Winter time and Chickens

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by max13077, Jun 21, 2008.

  1. max13077

    max13077 Songster

    I know it’s a long ways off, but it’s never too early to start thinking about winter. I know, the day after summer begins, boooooo.

    Anyway, I started out having my first batch of chickens this spring. I had all intentions of making dinner out of them at the end of the fall. Well…..long story short, I can’t. They’ve grown on me and I couldn’t kill them. I’m thinking about winter and trying to plan around my weak heart.

    How late in the year can they roam around the pen? Up here winter has been coming later and later each year it seems. The past couple years we didn’t even have accumulating snow till mid Nov. And our “staying for the winter” snow never really materialized much. Used to be it would start snowing in October on and off and by Nov you had snow that lasted till the end of March. Now it seems like it comes and melts with each storm. Not that there were many.

    So I’m wondering, can the chickens be out when there’s just a little snow? What’s the coldest they should have access to the yard?
  2. Katy

    Katy Flock Mistress

    Mine have access to the outdoor run 365 days a year.....even when it's snowy and cold.....and we have many very cold windy days. Sometimes they go out and sometimes they don't. I leave it up to them. The main thing in winter is to have a dry out of the wind place for them. Cold doesn't bother chickens like the heat does.
  3. Anne

    Anne Songster

    Feb 11, 2007
    Bellingham, WA
    What breed of chickens do you have? Some are more cold-hardy than others.

    My Araucanas free-range every day of the year, regardless of weather. As long as they have a coop they can escape to when conditions become too severe, they are fine.
  4. max13077

    max13077 Songster

    I have 8 Buff Orps, 3 SLW's, 3 Jersey Giants, 5 RIR's, 2 drk dark brahma's, 4 Barred rocks, 2 Partridge Chanteclers. Are they good for cold? I made sure when I was choosing breeds to only pick ones that said they were cold hearty.

    I assume judging by the feathers on some of them, they're going to be warm. I have two batches. One group is 16 weeks old, the other is 7. The Dark Brahmas are only 7 weeks but they already have some serious feathers!!
  5. Katy

    Katy Flock Mistress

    Those are all good breeds for the cold...they'll be fine.
  6. Rosalind

    Rosalind Songster

    Mar 25, 2007
    They can go out for as long as they want to. My stupid Cochins, who are supposedly extremely winter-hardy, hate the snow. I open their door, they see the snow and go back to their roost next to the panel heater. The Mediterranean birds that are not supposed to ever see snow, they always want to run out and play in the ice and get frostbitten. Go figure.

    They don't need the panel heater, I would not have bought them one, but my mother felt bad for them out in an unheated barn. She'd buy them hand-carved rosewood nesting boxes and gilded water bowls if she thought I wouldn't freak out.

    The only thing I would recommend is heated water bowls. They have their own thermostats and heat up automatically when it's below freezing. Otherwise you are going to be defrosting waterers three times daily, 45 minutes each defrost, and that's kind of a pain in the behind. With big heated water dishes, you just fill 'em up once a day. They cost, I dunno, maybe $40? It's worth it for your sanity, I think.
  7. zatsdeb

    zatsdeb Songster

    Oct 2, 2007
    Lincoln, Illinois
    mine have access to outdoors all year too. They love to pick at the snow. They go in the coop if they get cold. The ducks sleep out in the snow, heads tucked under their wings, they have access to the chicken coop but choose to be outside.
  8. SandyC

    SandyC Songster


    I am up in Northern NY, with the serious cold and snow. Last year was my first year and I had an unheated coop that was pretty draft free. Everyone did just fine, they didn't like going out in the snow though and spent most of the winter inside the barn.
  9. SpeckledHills

    SpeckledHills Songster

    May 25, 2008
    Additional options for winter watering:
    Buy heated dog water bowls--They're cheaper (~$20). Or buy a timer that comes on once or twice a day (depending on how often you will be dumping ice & putting in fresh water), plug a heat lamp into it, and hang the lamp right over your water dish.
    Chickens also seem to really enjoy munching on snow. It's nice to toss some in a bowl for them to snack on--especially good if their water sometimes freezes up.
  10. SpeckledHills

    SpeckledHills Songster

    May 25, 2008
    Minimizing cold damage to combs and wattles:
    Putting Vaseline on combs and wattles periodically can help keep them from being so sore and chapped.
    I've heard it can help prevent frostbite, too, but I'm not too certain. When I've wanted to keep a roo from getting frostbite on comb in the spring (Comb frostbite knocks out rooster fertility for about 10 days), I've put him in a cage with a low-watt heat lamp to be sure.

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