Should hens be out in the cold and rain?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by junkyardog, Oct 3, 2015.

  1. junkyardog

    junkyardog Hatching

    Oct 3, 2015
    Goshen, New York
    I have almost the same issue as the person who started the original thread but a little different situation.

    The chickens had a great summer, they are somewhere between pets and well,chickens. Anyway, I have gotten quite attached to them especially the older hen who turned up out of nowhere.

    Sometimes I leave the stairway door open which leads to a small landing out side my front door. They have used it in extreme heat and for water and treats I put out and I admit, to my amusement which makes it worth cleaning up after them, lol.

    The last 2 days have been rainy and cold and they are staying in there all day, no treats just water. Cold being 45 degrees and constant rain not a drizzle nor a storm. It was windy the first day.

    I have never seen them go back in the coop during the day,ever. There are woods out back and they go there in the heat and for protection from what scares them from above (turkey buzzards, no hawks so far) They roam freely around the large yard otherwise. They DO go back to the coop at dusk. I had to work on that after I lost one sweet hen because she wasn't coming in at night and I figured she might be laying eggs elsewhere and was somehow able to stay safe at night. But after a couple of days when I didn't see her during the day, I knew there was a problem. I searched everywhere for 2 weeks, no sign of any trouble or harm or anything. Just gone. I also want to add that the new older chicken didn't come in the other evening so I went to look for her and she was where I thought she would be. Hiding in the edge of the woods, afraid to dash from cover to cover without the flock. Somehow must have not noticed the rest leave I guess. I could barely get her out of there myself. Finally she did follow me to the coop ( pretty far away). Maybe this is what happened to the other I don't know.

    As the person said in the original post I should clarify that it's free choice for the chickens to be outside or in. I'm never forcing them to be outside if they don't want to be. I just don't know whether to give them the option because I have seen they don't always make the best choices.
    Is this the time for tough love? Locked in with warm oatmeal, and no wind or rain or let them out because they are used to doing it and then end up in my stairwell or a bush trying to stay dry/warm(?) Perhaps I should mention they are about 8 months old and this is the first cold rainy weather they have experienced.

    There isn't any temporary shelter and if I close the door they will huddle in a bush outside the house...still getting rained on and not interested in eating grass. Or they go under the car instead of the bush sometimes.

    These girls do not go back to the coop in any weather so far. Despite me shooing them out of stairwell they sit in the bush huddled up, not looking to eat anything at all. They stay there until I come out and follow me to the coop even though it isn't dusk and then stay in though. I admit to sitting with them just enjoying watching them for an hour or so. Is that why they stay in then? Because I'm there?

    I thought chickens were like my horse, cold and rain up to the point they want warmth and shelter and then go to a place to do that. I know animals know how to care for themselves in that way. Cold alone is one thing, but wind and rain leads to hypothermia, doesn't it? Despite the insulation and waterproofing chickens have I just don't know what is best. I don't know if I can set up a dry spot for them. I am going to have to ask the landlord and then come up with a solution I guess.

    Today I locked them in the coop even though they wanted out. The older girl slipped by me out of the coop, and is now sleeping in the living room. Yes, I let her in, don't say it, I know...
    I want to add there is some sniffling/sneezing going on...

    Advice please?
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    I would let them be, when it actually gets cold they might stay inside, you're not even near cold at that temperature, that's comfortable for most animals, it's a human trait to want to be inside, and warm.

    Winter never bothered my horse, she just gave the wind her back and seldom spent her days in the shed. It drives me crazy to see blankets on horses in the winter because it messes up their ability to control their own comfort level.

    You also need to acclimate your chickens to the weather or you're going to end up with health problems. I would ask that you put on a big fluffy down coat that comes down to your knees and walk around in that and see what temperature you are comfortable at, I'm sure 45 isn't quite cold enough yet.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2015
  3. junebuggena

    junebuggena Crowing

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Chickens don't mind cold, and they don't mind light rain. But if it's windy, and it is a constant down-pour, they will not be out and about. 45* is not cold for a chicken.
    I live in the the Pacific Northwest. If my chickens had to wait for a 100% dry day to go out, they would hardly ever leave the coop. They are very good at finding dry, sheltered areas when they need them.
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Chickens are creatures of habit..... your birds now have a habit to use the stairs as shelter.
    Sometimes they need a little help and coercion to establish new habits that might be better for their overall health and security.

