When is it too cold?


8 Years
Mar 11, 2011
Western Massachusetts
I have Rhodies and Ply Rocks which I chose in part for their winter hardiness. It has been quite cold here in New england this last week. Yesterday was the first time I checked them and they were in the coop during the day. I was low teens with extreme wind chill. Although when they saw me they all came running out and wanted to freerange. I have already done the following to protect them from the cold.

  • Rigged a homemade heater to keep their water thawed, working great.
  • Covered their run with straw to provide a barrier between their feet and the ground, to keep them drier too.
  • Covered most windows and ventilation openings on coop to keep cold wind out. Still a couple small vents open.
  • Applied petroleum jelly to their combs to protect from possibility of frostbite.
  • Mixed their feed with about 25% scratch to help them warm themselves.
  • Covered parts of the bottom of the run with plywood so they have protection from the wind if they don't go into the coop during the day.

I think I have done everything I need to. When I check them at night their feet are always warm. I really don't see the need for a heat lamp in their coop. I have never found them huddled any more than they always do when they roost at night. I guess when we are cold we think they must be too. I am pretty sure we have this covered but I'm open to suggestions.

Here is the coop sans run...sans winter...sans cold!

I'd keep the ventilation over their heads open so they get plenty of ventilation. You'll get more problems with poor ventilation than with cold coops. Just keep the openings higher than them when they are on the roosts.

I would not feed them that much scratch. They still need a balanced diet, even in cold weather. You are probably not really hurting them by throwing their nutrient balance that far out of kilter by feeding that much scratch, but I'd suggest reducing it to maybe 10% of their daily intake and feeding it a little before bedtime. I really don't think feeding scratch instead of their regular feed just before bedtime will make a bit of difference to the chickens, but it will make you feel better, as if you are trying to do something to help. There is some benefit in that.
The overhead ventilation is mostly open still.

As for the scratch, I have read on Backyard Poultry and other publications that it is recommended to give them as much as 10% of total feed in warmer months but in cold months increase to around 25% because they need the added calories that the scratch feed provides them. I just mixed 50#s which will get me through most of the winter so that's what they are getting for now. The materials I have read make sense as to the increase in scratch.

I can't find the other article from BY poukltry but this one mentions it some.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom