Secrets to keeping chickens in extreme weather

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by PaulaJoAnne, Dec 2, 2009.

  1. PaulaJoAnne

    PaulaJoAnne Songster

    Jul 30, 2009
    I thought it would be a good idea to share a few things we have figured out, with regards to keeping chickens in Alaska.
    Our chicken coop is insulated, and the roosts are 2x6s, allowing the chickens to cover their feet fully at night.
    We have only 5 nest boxes, even though we have 35 layers. This prevents eggs from freezing on days that we are gone, and not able to gather them periodically.
    The eggs are being sat on all day using this method.

    On top of the nest boxes, sits a small ceramic space heater.
    When the tempatures dip below zero, we turn it on low. When the temps are more then minus 10, the heater is on high.

    This does not truly heat the coop, but it brings the tempature up enough, to prevent the chickens from getting frostbite, or, even from freezing to death.

    In addition to the barley and fishmeal mix that we feed them, we suppliment them to make up for the lack of extra protein and greens that summer free ranging normally provides.
    They are given 2-3 cups of sunflower seeds in the shell, 3 cups of soaked alfalfa pellets, a few tbls of crushed egg shells, and all the kitchen scraps.
    They also receive about 1 cup of grit mixed into their food, and a couple of quarts of plain old dirt.

    The coop is also lit by two 65 watt bulbs from 6 am, until 10 pm.

    We have seen a dramatic increase in egg production, ever since we implemented the above.
    2 weeks ago, only 5 eggs were laid throughout the day.
    It was at that point that we added in most of the things mentioned above.
    Today, I gathered 19 eggs!
    Thats pretty good, for wintertime, and having 34 chickens.

    I also intend to grow a tray of wheat grass as a special treat for them, just so they can have some fresh greens to gulp down once in a while.

    All of this seems like a lot of work, but truth be told, it only takes a few minutes per day.
    And we are very thankful for the rise in production, as the added expense of the alfalfa and sunflower seeds, meant we were no longer getting enough through egg sales to pay for all the food.

  2. Princess Amri

    Princess Amri Is Mostly Harmless

    Jul 16, 2009
    best coast
    Interesting. I'll have to remember that!
  3. 4-H chicken mom

    4-H chicken mom Crowing

    Aug 3, 2007
    Oberlin, OH
    Nice plan. I bet it must be hard getting the hens to lay. Are you in total darkness now? [​IMG]
  4. Gunnygranny

    Gunnygranny In the Brooder

    Dec 2, 2009
    Western slope
    Hi PaulaJo

    I'm new to the group and also live in a very cold mountain area. Our chickens have a very nice coop
    that is well insulated with a run attached. We run a 100w light on a timer -- it comes on about 4pm and goes off about 8pm. It comes back on again about 5am. Because it has not been above freezing for a week now I started leaving it on most of the day for warmth. When we are home and outside we let them run the yard -- which they love. Their favorite place seems to be the compost pile!

    I like your idea of having fewer laying boxes so they keep the eggs warm -- We only have 7 hens and 3 boxes, but might try blocking one of the boxes. I never thought about putting a heater on the laying boxes -- they never go up there so seems like a good place to put one.

    At this time we are feeding commercial feed and letting them free range.

    I'm looking forward to learning more about cold weather chicken raising

  5. PaulaJoAnne

    PaulaJoAnne Songster

    Jul 30, 2009
    Quote:Errmmm, that does not happen here. You have to live much further north. Suns up around 8 I think, and its not dark till 5:30.
    We are in south cetral, by the way, a couple hours north of Anchorage.
  6. PaulaJoAnne

    PaulaJoAnne Songster

    Jul 30, 2009
    Quote:Our heater is not in a box. Its just on top of the box area, as that is a convenient spot for it to sit.
    I can't wait till they can freerange again. But that will have to wait till the end of April, when the snow is mostly gone.
  7. breezy

    breezy Songster

    Jan 7, 2009
    Sand Coulee MT
    I live in Colorado. Right now its in the high teens at my house. I only have 4 hens in a small 4 x4 coop. The temp inside the coop this morning was down to 28 degrees. I was worried that my hens were going to get frostbite. I dont want to heat the coop over 35 degrees so what I did was fill a 2 1/2 gallon jug with really hot water and put it in there this morning. It brought the temp up in the coop even with the pop door open up to 32 degrees and held it there from 8 this morning till I dumped it at 5 this evening. I refilled it and put it back in at 5 and closed the girls in and now at 8:45 its 35 in there. I dont know if this is a viable option for anyone else with just a few backyard chickens but it seems to be working for me.

  8. sommrluv

    sommrluv Songster

    Jul 17, 2009
    Bucks County, PA
    My husband and I are having this debate now. He thinks if it's 30 degrees, they need an all night heat lamp, I'm not so sure. We have many farmers in the area who don't use electricity at all, and their hens are fine.

    I think below 20, but not in the 30s...but I'd love some opinions.
  9. Princess Amri

    Princess Amri Is Mostly Harmless

    Jul 16, 2009
    best coast
    Quote:Think zero. Most chickens don't need a heat lamp at thirty degrees!
  10. PaulaJoAnne

    PaulaJoAnne Songster

    Jul 30, 2009
    Quote:We do not add heat until its 0 or below. And that heat is very little at that.
    I do not see anyone out there heating the wild birds, if you know what I mean;)
    Frostbite simply will nto occur at 30 degrees.
    Plus, you are compromising their health, by adding heat at those temps.
    Its important to make sure they are not having to acclimate back and forth with inside and outside temps.

    When we add heat, it is to only to bring the temp up to 0' or so in the coop.
    We saw frostbite, if it stayed below that.
    Our chickens run around outside during the day, as long as the temps are not lower then 10 below.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by