Snow in the run and sub zero temps-problem?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by lutherpug, Dec 17, 2016.

  1. lutherpug

    lutherpug Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 5, 2014
    Kansas City, MO
    Forgive the question but this is our first night in sub zero temps and snow-

    My coop/enclosed run is loosely based on the Wichita Coop design. It is currently 8 degrees and will be -8 by morning. I'm not worried about the girls in the coop-it is dry and I believe it to be well ventilated. However, when I went out to check on them this evening I noticed that there is at least half an inch of snow in the run over the fresh pine shavings and straw that I put down earlier. I have tarp around some of the run but not the whole thing as I didn't want to block out all of the light and prevent air exchange in the run. That, of course, is why I have snow in there as it was pretty windy while it was snowing all afternoon.

    I've only got 3 adult hens out there and they're all cold hardy breads-RIR, Dominique, and Australorp. That said, the Dominique is in the middle of molting and is missing her head, neck, and tail feathers.

    I'm completely out of straw and my local place only has hay which I'm reluctant to use as the Australorp has had an impacted crop in the past from eating bedding and I'm not in love with introducing something new that might tempt her.

    How concerned do I need to be about this? No more snow is forecast but it will be single digit temps all day and I hate thinking about them standing on frozen straw/snow/ice. Should I just trust they'll head indoors as they need to? Should I just risk it and get the hay to spread down? If I put down new bedding do I need to remove the frozen stuff first, I assume?

    Love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!
  2. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j True BYC Addict

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    The snow in the run isn't going to affect them in the coop. They may not want to go outside in the snow, so if there's enough room in the coop for them, I'd let them be. I usually leave the pop door open and let my chickens decide, but it's supposed to get down to -29 (air temp, not wind chill) here tonight so I closed the pop doors and windows on my coops today. I also have one that's molting. She just started a couple of weeks ago. She looks fully feathered, but isn't nearly as fluffy as the other chickens, and is missing her tail feathers. She looks pretty pathetic, actually.

    I just put down a thick layer of fresh straw in my coops - right on top of the old poop-covered bedding. They'll be fine. I usually just keep piling it on, then clean out in the spring when everything starts to thaw and gets mucky.
  3. wamtazlady

    wamtazlady Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 18, 2013
    Kalispell MT
    I usually trust my chickens to do whatever makes them happiest. If they want to go out in the cold, no one stops them. They are certainly not going to do something that makes them uncomfortable.

    Have you thought about replacing the tarp you have surrounding your run with clear vinyl? That way good light gets in there. Clear vinyl shower curtains work well and are cheap. You could leave the side away from the wind open, or leave 6 inches at the top open for ventilation. I find that the run is actually noticeably warmer than the outside as sunlight can get in there and it acts a bit like a greenhouse.
  4. mobius

    mobius Chillin' With My Peeps


    Also consider calling around, and ask the feed stores about more straw. I am loving the straw right now, and if my regular supplier were out, that is what i would do.

    If you want to protect the run a bit more re: snow, folks here use 6 mil plastic (myself I would temporarily staple it up) which provides a wind barrier, may give a bit of warmsth and you don't have to do the entire coop. Also I noticed that people use transparent shower curtains with good effect. Me, when it warms up just a bit, I am going to use some transparent mulch bags left over from the fall, now that I have noticed where the wind and/or snow is coming from, and staple them up. Empty feed bags would also work but probably not transparent!

    Hope this helps a bit!

    ETA: haha @wamtazlady you beat me to it! Great minds in Kalispell! [​IMG]

    Consider throwing down a little scratch, I bet the chickens will toss that straw in short order, or just mix it up with a rake or pitchfork. They will be fine. Mine are walking on the snow if they want to get somewhere important to them! Like in a tree.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2016
  5. lutherpug

    lutherpug Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 5, 2014
    Kansas City, MO
    Thanks for all of the replies, this is all great info. I probably will replace the tarps with something clear once it warms up later this week. The roads here yesterday were an icy mess-that's why I didn't call around, it was a nightmare getting a mile and half down the road to the only place that sells straw and hay in the city. My next closest option would have been at least 15 miles out and that wasn't happening. Today might be better, I'm assuming they spent all night salting the roads. I'll go check it out here in a bit. Put the Subaru to the test [​IMG]

    I did kick the snow around before they came down to the run this morning and I also tossed some scratch and cracked corn down along with some hot mash I made from chick feed and hot water.

    They all seemed mostly ok this morning-I have a RIR with a leghorn like comb and she did suffer a little minor frostbite (more on that in a sec) and I rubbed her down with some Vaseline this morning.

    It was -10 here this morning with wind chills around -20. That is very cold for this area, not a yearly event. Hopefully we won't have to deal with this for a long time. They've been fine in the single digits but this was bitter.

    Regarding the frostbite, she has some slight discoloration (paler, almost has a very slight yellow hue) on the tips of her comb. Do I let this heal on it's own? It's supposed to get up to a balmy 10 degrees today but warm up significantly the rest of the week-20's to 40's.

    Thoughts on that? Thanks again for all of the help, this forum is a priceless resource for me and many others.
  6. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    I use mulch hay, straw is dang expensive in these parts. Thin layer to just cover ice or what's left of snow after shoveling or scraping off their areas.
  7. mobius

    mobius Chillin' With My Peeps

    Lol hay and alfalfa more than double cost of wheat straw here...
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I would leave it alone.......sounds like mild frostbite and it will heal up on it's own with no tissue loss.
    Messing with compromised tissue can cause more problems than it solves, could even introduce infection.
    I don't even mess with severe frostbite, blackened tissue and/or swelling, just keep an eye on it for infection.
    1 person likes this.
  9. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    Nov 7, 2012
    Yes, they will stay in, if they want to, as long as the pop door is open to allow them to come/go. Can you simply sweep the snow away to get back to their straw base?


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