Chickens & Snow

Today we woke up to snow for the first time this winter.  In Springfield, Oregon it rarely snows much, but when it does everyone takes it very seriously.  The schools shut down and traffic warnings tell us to put chains on, drive carefully, and stay home if possible.  In any other state where winter snow is commonplace, this much snow wouldn’t faze anybody, but when a community doesn’t get that much snow, it isn’t equipped to plow and salt the roads at a minute’s notice, and everything comes to a halt.  It’s a hassle, and it’s really a problem for working parents who have to keep their children home from school even if the snow melts in a couple hours.  Of course the kids love it!  In our case, my son is old enough to stay home on his own, and this is a great opportunity to finish overdue homework, so it works for us.  Me, I’m out to check on my chickens, of course!               

What's that white stuff out there!

 

Last year it didn’t snow here in the valley so I didn’t get the chance to check out my chicken’s snow behaviour.  Sure enough, when I went out to check on them this morning, my hens didn’t quite know what to think of that white stuff covering the ground.  They’re usually outside their coop at the crack of dawn pecking away at the grass, bugs and worms.  This morning they’re in their coop cawing and wondering what’s going on.  Naturally I wanted to take photos, and the situation has inspired me to put up a quick post about it!  Here is a quick list of concerns & tips for my chickens today:              

  1. Are they safe and warm in their coop?   Yes.  It’s barely 30 degrees.  Chickens can tolerate probably 10 – 20 degrees without needing a heat source.
  2. Will they have enough food in their coop if they don’t go outside? Yes, the feeders are full.
  3. Is the water frozen? Yes, replace it with the spare water trough and fresh water morning and efternoon.
  4. Will they get frost bite if they walk around outside in the snow?  Not when it’s only 30 degrees. If it gets too cold they will probably stay inside anyway.  If it gets down to 10 – 15 degrees, then I’ll set up the heat lamp, but it isn’t necessary unless it gets a lot colder.  For some good advice on chicken care and what to be concerned with in the cold, check out Katy’s from Portland’s Q&A section on her website at:    http://home.centurytel.net/thecitychicken/frequentlyasked.html

  

Who’s that lady with the camera!

In the meantime, my chickens are out wandering around now.  They saw me outside the coop and probably took that as a cue that it was okay to venture outside.  The snow will melt within a few hours anyway, and the sun is due out tomorrow. We should see plenty of sunbreaks on Thanksgiving Day.              

 Hopefully this weekend I’ll have time to set up the heat lamp in case we do get some bad storms this year and sub zero temperatures below 15 degrees.   Even though chickens can handle cold temperatures, I don’t want them to suffer unnecessarily, so I will make sure they have a heat source to perch under, but only if absolutely necessary.  I have read that it’s not a good idea to get chickens used to heat.  And it’s not a good idea to keep their coop lit because it will shorten their egg laying years.  They need to be accustomed to natural lighting conditions.   Check out some of the links below for more really good tips on chicken care in cold weather:             

 http://www.motherearthnews.com/ask-our-experts/chickns-and-cold-weather-zb0z10zblon.aspx              

http://www.submityourarticle.com/articles/Roy-Preece-4809/hens-in-winter-83393.php              

http://www.plamondon.com/faq_winter.html              

http://www.downthelane.net/chickens-in-winter.php              

http://www.ehow.com/how_5975861_care-chickens-cold-weather.html

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