Snow...why do my chickens not seem to know what to do in the snow?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by YgritteChick, Nov 15, 2014.

  1. YgritteChick

    YgritteChick Out Of The Brooder

    74
    4
    31
    Jul 28, 2014
    Wisconsin
    I thought that chickens were supposed to dislike snow! My chickens don't seem to even notice the snow...even when its snowing. They just act like its the middle of summer, I had to keep going and (in my mind) rescuing them today because it was snowing and they were just hanging out getting cold and all covered in snow. Are chickens intelligent enough to know when to go inside or should I be babysitting them and monitoring their outside time even more than I already am? Our chickens free range most days, but always have access to their coop, which isn't heated but it so far has stayed a nice temperature inside. And it is definitely out of the wind and snow, which is my worry more than the actual temperatures. I don't want our birds to get sick or hurt from being too cold, I thought if the coop was open, they would go inside if they felt cold. What do others do in the snow to keep their chickens happy and warm enough? And not getting wet from snow/drinking and then being out in the cold so they get frozen feathers.
     
  2. mtngirl35

    mtngirl35 Chillin' With My Peeps

    460
    67
    121
    Dec 10, 2013
    Tennessee
    I have yet to meet a chicken that didn't like snow.[​IMG]I'm sure there are some out there, though.
     
  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

    9,956
    2,941
    421
    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Here's the deal with chickens and weather. If it's not windy, and it begins to snow or rain, chickens will usually go about doing whatever they were doing before it started to snow or rain. But the minute the wind chill kicks in, they will head, post haste, for shelter.

    As for snow on the ground, most chickens have an instinctive repugnance for being on it. I believe it comes from being aware, on some level, that they show up vividly to predators against the white background. That and chicken feet find snow icky.

    A few years ago, I had a six-month old Black Cochin cockerel Darrel. Darrel had never seen snow before, and so he raced outside when I opened the run gate, and almost instantly came to a screeching halt. There was a stretch of snow between him and where he desired to be. Rather than walking over the icky stuff, he tried to fly over it. Grown chickens don't fly well, and Cochins don't fly at all, so Darrel ended up stuck head first in a snow drift, feathered feet fluttering helplessly. I had to quit laughing so hard and haul him out of the drift. He never ventured outside again if he knew there was snow.

    His sister Morgan, same age, went out free-ranging one afternoon, didn't go back to the run when it began to rain, and she was caught out in a severe hail storm. I forgot she was still outside, and I raced indoors when it started to hail. Afterwards, I went out to check on the chickens, and here comes Morgan, totally drenched, in no big rush to get back into the shelter of the run, seemingly none the worse for it.

    Four years ago, on New Year's Day, I let the flock out to free range. There were large patches of snow but plenty of bare ground left for scratching around. I went off to shovel the long driveway, and came back later to find a red-tail hawk sitting on a wood pile next to the body of my six-month old Buff Brahma pullet Cleo lying on the ground with her head destroyed. The rest of the flock were hiding under the coop in the run, scrunched up in the far corner, totally traumatized by the event.

    None of them will venture out when they know there's snow. They learned it's not safe.
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    33,833
    6,984
    576
    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Most of mine won't walk on it if it's deeper than 1/4", but they like to eat it.
    But I've seen pics of chickens walking on the snow.

    We had our first 6 inches the other day, I shoveled off a patch of the run near the pop door/ramp...the pop door and ramp are protected and under the coop by the ramp is dry....and threw down some straw. A bit later I see 4-5 birds standing on the straw(no more would fit) but they would not venture further. It was funny.

    I keep part of my uncovered run shoveled clear for access from the run door to the outside of the pop door..and a little more room for them to scratch and roam.
     
  5. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

    9,956
    2,941
    421
    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    It's 4 degrees this morning, and I just got through shoveling my way to the run to take the troops their breakfast. I could leave the door to the run open all day, and not a single one would venture out into the snow. They're all hunkering in clumps under the coop, cussing me out for it being so bloody cold.
     
  6. robbiebobbie

    robbiebobbie Out Of The Brooder

    52
    1
    31
    Sep 6, 2014
    This was the first year we had chickens in the winter. I opened the chicken yard door and the chickens came out but stopped suddenly where the snow started. There is a roof overhang so they just came outside the door, then stopped. I had to laugh. I then went back out of the yard and into the snow. It seemed as though the chickens said " Oh, mom's walking on it so we will to" and they all came out and roamed around in it. It was quite humorous. I only let them out in the snow when we are going to be working outside close to them. As we have a lot of predators in our area. A couple of days ago, I let them out again, but this time the snow was melting and is was slushy. They came out for a little and then most of them started coming back in. I looked around to make sure all chickens were around and saw two of my Jersey Giants standing at the end of our human yard. Didn't think nothing of it. Then about an hour later as I was working in their coop the chickens started coming in and I counted them and two were missing. I went outside and looked and the two chickens were still standing there at the exact same places. Poor little things, I guess they would have frozen there if I hadn't kept a watch on them. I guess they didn't know what to do. I went down and picked the one up without a fuss and put the other one in my other arm without a fuss also. Usually they run away when I try to pick them up outside the coop. They must have been relieved that I came and got them. I put them back in the coop with everyone else and they were happy. I will not let them out in the snow again. I wouldn't want them wondering off where I can't see them and then have them freeze(meaning scared into staying in one place and not leaving) in one spot where I can't find them. That would be dreadful!! So beware of your chickens freezing(meaning scared into staying in one place and not moving) in one spot in the snow. I love my chickens and love taking care of them. Never knew chickens had personalities. I love learning about chickens!! Thanks for this site!!
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2014

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by