    Is your coop roomy and well ventilated?
    How many birds in how big a coop (feet by feet)?

    What is your climate?
    Putting your location in your profile can help folks give better answers/suggestions.

    If you have cold snowy winters it might be a good idea to acclimate them to using the coop for lounging and shelter
    by 'cooping them up' for a few 24/7 days, or at least until late afternoons for a week.
    Even if you don't have extreme weather, facilitating a change of habit is still valid.

    No, they won't be happy about it, and you might feel you are depriving them of their 'freedom',
    but it won't kill them and in the long run they, and you, will be more comfortable.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2015
  5. junkyardog

    junkyardog Hatching

    Oct 3, 2015
    Goshen, New York
    Thank you. Yes, I realized that about the stairs about an hour after I wrote it. The door stays closed now. I don't know where they will find shelter when outside of the coop as they roam a large area and the woods. It remains to be seen. The neighbor has geese and they have gone into that shed sometimes but he chases them out if he sees them. But I can get started on the locking up for awhile right away.
    In fact, I could use some advise on what the real problem is...

    The chickens actually belong to him, if you consider buying chicks and putting them in an old hen house as belonging. No roosts, no nest boxes, leaky roof with drafts and poor ventilation. I put up a tarp for the roof and sailcloth for shade in summer and he took it all down when I left on vacation. He says he appreciates my help but his actions say otherwise.

    In the summer he left them without water or a water bottle filled up with shavings. I have set up two watering stations and fixed the water situation in the coop.
    I'm not a carpenter but I managed to build a platform that holds 3-4 nest boxes made of cardboard and filled with shavings and hay (if they choose to pull it into the nest)
    The coop is app.10x10, about 7 feet high sloping down to about 5.
    Yesterday I made roosts and a ramp b/c the older chicken wants sleep high up.
    There are six chickens.

    He buys Dumoor and I buy organic. Everyone I give the eggs to likes organic, even his wife.
    I buy them grit and calcium.
    I put the feed in an airtight container, suddenly this morning his food is in an old chlorine jug with a lid on it. I was just getting ready to return it to him for the geese.

    I have started the deep litter method, he says it won't work.

    He initially replaced most of the floor and the screening but that's it.

    The roof is leaking badly and he just keeps talking about fixing it.
    He says "better get the tarp off or the roof will rot." Are you kidding?
    That roof isn't going to rot any more in a few months than it has in the last 20 years.
    Where is his concern for the birds. They have been sleeping in damp shavings at night. It's cold and getting colder. They are sneezing and I hope I the weather holds out until I get the bedding dry again.

    I have had the nest boxes ruined two times b/c of the tarp thing. He wants me to put it up and take it down according to the weather. It's not that easy. It is guyed down, held down by stones on the roof and I have to get a ladder to get up there to do it. So no, I don't think so.
    The other day I saw I had put the tarp too low and rain was getting in. I asked him if he had an extra tarp.
    He says no and he can't use the old metal roof from the other building as he originally thought and then estimates the cost of new metal.
    I tell him I will split it with him as I am enjoying the chickens.
    He doesn't respond and I say I will pay for the whole thing. Still nothing.
    Our landlord bought red paint and gave it to him. I think they are both concerned with how it looks, healthy chickens not so much.
    I am putting up an extra tarp and buying caulking for the holes tomorrow.

    I thought we were on better terms but I just don't know how to talk to him. It's like I have to play stupid and when he is describing something like the roof, I say oh I didn't know that and then he will talk and talk about how things are done .
    Any other method of speaking to him directly has failed. He wont make eye contact and talks around the issue, there is no give and take.

    I think he has too many projects and a new baby. I think he feels guilty(?) when he sees me taking care of them, but he only does what they don't need. They need a roof, not cheap food. He keeps buying that food and leaving me to deal with cold wet birds and so this is what I am going to do:

    Put that food in his goose shed, (which is a mess and he doesn't let them out when he is late for work), and tell him it will go to waste with the chickens. Feed it to the geese. The chickens aren't eating well anyway and I am looking for a new food. I fall asleep at the computer doing the research, lol. The "make it wet" method lasted only 2 days.
    He doesn't know the chickens aren't eating their food, I haven't said anything b/c I'm sure he will debate it and as usual, I will be left holding the bag, not doing it right: that's the problem.
    He says they are thin because they are so active. I feel their breastbones quite easily, that's too thin, isn't it?

