Lesson 1190 – Caring for the flock when it’s ridiculously cold

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The temps have really dropped around here. We live in an older house that just can’t keep back the cold and when the thermometer dips into the single and negative digits, everyone (even the dog) starts wearing shawls and fingerless gloves inside the house. (We call it the season of Bob Cratchit.)

If it’s this cold in the house, it must be brutal in the coop. Although the chickens know what to do, (they really do) when it’s this cold there are a few things you can check in order to make things as comfortable as possible for your chickens.

  • Inspect the hen house for cracks or open areas. Make sure that the birds have a place to go where they are protected from the wind.

We use the deep litter method in the winter. This means, we don’t take out any bedding and just add to it every other week. The accumulated litter provides a little bit of insulation and any composting in the lower undisturbed layers generates a small amount of heat. Little things help in the bitter cold.

  • Supplement your flocks’ diet. When it’s really cold, consider giving your flock suet blocks to eat. Trust me, they will go wild for it. You don’t have to give them much – the goal is to give them a little bit of extra fat to burn, not get them fat. For our flock of 27, I throw in 2 suet blocks about every other week.

Also, consider giving your chickens some meat as added protein. Never give them raw meat, but any leftover scraps will be much appreciated. Chickens are omnivores. They eat plants and meat (and if you doubt that, you haven’t see my chickens fight over a poor frog unlucky enough to get lost in our backyard.)

Added fat and protein makes a difference in the cold. We keep a “chicken bowl” in our kitchen and all chicken-worthy scraps go into it (including gravies which get soaked up by any bread or crackers.) Every morning, we take the bowl out to the coop and let the flock have at it. Not only does this give the birds extra nutrition, but it also breaks up the day when there’s not much more to do then huddle.

  • Lastly, make sure your flock has water at all times. As we can know, cold weather can be very drying (if you doubt me, just look at your dry and scaly legs.) If we can lose body water in the cold, so can chickens. Make sure they always have enough melted water to drink at all times.

Final word on the matter for today – no matter what the temps, DO NOT put a heater in your coop, even when it’s ridiculously cold, it’s not worth the fire risk, it’s just not.

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

Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two.

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3 Comments

Filed under All things chickens, Backyard Chickens, chicken care, Chicken fun, Life Lessons, Mama Hen, Personal, Teaching kids, The Family

3 responses to “Lesson 1190 – Caring for the flock when it’s ridiculously cold

  1. The suet is a great idea! Thanks! I might make my own with some coconut oil and scratch! We just went thru a cold snap. I heated a large river rock on the woodstove and placed it on a brick in their henhouse at night. My girls would purr as they nestled on their perch above it. We’ve also used an electric seed starting mat when it gets so cold.

    • Wendy Thomas

      That’s a great idea. It doesn’t have to bee beef fat, just some kind of fat. Just want to make sure that you’re not shying away from suet because of the animal fat in the mistaken belief that chickens are vegetarian.

      If given the chance, any chicken would pounce on a char-grilled steak left out to cool for a few minutes (ask me how I know,)

      Wendy

      On Wed, Jan 14, 2015 at 6:58 PM, Lessons Learned from the Flock wrote:

      >

  2. Karen

    Did you know that it is illegal in Britain to feed chickens any food that comes out of the kitchen, unless it is a vegan kitchen because of the risk of contamination. I suppose it is salmonella or E-coli getting back into the food chain. No doubt it’s another EU initiative. Also means we have to keep chickens away from compost heaps which is a shame as they could do me a favour and catch some of those darn mice!

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