Montana Cold Weather and Letting My Chickens Free Range

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Realsoccr, Nov 19, 2011.

  1. Realsoccr

    Realsoccr New Egg

    Nov 19, 2011
    The birds I have are heavy dual-purpose breeds that we got specifically for withstanding the Cold of Montana winter weather. We currently have 1 foot of snow on the ground and the weather is 16-20 degrees F during the day. Our 16 birds are cooped up in their little covered chicken run. Before the snow hit, they were completely free range during the day. I am wondering if I should leave their run door open daily so they can choose to adventure outside if they wish. I am concerned, though that their feet might get frostbitten or if they get stuck in the snow and not have sense enough to make it back to the coop. Does anyone else live in a similar climate and what do you do to prevent cabin fever among your birds and keep them from freezing? Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2011
  2. Peachesbabychick

    Peachesbabychick Chillin' With My Peeps

    I am in the same boat! Looking for results to!
  3. Attila the Hen

    Attila the Hen Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 6, 2010
    Blue Ridge GA
    Last year we got snowed in for several weeks, which was alot for us. The chickens refused to leave their coop for a full week. Finally, they got tired and had a walk about, but mostly they didn't care for the snow. I would leave the door open and let them decide what they want to do. They are smarter than you think. You might clear an area outside their coop for them and put down some hay so they can move around more. Also, as you no doubt have seen here, you can put vaseline on their combs to prevent frostbite. There's lots of information on the forum. Look under heating coops where they will discuss the dangers of insufficient ventilation and moisture build up which you do not want to have--the moisture causes frostbite.
    I feel so sorry for you and that is why I am in the beautiful south. I don't do cold.
  4. wyododge

    wyododge Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 30, 2011
    We let ours out. We don't have a run. Frostbite on their feet is not an issue, think pheasant and wild birds, they have the same feet. If the snow gets real deep the will not venture out in it.

    It's hard to say if I would leave the run open, not sure of your situation, predators, city/country setting, pretty safe to say if you let them out before, they are fine now though. I live in the country, mine roam all over. We are in the Big Horn Basin. I assure you, they wont freeze .
  5. Azriel

    Azriel Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 19, 2010
    I open my coop door daily and let the chickens decide if they want to go out or not. They don't like to go out in the snow so I keep an area snow free for them. The spring pullets are funny, they wil fly out of the run, hit the snow, let out a few squawks, and fly back in. If you have trees they can go under where it stays snow free, they will still go out and scratch arround a bit. Unless they are not getting enough to eat, or are old or sick they will not freeze.
  6. karlamaria

    karlamaria Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 30, 2011
    Western montana
    My girls have a nice carpeted roost, they love it for there feet, and we have a covered run totally covered so no snow gets in. I open up the coop door and they come out into the pen to eat, some times I see a few in the coop on the perch but most of the time there in the pen . I also open the pen and they come out in the snow and snack on what's piping through . They usually go to the sides of the porch where no snow is to snack.
  7. mstricer

    mstricer Overrun With Chickens

    Feb 12, 2009
    Here are my chickens last year. As you can see by the paths in the snow they don't mind, Just as long as its not snowing or the wind is blowing they went out. [​IMG]
  8. Felony

    Felony Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 16, 2011
    Quebec, Canada
    I has not snowed that much here, so I can't say how they'll behave when there's gonna be many inches of snow, but for now, with the snow blanket on the frozen ground, the chickens still walk around and find seeds to eat and stuff to scratch...sometimes they go back to their coop, get a drink of water and some food, and roam around again. I'm letting them free range these days mostly because the roof over their run is under construction and they can fly out of the run anyways...but for cabin fever when they will be left in their run when I'm working, I'll try to let straw on the ground and throw scratch or food in it to keep them busy and their blood flowing...hang some greens and apples in the coop, hang suet baskets in the run (thanks backyard poultry mag for the idea) and let them free range as much as possible when I'm around to watch over them...(I live in the woods, lots of predators)...other then that I guess you could also throw food in the bedding in the coop, maybe even some mealworms for extra exitement...I guess the best is to try to keep them busy so they move, kind of like us, when we don't move in the winter we get cold fast!!

    good luck and if you're worried about their cold feet (I admit I am a bit too) I was thinking of leaving some roosts off the ground here and there where they hang out the most in the yard, to give them a brake from the frozen ground, maybe find a place that's naturally protected from wind and in the sun!!
  9. 7L Farm

    7L Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 22, 2010
    Anderson, Texas
    Chickens don't get cold. They don't like the wind blowing on them who does. They do get hot.
  10. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    If there's a foot of snow down, I'd shovel a path for them and let them make the choice to venture out or not. I take it your run is covered, since they're going out into that?? Unless it's packed down hard enough for them to walk on top of, I can't see your birds venturing out into snow a foot deep unless you've cleared an area for them. I would keep them in the run if you know of a big snow storm blowing in too, just so nobody gets stranded [​IMG]

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