Lesson 1185 – Extreme cold weather precautions for the flock


We’ve entered into a dangerously low cold snap in New Hampshire.

Just a reminder that if you have chickens, when it gets very cold like this, there are a few precautions you can take to ensure their welfare.

  • Make sure your flock has an area that is windproof. If they can roost together and are free of the wind they should be fine.
  • Speaking of roosts, make sure that you have enough space on your bars for all flock members to take a perch. Sitting on the floor of the coop will not serve the birds well as they will lose too much body heat. Wooden roosts are what they need, never metal ones.
  • Consider giving the flock a bit of extra fat (not tons, we want healthy birds – not birds that need to go on a diet.) Put a seed block (on top of a concrete block so that it doesn’t absorb water from below) in the coop yard and/or throw in a few blocks of chopped up suet. I regularly give my flock some suet every other week in the winter, but when it is bitterly cold, I give them some extra. The reason for the fat is that in the extreme cold, these chickens are burning up extra calories, a bit of fat (which is high in calories) gives them a bit of an energy bump (this is the same reason we crave heavier and heartier foods in the winter, our bodies are telling us we need more fat.)
  • Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink. When the temps dip, water freezes. Although chickens peck at snow, they don’t “eat” snow (certainly not enough to satisfy their water requirements.) Make sure the flock has access to melted water (it doesn’t have to be warm, just melted) at all times. For us, who don’t have electricity in our coop, this means we run a heavy-duty extension cord through our backyard and have it hooked up to the water heater in the coop.
  • I know it’s tempting but please refrain from using a heater in the coop. Honestly, if you’ve done the above, your flock won’t need any additional support and I’ve heard of too many hen house fires to ever justify a heater in a backyard coop.

And as far as the other members of the flock?

Dogs should not be outside for long. Paw padding can freeze and it can be difficult to breath in extreme cold. If you have a cooler house, (as we do) make sure pets have a warm place to go.


Kids should not be allowed to leave the house without hats, mittens, and warm coats (yes, this even includes the high school kids who claim they don’t have room in their lockers.) What? Have you never read The Children’s Blizzard?



Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com

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Filed under Mama Hen, Personal, Teaching kids, The Family

2 responses to “Lesson 1185 – Extreme cold weather precautions for the flock

  1. Thanks Wendy! I have been through the cold weather and chickens plenty but I can always use a list to check myself. I did not know about the suet. I will get some today(have to get wood chips anyway – coop needs cleaning more often in the winter). I have a coop then a run off the coop- that run is setup so my ducks are out of the wind (tarp over it). Then we have a huge outdoor enclosure. Anyway hubby setup a heat lamp in the run so the ducks could get warm if needed (they are hardy). I think it is away from any potential fire hazard- but now I am worrying some. Coop has no lamp – just their heated water is in there. You always provide great info! Thanks! Cant wait to feed them Suet!

  2. Pingback: Lesson 1186 – A little of this, a little of that, and #JeSuisCharlie | Lessons Learned from the Flock

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