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Tough chickens

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by LWeekly, Dec 22, 2009.

  1. LWeekly

    LWeekly In the Brooder

    Jun 1, 2009
    Dallas, NC
    My small flock of chickens were free ranging all summer and generally stayed close to the the goat pen. At night, they liked to roost in a couple of trees inside the pen. This fall we finished up our chicken coop and put them inside for a couple of weeks so that hopefully they'd think of that as home. It only sort of worked. I still wanted to let the chickens out to free range during the day but sometimes they wouldn't go back to the coop at night and instead would roost in the tree like they were used to. For the most part, this really isn't an issue because our weather is generally mild.

    Except for last Friday. We didn't get more than an inch or two of snow at our house but by the time I got home, the freezing rain and sleet had turned the roads to ice. My husband was outside frantically trying to round up the last few chickens that were outside and they were stubbornly insisting on roosting in the tree. They settled into some of the top branches and fluffled themselves up and refused to come back down. As much as I hated to leave them out there when they have a nice dry, insulated and well ventilated coop with food and water and lots of roost space, there wasn't much I could do because they were too high to get out of the tree. I fully expected to go outside the next morning to find dead chickens frozen on the ground.

    Instead, I went outside to the goats and chickens skating across a thick sheet of ice in the goat pen. Apparently the chickens had weathered the night ok even though one looked like she still had ice on her tailfeathers. They huddled around the hot water I brought out for the waterer and then went into the goat house where there was straw to stay warm in.

    After all the threads I'd read about chickens in cold weather I was really worried that they'd be too frail to make it through the storm. They really surprised me by being tougher than I thought they could be. I've been watching them since the storm and they seem to be doing just fine. I've been bringing them out yogurt and hot oatmeal the past couple of days just so they can keep their energy up and they're all doing just great. I've had some drop in egg production from the chickens outside but I'm not sure if that's because of the stress from the weather or if they're just hiding their eggs again.

    I just wanted to share my story for those of you dealing with cold weather right now and who are worried about their birds. They might be tougher than you think!

  2. Country Heart

    Country Heart City Girl With A

    Glad everything worked out for your girls. I'm in California, so it's the heat that I worry about. [​IMG]
  3. LWeekly

    LWeekly In the Brooder

    Jun 1, 2009
    Dallas, NC
    We had a pretty warm summer this year but the chickens seem to handle it ok. They'd dig in the dirt to stay cool and I made sure they had access to shade and cold water. Sometimes we'd bring out ice for the water to keep them cooler and they seemed to like that. They were also big fans of watermelon.
  4. blueskylen

    blueskylen Songster

    Mar 3, 2008
    that reminds me of a rooster that we saw last winter on a farm that the owners only come to visit once or twice a month. they have a nice barn, but they have one black rooster that would roost on a tree branch directly over the road. We saw that rooster there on nights way below 0 degrees, and thought that he surely would be dead by the road each morning. We saw him all this summer out in their fields, and lo and behold, the other night when it was snowing like crazy - there he was on that branch again.
    I think that an outdooors life may be better for them than the cooped up life we are giving our chickens now. As long as they have a dry and warm place to go, food and water available, they seem to be sturdier and healthier than kept inside.
  5. jwchicklady

    jwchicklady Songster

    May 29, 2009
    Howell, MI
    i bet their not laying because of lack of light--if they aren't staying in a coop with artificial light then they won't lay till the days are longer.
  6. Freeholder

    Freeholder Songster

    Mar 23, 2008
    Klamath County, OR
    I agree that chickens are tougher than we usually give them credit for. We had a bunch in (central) New Hampshire who wouldn't stay in their pen and coop. They spent several winters roosting in trees, until predators finally got the last of them. But I don't think any of them died from the bad weather. And New Hampshire does have quite a bit of cold, snow, and ice in the winter. The ones we had in Interior Alaska (down to minus seventy degrees F) lost combs and a few toes, but survived and laid eggs -- a few -- all winter. Even without supplemental light, which we couldn't provide because we didn't have any electricity. Someone on this forum regularly emphasizes the need for GOOD ventilation, and I think they are absolutely correct. And not only for chickens, but for all livestock and even for people. I suspect that a lot of the 'winter colds and flu' are a result of staying cooped up indoors so much like most of us do.

  7. DIMBY

    DIMBY Songster

    Jun 14, 2009
    Western Colorado
    Boy, reading these posts is a bit of a relief. Three weeks ago, when we began to experience record breaking cold temps, I relented and installed a 60 watt bulb in one of my hen houses. I have seven hens, but two hen houses (I inherited one), and both are small and have open doors so the hens can go in and out at will. The houses are at opposite ends of their enclosed run (coop). The heat was just in time, since the next few nights got down to -10 and -15 below and we got about 11 inches of snow last week. So, tonite it snows again, and I go out to check on all about an hour ago. Guess what - all of my hens are in the unheated hen house and appear to be happy as clams! Go figure. I can report, however, that I am getting 4-6 eggs per day. Five of the 7 are very large - two Aussies, a NHR and two Black Stars. I do feed them high protein crumble, they get lots of scratch and every afternoon their treat of either oatmeal and yogurt or rice with veggies.

    Sometimes, I think we worry too much about our girls.

  8. NellaBean

    NellaBean Graceland Farms

    Mar 4, 2009
    Broodyland, TN
    My Coop
    I had to stay late at a work party and had my boyfriend lock up the chickens for the first time a couple weeks ago. The next morning, I found two of the 12 week old pullets out roosting in the back of the yard.....apparently they had missed night lockup and he missed them when he walked the yard checking for stragglers. That night was below freezing and VERY windy, and they were just fine. I also had a rooster decide to roost on top of the coop one night.......tried knocking him off with a rake, but couldn't reach him.....so I left him up there. He was just fine the next morning.

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