Southern Chickens NEED More Heat Than Northern Chickens, IMHO

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Barry Natchitoches, Dec 24, 2010.

  1. Barry Natchitoches

    Barry Natchitoches Songster

    Sep 4, 2008
    I've been reading the thread for a while now -- the one that talks about how northern hens seem to be able to tolerate very cold temps without heat.

    As I read that, I've also been carefully observing my SOUTHERN chickens, as we have had unusually cold weather here lately.

    And after careful observation of my chickens both with and without supplemental heat -- coupled with my knowledge of what their environment is like the rest of the year -- I have come to the conclusion that: Southern chickens NEED more heat when faced with freezing temps than your northern chickens!

    I have not just jumped to this conclusion. I've coupled all I've read in this forum as well as what I have read in poultry books and magazines with middle of the night observations of my own flock of birds. I have heard my birds whimper and even cry when temps dropped below freezing.

    The main argument I have read for acclimating the birds to the cold is that if you loose power and they don't have a thick enough coat of feathers, they will have a very difficult time of it.

    Well, this is true.

    HOWEVER, if a southern chicken grows a thick enough coat of feathers to handle below freezing temps like we have had the last several weeks here in Memphis, then they will -- 100%, for sure -- suffer much worse come next summer when mid-summer temperatures exceed 95 degrees every day!

    I have a remote thermometer in my main henhouse that transmit real time temps to me, so that I can monitor them 24/7/365 from here in my living room.

    I was getting daily temp readings above 100 degrees virtually EVERYDAY during July and August of last year.

    In 2007, it was above 90 degrees almost every day from the third week of March clear into September, except for that one week in early April when we had that unseasonable deep freeze (you remember, the one that killed the entire fruit tree crops for pretty much every state in the southeast US).

    I put SEVEN fans out for my birds last year -- some large and some small -- trying to get temps tolerable for those birds. I even built them a shaded wind tunnel in their chicken yard -- channelling their wind -- to help them cope with the extreme heat.

    In recent years, it seems like we have 3 months of cold and 8 months of excessive heat, with only a few weeks transition in between, at least here in the Memphis area.

    So, you see, my birds -- and other southern birds -- grow light coats of feathers in order to tolerate the summer heat. Why would I want to do anything that would encourage them to grow thick winter coats as short as winter is down here, if it is going to make their lives intolerable during the excessive heats of summer?

    Anyway, I have gotten to where I keep just enough heat in the henhouses to keep things above freezing -- I target for around 39 to 45 degrees.

    If we loose power some time in the future, I might have to go out there and do something else for them.

    But loosing power is not something that happens very often in this neck of the southern woods.

    Excessively hot days -- on the other hand -- WILL happen. Often and regularly.

    So if forced with a choice, I'd rather give them some heat on cold nights rather than let them develop too thick of a coat to handle next summer's heat.

    That's my 2 cents worth, for what it is worth.

    Add about 10 bux to that, and you might still be able to buy a sack of layer feed....
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2010

  2. mississippifarmboy

    mississippifarmboy collects slightly damaged strays

    I dunno [​IMG] I see your point though. I live in the same temp area you do (About 100 miles due east), and it sure has been a crazy winter so far. I've never lost a bird due to heat or cold though.
  3. dawg53

    dawg53 Humble Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2008
    Jacksonville, Florida
    I think my chickens are adapting much better to our record cold temps than I am...round two with record cold temps for us next week. I just ensure there's no cold drafts blowing through their house and they've done just fine, even my Hamburgs. We had record heat this past summer as well, but it's always hot with very high humidity here most of the time and my chickens did well and laid eggs regularily. I provided fans for them too. I honestly believe they adapt quicker than I do. That's my experience.
  4. Katy

    Katy Flock Mistress

    I am what I guess would be considered in the central part of the US...neither south nor north. So lucky me I get both extremes....bitter cold and 100+ temps in the summer. We can also have big temp swings especially in the fall. It can be in the 70s or higher one day and a high of 30 the next. I don't provide heat to my adult birds but I do have a couple fans that I use in two of my coops that have less tree shade in the summer. I think if they're allowed to they can adjust without much problem to both the heat and the cold temps.
  5. gritsar

    gritsar Cows, Chooks & Impys - OH MY!

