Should hens be out in the rain if it's cold?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Daisy8s, Oct 19, 2011.

  1. Daisy8s

    Daisy8s Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 12, 2011
    Central Michigan
    A man who raises poultry professionally told me that chickens should not get wet if it's cold. But, we live in Michigan so perhaps he meant below freezing when he said cold. I need clarification!

    So, there's a light drizzle outside today and it's in the low 40s. I was wondering if I should keep the hens inside on days like this. My run is not covered so they'll get wet if they go out, though they can get under a pine tree where it stays quite dry. But, to get to the tree they have to fly over the 4 ft run fence which they do easily when dry--but could they do this when wet in order to get back into the coop? I can open the gate for them to walk through if they can't fly over the fence--I just don't like to leave it open as the enclosed run provides them a safe haven from my own dogs.

    Here are my questions: 1) Let's say it's a real drenching rain but it's a summer day and it's in the 70s or 80s--can they be outside then? 2) Let's say there is minimal precipitation (light drizzle or lightly falling, relatively dry snow) but it is cold, as in either close to or below freezing--can they be outside then? And, 3) can chickens fly over a 4 ft fence if they've gotten slightly wet but not soaked?

    Thanks so much for any advice!

    Oh, and I should clarify that when I open the coop 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, seriously, they don't always make the best choices!
  2. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Mine are out right now in northern MI. They have chosen not to stay in. They have instincts and preferences. I let them decide. I dunno.
  3. Daisy8s

    Daisy8s Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 12, 2011
    Central Michigan
    Thanks, Fred. Is there ever a point where you keep them in? What about sleet and high winds?

    I do agree that the chickens should decide for themselves--that's why I free range them. But, as a new chicken owner going into winter for the first time I want to hear about the practices of experienced poultry owners. I appreciate your advice.
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I've never worried about it. My parents never worried about it and they kept as free ranging a flock as you can imagine. Some even slept in trees when the overnight temperature was below 0 Fahrenheit. I know 0 F is not that cold when compared to others, but that is my experience so it is all I can go by.
  5. Imp

    Imp All things share the same breath- Chief Seattle

    We are headed into our rainy season here, and I have never kept the chickens locked up because of rain. If the chickens got excessively wet and a arctic blast moved in I might be concerned, but that hasn't happened yet. I have never had a chicken willing to walk on snow, but many others have.
    I do rarely keep them in during high winds, not that winds will hurt them, but because I don't want them hit by debris or becoming debris.

  6. Pele

    Pele Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 25, 2011
    Chickens arn't the brightest crayons in the box, but they know enough to take care of themselves. They'll hunker down in the coop if it's too cold out for them. And remember, their feathers keep most of the water away from their skin, and trap warm air near their skin. Kind of like a reverse wet-suit.

    I wouldn't worry about them either unless the temp goes to an extreme freeze after an all-day rain. No need to break out the blowdryer under most circumstances [​IMG]
  7. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    I rarely "decide" for them, but yes, I have come to know what they will like, just tolerate, and downright not like. Sure, there are days when I do not turn them out.
    This comes from experience, I suppose. Sometimes, they do all that begging and I sort of cave and let them out. But, I know darn well they won't stay out long. So, I just stand by and lock the door(s) behind them when they head back in. Told 'em, but they wouldn't listen. [​IMG]
  8. Florida_country_boy

    Florida_country_boy Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 17, 2011
    Tampa, Fl
    Quote:You should see the thread where some Alaskan members were making fun of Florida members for heating their coops, when they don't add any heat to the coops in Alaska. It was quite funny and informative thread. Since it does freeze here in FL a few times a year, I was going to look into heating the coop. However, after reading that thread and the reasons why they do not heat coops in extreme cold temps, I will not be pampering my chickens. If they can handle -40 below, they can handle it when it drops down to the teens here.

    If I were you, the only thing I would worry about is frostbite on their combs and wattles. Which I read that vacesline(sp?) will prevent that.
  9. Davian

    Davian Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 8, 2010
    Vermont, USA
    The only times I'll ever lock them in is in a whiteout blizzard (because they might get disoriented and not find their way back to the if they'd go out in that type of snow anyway) and during heavy heavy rain. Honestly though, they will go in if they're cold or seek shelter. Adult birds know how to handle themselves in bad weather.
  10. anthrochick

    anthrochick Out Of The Brooder

    Mar 19, 2011
    North Carolina
    Yep, it's a cold and dreary wet day here in the Mitten. My chickens are out but I set up an area for them to get out of the rain when they want without having to go back to the coop. Our yard is quite large. They seem to like ducking under this dry spot for a bit, then venturing back out. They will also head back to the pen occasionally. If it's pouring they will stay out of the rain, but a cold drizzle won't keep them from their foraging.

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