Project Chickens before the Eggs – Lesson 193 – Winter, chickens, and a cold house – we’ll survive

It is without doubt Fall-going-into-the-dark-side here in New Hampshire. The last two weeks have been miserable. Black, cold, rainy, and ridiculously damp. It’s the kind of dampness that soaks into your bones, all pervasive. And when you live in a house where you can see the curtains move from the cold wind blowing through cracks you know you are doomed.

Well that’s it, I told Marc, looks like I won’t be warm again until next June.

But that’s why polar fleece, electric blankets, and Hot Toddies were invented. I’ll survive. In just a few months, I’ll be back at the pool with the kids – complaining no doubt about the heat. It’s the way it is. It’s what comes with living in the New Hampshire territory.

But what about the chickens?

Beside the question about roosters (How can you have eggs without roosters?) the most frequently asked question is “What do you do for the chickens in the winter?”

The short answer is that we do very little.

Chickens, after all are very hardy birds. Much like the wild turkeys seen all over our town, chickens know how to take care of themselves pretty well – which is, let’s face it, what makes them so desirable as a food source.

Think about the colonists, way back when. They didn’t have much more than an unheated shed (similar to our poorly heated house) in which to house their chickens and yet they all still made it through the winter.

We do make sure our chickens are in their henhouse during the night, at the very least it helps with the wind. And although we don’t have to – we will put a 100 watt lightbulb in the henhouse when the temperatures drop to around zero (which if this weather keeps up will happen in about 27 minutes).

In a few weeks (again, let’s be real – minutes), we’ll be putting a heater on the water feeder so that ice won’t form. No heater goes on the food, cold grain is still good grain.

The only other care difference when it’s colder is that we’ll be checking for eggs more often. Eggs can freeze and when they do the shell cracks making them unusable and an unusable egg is a shame.

Other than that, we all just kind of hunker down. I put on my L.L. Bean sweater, the chickens their natural down coats and we wait in the cold with our distant memories of sun-kissed days giving us the needed hope to make it through the bitter nights.


Turning in for the night




Filed under All things chickens, Backyard Chickens, Personal, Project Chickens before the Eggs, The Family

3 responses to “Project Chickens before the Eggs – Lesson 193 – Winter, chickens, and a cold house – we’ll survive

  1. Kim

    🙂 Everyone wants to know how we keep the chickens warm in winter. We sealed the cracks in the coop walls, that’s about it. I don’t use a heater on the water, but I keep one warm inside and switch them out at night. Seems to work fine. Haven’t lost one to the cold yet! And they love to free range even in the snow. We shovel them some paths.

    Stay warm! I miss summer something fierce already.

    • wethomas


      Hi there! Isn’t it funny that that question comes up so often? I wonder if it is because we have become so removed from our food. Some of the kids who visit our birds have never EVER seen a live chicken before – eggs to them are just things purchased in a grocery store.

      You’re brave with switching the water, that too cold of an endeavor for me when instead I can simply flip a switch.

      We also didn’t lose one bird last winter and are hoping to do the same this time around. Good luck to your flock in the coming months.


  2. Kim

    It’s true we are removed from our food sources. The chickens are the biggest hit for all the kids who visit – my nieces especially love to help out with the care and handling of them when they are here.

    It’s been an eye opener for me, especially with the production of eggs. One assumes you get an egg per chicken on a pretty regular basis. I’ve learned how chickens that free range will suddenly decide to lay their eggs outside of the coop (we found 36 eggs the first summer under a pile of leaves behind the wood pile!) And of course laying is affected by broodiness, and by shorter days. I’d really like to raise meat chickens, but for the time being I just don’t know if I could part with any of them, so am sticking to eggs.

    One of these days we will break down and get a heater for the water. My husband has a heightened fear of fire in the coop – and it is attached to our office, so he’s nervous about losing that stuff. So, it isn’t a big deal for me to switch out the water – I’m in there all the time anyway what with working from home!

    Keep writing, I love your blogs.

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