Saturday, January 31, 2009

Winter Chickens

The last ten or more winters had been quite warm here with very little snow for this area. Last year however it changed completely to colder with more snow than usual. This year was a repeat with snow beginning in November and staying on the ground. Also a repeat has been the extreme cold with temperatures dropping well below freezing by 20 to 30 degrees. This has been hard on the chickens as I had to shut them in since November. Normally by now we usually get a thaw and I would be able to let them out for a few hours but not this year. I even covered their out door pen but there is still a lot of snow in it. The main problem however is the cold.

Some people let their chickens out into the snow and tell me I should do that as well. I don't however for many reasons and I even sealed their exit door with a second door to prevent any cold air from coming in. As long as they have fresh air and are not too crowded, I think they are better off inside. If you want eggs, just think that if the hen goes outside, she will begin to use her food as energy to keep warm first and not for eggs. Plus if I have the door open to the outside, the house will cool down and again even when she comes in she has to work on keeping herself warm. I don't think chickens being a jungle fowl, are properly equipped to handle the cold. This of course is extreme cold, I had given them free run until the water started to freeze in their house during the day as well as night. After that point I found the hens were going out to stand on cold ground and if it was really frozen, they were not able to get much from it. Basically you are feeding them to make up for the lost body heat while standing on frozen ground.

Melda, Lucy and Diane plan their escape

I find the cold is also kicking the stuffing out of the house. You can see where the door above is 'sweating' because of the extreme cold outside and warm air inside. It is damaging the inner walls as well.

Lucy: "That snow looks cold"!
Diane: "You go first"!
Lucy: "No you go First"!
Melda "Forget it, I'm outta here"!
The girls are spoiled with treats, as soon as they hear someone approaching the house, they all try to get up on this little gate to get there first. They are pretty good not to jump out, it is not part of their routine so they don't do it, chickens can be funny that way. Also because of the cold snow, they just want no part of it. I'm glad January is over, by April I should be able to let them out all day again or at least part of the day, I feel bad as they love outside and I can't hear Chico crowing in the house. It will also be nice not to worry about heat lamps and lights on timers again but mostly the girls will be free to roam in or out and act like chickens. For now however the six girls are giving me five eggs a day again this week so I don't want to change anything and mess them up.
As night falls it starts to snow again...blah! Good night girls stay snug in your house.


Amy said...

Hi, thanks for your comment! I absolutley love your chicken hut!! And very envious of the snow!!
Thanks for the "laying" info... i wont worry so much now!!
Take care Amy x

nobody-but-us-chickens said...

Hi Amy, snow is nice at first but it has been here since Oct 30th so I am getting quite tired of it now. Want me to send you some? Haha!
I should also probably tell you that silkies are noted as being the 'worst' layers, so don't expect a lot of eggs from them. Looking at their pictures however, I think they might be mixed with something and not pure. Maybe I'm wrong and they are another version of the breed but the ones over here look as if they have fur not feathers. I will soon have a picture of Chico up and you can compare. Even if mixed they will still be good mothers and maybe even lay better.

Amy said...

Hi...We did buy them all as mixed breeds, I just love them, as they are completely different to other chickens...but they are not as fluffy as the silkie's i have seen on the net, etc. Thanks for the info... you really are helpful!!
Amy x