    Nov 9, 2007
    SW Arkansas

    Insulated coops with good summer ventilation & fans when July and August roll around and my southern birds do just fine. As a matter of fact they are out free ranging right now - both the adults and the 7 month olds - and its 33 degrees and raining off and on.
  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    We used to keep a fair number of American games in the yard. Most were of a line that had been raised in southern Indiana for many generations. Occasionally we would acquire birds from further south (Alabama and Georgia) that peaked our interest. Birds were individually confined in pens that provided overhead production and blocked north wind yet birds from south much were more prone to frostbite, even though allowed to come into feather in a our more northern location. Even birds that were a cross between northern and southern tended to be less tolerant of cold than strait northern.

    I therefore think cold tolerance is at least partially genetic.
  7. Judy

    Judy Crowing Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    I've never lost a chicken to heat or cold. 15 a couple of weeks ago, over 100 in the summer. And I have a metal coop that is not shaded. They will still go in there for relief from the sun if they are in their fenced yard and can't get to the woods (not my land) but it is good and breezy in there, was built to catch the breeze. Which it also does in the winter. The most I do for them about weather is run a box fan in summer and, on a really bright hot day, wet down the coop, and put something up to cut the breeze for winter. They won't even step into water to cool off in summer.

    I would guess that they don't keep all their cold weather undercoat in the summer, from the fluffy bits I find around the yard when it starts getting hot.

  8. 7L Farm

    7L Farm Songster

    Jul 22, 2010
    Anderson, Texas
    Chickens have a nice winter jacket. They like cold weather not hot weather.
  9. Imp

    Imp All things share the same breath- Chief Seattle

    Barry Natchitoches,

    I don't know if your theory is true, but I applaud you for watching your chickens and responding to their needs. I'm in Seattle and our climate is opposite of yours in Memphis. There are virtually no extremes in temperature. So when we do get a little extreme weather it is prudent to take note and plan accordingly.
    It would be foolhardy for me to care for my chickens like they are going through
    3 months of cold and 8 months of excessive heat, with only a few weeks transition in between

    , and likewise it could be a mistake for you to take care of your chickens like they are going through 5 months of spring and 5 months of fall, with just a few weeks transition in between. Could be a fatal mistake.

  10. Country Parson

    Country Parson Songster

    Oct 1, 2010
    Bellefontaine, OH
    Most Southerners simply don't understand the temperature system of the Northern regions. It is not as if things gradually get colder and colder until we get to -40f. Things often severely fluctuate up and down. When I lived in Michigan the temperature could swing 50 degrees in a single day (btw, going from 70 to 20 degrees in the course of 24 hours or less is simply miserable).

    So, when I hear of southerners talking about unexpected cold weather I just smile.

    Such swings affect all animals---whether they are in the North or South. When such fluctuations happens everyone must take special precautions. My chickens were shocked when the temperatures went from bright/warm/sunny to well below freezing. I got them in the Spring, and they were raised throughout a very hot summer. Temperatures were often in the 80s, 90s, and even 100s (yes, Northern Michigan temps can get in the triple digits). Then all of a sudden things went to below freezing. My chickens never experienced this, yet handled it just find (though they needed protection from the wind).

    In fact, having lived in Michigan, Ohio, Arkansas, Florida, & Tennessee I can confidently attest that the most extreme fluctuations in temp were in the Northern states, not the Southern states. Your state may be different, but I never experienced the extreme temp. shifts in the Southern states I lived in.

    I find it hard to imagine a scenario in which any standard chicken would need extra heat provided. Keep them free from drafts and they will be fine. I don't even insulate my coops, but I know some who do. If you want, go ahead and insulate. But actually heating the coop is just wasting energy.

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