Think it's too cold for your chickens? Think again...

SkyWarrior

Songster
9 Years
Apr 2, 2010
1,731
7
163
Wilds of Montana
Quick question for you AK folk:

When do you remove the heat lamps from chicks? I have no heat on my 6 week old chicks, limited heat lamp on my 3 week old chicks and full heat lamp on the newly hatched. Temps have been down in the 30s at night here in Montana. Rest of the flock has no heat.
 

frostbite

Songster
8 Years
Sep 27, 2011
481
15
121
Fairbanks, Alaska
Nice to know there are other Alaskans successfully raising outdoor birds. Not worried too much about the chick thing, since I won't be doing chicks till March, but I see the ravens and chickadees doing just fine down to 50 below, and so I think the chickens will be fine. I have an insulated coop, but I won't be heating it except for a light to keep them laying for me. Can't wait! Well, maybe I can wait...

Ducks too. I'm not getting ducks, but there are mallards in town that stay all winter, even with most of the water frozen over, and most of the ducks and geese and swans flown south, these hardy ducks hang out on the open water on the Chena River, just below the power plant. Some of the waste heat from the power plant gets into the river keeping it open, just enough so that the ducks can get food and water and some recreational swimming, along with the snacks the local bird lovers throw them. They certainly don't have any insulated and heated coops, and they have the option to go south if they want to. Apparently, they're happy ducks staying here in the subarctic! (I confess, they aren't laying or hatching any eggs this time of year!)
 
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Mrs MIA

Chick Magnet
11 Years
Mar 3, 2008
7,988
62
303
Quote:The answer is usually, "When they're ready"... and I know that doesn't help.

Newly hatched, a few chicks in a small brooder gets a 60w lightbulb in one corner. You will know if it's not enough heat, because they will pile underneath it. If that happens, I bump it up to a 100w bulb. I have had 3 week old chicks bonk the bulb so much that they broke it, and they did just fine in the 60°F garage without a heat source so I just left them like that. At 6 weeks they were fully feathered and went outside at 40°F.

Newly hatched chicks under a silkie will stay under mom for the first few days, then will venture out more and more. I hatched out 3 chicks on Aug 21 under a silkie. I had her in my breeder coop in an enclosed 4x4' pen on shavings, no heat source, and within 3 weeks they were barely able to fit underneath her. At 4 weeks we started dipping towards freezing at nights, and they were roosting above her already, so I took her out. It's 22°F this morning, 29°F in the coop. They're 6 weeks old, fully feathered, and they're just fine in the coop.



Have I lost chicks to the cold? Yes. Usually from being piled on. But like someone else mentioned, one of my goals is to raise cold-hardy chickens, so if they die at 50-60°F, did I really want to keep them in my breeding program? But I'm probably different from 95% of the people on this forum... I raised thousands of birds last year. I expect some losses. If I ordered a dozen for the entire year, I'd be making sure they didn't die. But for the people who live in areas that see long-term sub-freezing temps, adding more heat than they absolutely need is doing more harm than good, IMHO. Chickens will "down up" more in the colder temps... if they're too warm, they won't adjust, then if you lose power in the winter and they drop to sub-zero temps, they're going to have issues and you WILL have to add heat. Our fuel prices are *&$&! too high as it is, I don't need to be adding to the bill when they have perfectly good down coats.
 

Mrs MIA

Chick Magnet
11 Years
Mar 3, 2008
7,988
62
303
Just came in from doing chores... the babies were just fine, peeping-mad at me because they were out of food, but other than that, they showed no signs of distress. I think the momma did a much better job than I ever did, and now that I've downsized to a personal flock, I think I'm going to let my silkies and millies do all the brooding from here on out. It's a gorgeous crisp clear 21°F out there at 9:30am. Everyone is out scratching around for the treats, and waiting for the sun to come up over the trees. Expecting snow next week.
 

shelleen

In the Brooder
8 Years
Sep 27, 2011
59
0
29
Mrs. AK-Bird-Brain :

Just came in from doing chores... the babies were just fine, peeping-mad at me because they were out of food, but other than that, they showed no signs of distress. I think the momma did a much better job than I ever did, and now that I've downsized to a personal flock, I think I'm going to let my silkies and millies do all the brooding from here on out. It's a gorgeous crisp clear 21°F out there at 9:30am. Everyone is out scratching around for the treats, and waiting for the sun to come up over the trees. Expecting snow next week.

You're making me miss the Kenai!!

As far as handling the sub-zero temps, I had 4 chickens locked out of the coop by a well-meaning relative over Thanksgiving last year. They wandered off & were gone for 4 days to 2 weeks during a humdinger of a MN storm. Blowing, snowing and -20's. They survived the cold & by foraging only. Two wandered home & the last 2 were finally found by my husband roosting in a tree withing sight of the coop!! A few spots of frostbite on the combs, mighty hungry, and never made that mistake again
 

chickmashnoon

Songster
8 Years
Jun 3, 2011
449
22
129
Champaign County, Illinois
All you folks who are in areas that get down to -30F and don't heat and/or insulate, what breeds of chickens do you raise? I know some are hardier than others and I was curious if you were able to overwinter a large variety of chickens this way or if you had 2 or 3 breeds that you kept.
 

Fred's Hens

Crowing
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
I am presently keeping the following breeds.

Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, ISA Browns, and a New Hampshire based Red Sex Link. I've kept Black Sex Links (RIRxBR) and Speckled Sussex who were also fine in the cold.

I would prefer to mix in some hardy Wyandottes and Buckeyes, but their laying rate doesn't entirely suit me. If I knew of a great laying Wyandotte, rose combed strain, I"d be all over it.
 
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Mrs MIA

Chick Magnet
11 Years
Mar 3, 2008
7,988
62
303
I currently have BBS/Lavender/mottled lavender Orpingtons, Silver Grey and Red Dorkings (NOT good with their huge combs, but very special and worth the extra effort), BC Marans, Silkies, d'Uccles, Ameraucanas, Norwegian Jaerhons, a couple of silver campines, a mottled java, a few black sexlinks and other crosses.

The pea and rose combed breeds do better with the whole frostbite thing, of course, and the larger breeds seem to hold the heat better (wyandottes, Orpingtons, etc).


The frost never melted in the shade today... I'm afraid Fall is over for us...
 

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