdoor run. We originally fed them layer feed and some oyster shells, and then placed a scratch block in their coop, and they did very well. When very cold weather hit, we bought them a heated waterer, but lost two chickens right away. We then added a heat lamp to the coop, and on the recommendation of a friend, upped their scratch grains and added feather fixer. Anyway, we haven't lost anymore, and they are eating/drinking well, but they still look a bit rough and they haven't been laying many eggs. Any additional tips for helping laying hens maintain their health in very cold weather? Should I be altering their coop in any other way? Feeding something different? Thanks in advance!

    Ginny
     
  2. 406Jen

    406Jen Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 22, 2015
    I'm in my first winter with birds as well (SW Montana - a fellow Narnia dweller ;) )....what's the run setup? Is it completely enclosed/covered? Do you have plastic to guard from the wind to prevent gusts?

    I've learned that my run (5x9, covered, wrapped in doubled-up 6 mil plastic) is a happier place for the girls now that the wind can't get at them. The actual temp is very low, but they're able to stay comfy by fluffing themselves up.

    I've also added a very large branch across one corner, and a wood pallet that I have propped up on one side about a foot. That lets them sit on their feet while roosting during the day to stay cozy.

    I'm getting 2-3 eggs/day, no additional light or heat in the coop.
     
  3. 406Jen

    406Jen Out Of The Brooder

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    Mar 22, 2015
    oh - also - I give them about 1/2 c of cracked corn around 4 pm, right before sunset, to help them stay warm. That, and constant access to water, is what I really rely on.
     
  4. SDmommy

    SDmommy New Egg

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    Dec 30, 2015
    South Dakota
    Thanks for the tips! Through his construction work, my husband essentially acquired a number of chain link fence panels, which we ran between posts that we drove into the ground. It is covered by several large plastic tarps that are screwed into the posts, but it is open through the fences on the side. Covering the fence is something I hadn't thought of, but would certainly protect them from gusts and snow blowing in. Luckily their spot is situated between the house, a grove of trees, and the barn, so it has some windbreak, but it definitely doesn't completely protect them, and do suffer from gusts when they are out in the run - thanks for the advice...I'm going to mention this to the hubby!
     
  5. Chicken girl 15

    Chicken girl 15 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I live in NY so we have cold as well. Do you have any air flow in the coop? Windows open about an inch at the top or vents up top? They HAVE to have circulation with outside air. It helps keep the humidity down and the dryer their environment the better. Try also fermented feed. It helps them absorb more of the nutrients. The heat lamp should be turned off and removed to prevent fire. All it takes is a mouse knocking it over into a pile of something and poof, bye bye birdies. If you cover and wrap the run make sure to leave air flow . Also if you cover the run you could use it as a "greenhouse " and spread seed under a milk crate or 2. If it grows uncover it and they have fresh winter greens.

    BTW, I'm also a first year chicken owner. I spend lots of time researching and experimenting. Good luck.
     
  6. KCAmelia

    KCAmelia Chillin' With My Peeps

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    May 31, 2015
    We are in missouri and don't have near your cold temps, but I did put a tarp on the north side of our run fence. It blocks their pop door and their feeder from wind. I feed mine scratch in the late afternoon, too.

    Are you sure the coop has no drafts that would blow on them directly on the roosts? And I know sometimes drastic temp changes are too much for them, even if they can cope with the low, low temps once acclimated.

    That's all I can think of!
     
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    My Coop
    How old are birds and can you post some pics of your coop inside and out?
     

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