Why aren't my chickens eating?

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by sarahh, Jan 18, 2012.

  1. sarahh

    sarahh New Egg

    Jan 17, 2012
    This has happened before (last winter). My chickens virtually stop eating. They sit on their roost all day, under the infrared lamp. I put them out in the run, only to have them run back in and get back on the roost (sometimes after eating a tiny bit). They don't seem horribly thin when I feel their breasts and they look healthy enough. I worry though. Last year, they started eating again (I mean significant amounts) in about February, and soon after that, started laying eggs again.

    Is this something others have seen? Are they conserving so much energy by not moving around and not laying eggs that they hardly need anything to eat?


  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe True BYC Addict

    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    I don't know where you are but do you need the lamp?
    I imagine they are used to the warmth at night and it's too cold to go out during the day when it's time to eat.
    Chickens need to be able to acclimate to the weather. Warm at night, cold during the day is more stressful than constant cold.

    We've had a weird winter here. Last winter it was cold and snowy all winter and all the birds spent the day out and no heat at night.
    This year record highs followed the next day by teens. It was 60 one day and 16 the next - not one of my birds(4 separate flocks) came outside that day cause they weren't used to it.
    Yesterday it was 69 here and it's getting into the teens tonight. I bet they don't come out in the morning.
  3. 7L Farm

    7L Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 22, 2010
    Anderson, Texas
    Do you have cold hardy chickens ? If so, I wouldn't provide them with a heat lamp. Heat lamps can cause fires there was a thread just recently about someones coop catching fire from a heat lamp. I use tarps or clear plastic to block the cold wind from blowing on my birds.I leave plenty of ventilation I just block the wind. The birds will adapt to their environment. Meaning they have the ability to grow more feathers to accommodate the harsh cold. As most animals in the wild can grow thicker coats for a cold winter ahead of them.
    Animals normally eat more in the winter the food provides extra fat that also helps keep them warm so providing them heat will interfere with their natural defenses.
  4. sarahh

    sarahh New Egg

    Jan 17, 2012
    Well I'm in Seattle, I've always kept the heat lamp on in the winter (day and night). The last batch of chickens didn't behave this way - they went out during the day and ate. These ones don't.

    Given that they have adapted, by this time in the winter, to the heat lamp, I can't take it away can I?

  5. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    You can slowly wean them off of it.

    I don't heat for a host of reasons, not the least is that it is soooooo expensive and the birds don't need it. Boy!! Do they eat!! A chicken that is providing natural body heat in the winter, loves to eat. Our temps are much colder than the coastal PNW by a very good bit. The hens are just fine.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2012
  6. sarahh

    sarahh New Egg

    Jan 17, 2012
    Thanks so much! I'll start weaning them off the heat - even tho Seattle is having an Alaska-moment snowwise today, it's not that cold (31)
  7. Crabella

    Crabella Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 22, 2010
    Inland Pacific NW
    Only 31! Lucky you. Check them for lice or mites. Are they molting? Do you worm your flock? If it isn't one of those and they are not visibly ill, I am with the others who posted and think that it is just that they like your heat lamp and are not accustomed to the cold and snow.

    My flock would all be out toolin' around the neighborhood at that temp. We are finally getting some snow here, but the wind is howling at 20+mph. I'm keeping my flock in the coop because the windchill is -6 and I don't want chickensicles.[​IMG] I just spent a half hour out there stapling plastic over the vents on the windward side . Just doing that raised the temp in there 5 degrees in an hour. Then I took them some more warm mash and warm water. Even with two pair of gloves on, my fingers were like icicles. Going to go put a pot of soup on now and try to thaw out before the next trip out there.

  8. sarahh

    sarahh New Egg

    Jan 17, 2012
    They're not molting. How do I check for lice or mites? I have never wormed - do I need to? My chickens have always seemed very healthy. Bright red combs and all, until now- they're a little duller now. Nice healthy looking down jackets :). Bright eyes.

    I've even been putting a pan of food up on top of the nest box which is at the same height as the roost and connected to it, so they don't even have to leave the heat lamp and still they don't eat hardly at all!!

    As I said earlier, they did this last year too, and lived through it in seemingly fine shape...
  9. Trefoil

    Trefoil Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 7, 2011
    Having a heat lamp on them won't stop them from eating. To check for mites,look around their vent area and under their wings.You should be able to see them or their poop. What are you feeding? It was 4ยบ here this morning and my fowl were all chowing down.
  10. turn off the heat lamp..... they are more interested in staying on the perch than anything else. After a few days of it being off, lock them out of the coop in the day time and put their food and water out side. Mites and lice have a tough time surviving below 32 degrees...your chickens dont.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2012

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