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Unexpected Cold Snap temps down to -20F at night (from today's 34F)

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Lesuko, Dec 2, 2013.

  1. Lesuko

    Lesuko Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 27, 2012
    It's way too early for us to be getting -20F night time lows. It may happen in February but that is also rare. Unfortunately, we didn't check the weather until last night and the -20f weather will hit Wednesday- 2 nights time. The cold snap will last at least a week with daytime temps in single digits or low teens. First 3 nights in the -'s.

    Recently we've had some +20F night time temps but in Boulder, CO, we have varying temps. Last 5 nights were above freezing. Given the drastic 50 degree difference in low temps, can the chickens handle this quick of a change?

    We will cover the known drafts and block the window- leaving enough openings for ventilation. However, even our water heater says it may not work with temps below -10f. We have a regular heat lamp that we can turn on, but will that be enough? Do we need to bring them in the garage with some heaters?

    Breeds: buff orp, speckled sussex, astrolorp, brahma, aurancana, wyandotte, long island reds.

    I have read the below article but I'm concerned about the drastic drop in temps and whether the chickens can handle going from today's 57f to Wednesday's 9F. To me, it doesn't seem like they would have feathered out enough to handle these drastic changes.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/winter-coop-temperatures

    Coop bedding is pine shavings. I have cracked corn to feed them as well. We rarely get nights below 0F.

    Any recommendations?

    Many thanks.
     
  2. KayTee

    KayTee Chillin' With My Peeps

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    When you say your chicks may not have feathered out enough, how old are they? Do you have a photo of them in the last few days?
     
  3. Lesuko

    Lesuko Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 27, 2012
    Opps, sorry- they are 7 months old and in good health. I'm assuming as the temps drop gradually, they grow more feathers to deal with the colder weather. But for a 50 degree drop in temps, I'm assuming they haven't had the time to grow enough feathers to handle the extreme cold.
     
  4. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    They will be fine. Allow them to experience these tough nights. There will be more of them. Inside the coop rarely gets quite as cold as outside, that's important. Second, they have thick down coats that nature provides them. They also huddle together sharing body heat.

    Nobody will provide any relief for the sparrows, the owls, the hawks, etc. Nature has already provided birds with what they need.

    Also, easy on that corn. It is largely unneeded as well. Their regular feed is likely 65% corn already. Adding even more corn to the diet simply dilutes the other necessary aspects of there balanced feed. Will they eat more feed in cold weather? Yes, they will, but make sure it is balanced with all the vitamins, proteins, minerals and the rest that they need to be productive.
     
  5. KayTee

    KayTee Chillin' With My Peeps

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    South West France
    At 7 months old I would imagine they have enough feathers to cope, especially if they roost together, and you are doing your best to insulate the coop from cold draughts. I got my girls at 4 months old in September, so they were only 7 months old in December when we had snow, and they were roosting in a tiny little uninsulated coop in the middle of the garden. They survived with no ill effects, although we only went down to between 0 and 5°F (-18 to -15°c), not the -20°F (-28°c) that you have forecast.

    I choose not to heat my coop for two simple reasons - fire risk and power cuts. We have a pretty high risk of power cuts when it gets really cold and snowy here, and I don't want my girls to get used to heating and then have to suffer without it for a few days - that would be worse than not heating the coop at all. However, I appreciate that everyone has their own opinions on heating or not, and if you choose to do so then that's fine with me - we all do what we feel is best for our girls, given our individual situations and ideas!
     
  6. rancher hicks

    rancher hicks Chicken Obsessed

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    One year I had a Dominique go broody just before winter hit here. I said forget it, she was so determined to sit. She had two eggs and temps dropped well below freezing. Single digits here during the day.

    Well she hatch both those eggs with no trouble at all.

    I don't heat, they seem fine. My hoops have nothing but a tarps over the hard wire. Only roost that didn't get frost bit was the one in there.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. happylittlehens

    happylittlehens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Mar 19, 2013
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    Here in central Utah we are expecting the same cold snap that is coming your way. I do not heat my coop. I block all the drafts and leave 2 vents open. I have a thick layer of straw for bedding since I have 1 girl that refuses to roost and prefers to make a straw nest on the floor. This is my first winter with chickens as well. Wishing us both luck! :)
     
  8. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    I would definitely put down extra bedding, as some may choose to stay inside even during the day. And personally, I'd close/cover all the vents (just overnight). Unless your coop is insulated, adding a heat lamp won't make much difference. Good luck to you and your birds...brrrr!
    We don't get the extremes your area does, but we've also already had temps. that we normally don't get until January too...makes me wonder what actual winter will bring...
     
  9. Lesuko

    Lesuko Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 27, 2012
    Hi Everyone,

    Thank you for your advice. We've had 3 nights in the negatives with -13 being the coldest (we never did hit -20, which is good). The mornings have been -5, -8, -11 and the girls seem to prefer being on their outside roost rather than inside in their insulated coop. They really don't like walking around on the very cold sand. I should have put some hay down on top to help insulate their feet. They have not been active, but roosting almost all day to stay warm. They are not allowed out in the snow with temps this low. I was told by a 30+ yr experienced chicken keeper(?) that they don't know what's best for them and will always prefer to free range, regardless of the cold snow. That they would definitely get frostbite on their feet and track moisture from feet and feathers inside the coop at night, which could cause frostbite on their combs. I'm not ok with that. I've had frostbite and it's extremely painful.

    Things I learned:
    -we switched their inside roost to the 4" side of the 2"x4". Some prefer to sit on the poop hammock's bar that's 2"x2" instead of the 4".
    -we are using a heat lamp for them at night when temps are below 0. One big reason is we haven't finished making the windows and they are covered with foam and cardboard (4). At -5 with lamp, the water inside the coop didn't freeze. At -13 with lamp, the water was solid ice. At -11 it was half frozen. I'm fine with temps being below freezing in the coop. The girls do not like the heat lamp- they refuse to go in the coop at night once it's turned on. So, I'm looking at a radiant flat panel option now at 150w. It may not be needed but why not give them a little warmth with these unexpected temps especially when the days are so cold too. And, there is a lot of air in that needs to be heated with just 5 girls.
    -we have a heated plastic waterer :https://www.backyardchickens.com/pr...poultry-fountain-3-gal-model-hpf-100-100-watt
    It is supposed to work to -10. While the water isn't frozen solid, the top of the water in the drinking area iced over on the coldest night, -13. The other 2 nights and day (since we're still in single digits) it was half iced over. So, it did not freeze where the water enters the bowl. Still, the chickens weren't able to break through the ice. My neighbor has the heated dog bowl and it did not freeze. We wanted the fountain because we will be traveling and can't refill the water everyday. This cold snap will not stay and we should go back to 20f being our usual coldest temps during the day.
    -I will get a thermometer to learn how cold the coop gets without supplemental heat and for piece of mind.

    Thanks again!
     

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