    This winter he would leave them in the coop all winter long, just like he did almost all summer, it was a sweat box in there, hotter than it was outside.
    I don't mind shoveling and so I will shovel. I need the exercise.

    I want to say to him why do you have geese? I see eggs laying all over but you don't collect them.

    I want to say, on the days you do open the chicken coop, why don't you collect the eggs? Why do I have to bring them to you?

    I want to say we all want organic eggs, my neighbor, me, my sister, and your wife.
    Why won't you address the issue of organic vs non-organic food. It's obvious and stares you in the face .

    I want to say why did you take the tarp down when I went on vacation after I spent time putting it up? He watched me putting it up for two days. Never said a thing and took it down when I left. Even the sailcloth I put up for shade.

    Why did you return to work after summer was over (school teacher) letting me put the chickens out ever day (I loved it) but when I specifically asked you to leave them in for 2 days (advise given for issue with new hen wandering off) the very next day you let them out for the first time in two weeks?

    I really want to say don't you know that animals feel discomfort and we are their caretakers not their owners.

    Am I not being clear?
    Is this a competition?
    What am I missing here?
    Is he really trying to help
    Why doesn't he ever look me in the eye?

    If I had the money I would hire someone to do the roof and put a small window in the back for proper ventilation. He says he is putting up front windows over the chicken screening for the winter, that's bad, less ventilation, more ammonia and condensation. The air doesn't go anywhere and I think a "three sided" coop will work better than closing them up.
    The coop faces south and the wind usually blows from the north east so they are well protected from wind.
    Maybe he doesn't know about managing a flock as much as he says he does. Maybe he will never get to it like the roof.

    Here's a typical example of a conversation: Jason, I am concerned b/c the shed has drafts but not enough ventilation. Jason says: Blah, blah ,blah.
    So Jean rephrases it to " do you think these holes and openings in the walls work as ventilation or would that be considered drafts? "
    Jason says: the wall holes represent drafts not ventilation a
    cknowledging the need for caulking material but not the ventilation.

    Why do I have to word it
    everything as a question for him to respond at least partially.

    I hate all this because you have no control over what others do, only yourself.

    I won't stop caring for the chickens now. The old hen is special, I'm sure she was a pet, she loves to sit in the stairs or my living room.
    At night she runs around facing the roof making mewing sounds. It is pitiful.
    I had to "teach" her how to climb the ramp to the roost I put up.
    However she now has a sprained right leg b/c she must be jumping down instead of using the ramp*sigh.

    Sorry for all the italics, wasn't sure how to turn it off.

    I am too close to the issue. What does it look like from objective viewpoint? Please be brutally honest as I'm tired of feeling frustrated with his actions.
    What can I do if anything? How might he be looking at the whole thing?

    If I have scared anyone off with my venting, I apologize.
  6. junebuggena

    junebuggena Crowing

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    On a healthy non-meat breed bird, you should be able to feel the 'keel.' That's normal. Fat stores are near the tail region in chickens. The breast area is a very lean, meaty area on a chicken. And unless they are Cornish cross or Red Ranger type breed, they will not have full, rounded breast.
    As long as they have access to a nutritionally balanced feed and are bright, active, and alert birds, they are probably not malnourished.
  7. junkyardog

    junkyardog Hatching

    Oct 3, 2015
    Goshen, New York
    ok thank you. They are Ida Browns and they are thinner the the hen that showed up.
    I have had cockatiels only and seeing/feeling the keel wasn't good but they were cockatiels right.
    Thank you.
  8. junebuggena

    junebuggena Crowing

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    Here is a picture of some of my flock. They are all healthy and have access to feed all day long. I can feel the 'keel' bones on all of them easily.
  9. DestinyRosie

    DestinyRosie In the Brooder

    Sep 8, 2015
    Birmingham, Alabama
    Why does he bother having chickens if he doesn't even properly card for them? Are you friendly with his wife? Maybe she can talk him into giving them to you
  10. DestinyRosie

    DestinyRosie In the Brooder

    Sep 8, 2015
    Birmingham, Alabama

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