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How cold is too cold for chickens?

Posted by lfrj 7 (My Page) on
Sun, Dec 3, 06 at 3:54

Gosh, these cold snaps just keep repeating! We only have 2 chickens (which share the 6X6 with 4 ducks - no food or H20 inside at night by the way). NOt worried about the ducks, but am about the "buffies". Not because they're acting unusual or lost appetite, but baby, it's cold outside! Given we have only the two, how low is too low for them?

We'll add some more insulation, and a "chicken hood contraption" somehow (thanks Maggie) but then again, maybe i'm tripping, and they're just fine. Afterall, the sparrows do okay.

Hate to ask this as it has probably been ground out before. I googled and searched the forum, but couldn't find anything specific.

Thanks all!

LF (RJ)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

You don't say what exactly you mean by a 6X6, but assuming it's an appropriate shelter, that is all you'll need. Adding insulation, especially with ducks in there is a very bad idea. It will keep in the cold and the large amounts of moisture generated by the ducks when they breathe, and that is the cause of more problems than any cold temperatures. You don't say which sex you have, but if they're hens, comb issues are very rare. The best way to keep cocks from getting frozen combs, short of a heated building, if they're of a breed which are prone to them, is with excellent ventilation.


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

I keep my 3 hens and rooster in a coop with a light to provide heat...on a timer. The house is about 4x4(feet) and it's only for the night ,or when it's really cold,and they're happy. It's a really simple house of thick plywood.
Maybe you can put in a light like I did,so you know for sure they'll be warm through those bitter nights. It's really easy to put in. And I only use a 25 watt bulb..gives the x-tra light hours and warmth they need.
My ducks have their own 4x4 house beside the hens...but they don't have a light,but I'm ready to put one in soon,although I know of some people who keep ducks that stay outside all night on the coldest of them too! So....
hope this helped you a bit... :)


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

lfrj, my coop is 6x8, and 7 ft. tall. The back wall, and one half of the side walls are metal. The front half of the side walls and the front of the building are screened with, I think, the 1x2" hardware cloth. They have deep litter, about 8 inches right now.

The coop faces south, or a little southwest. No insulation...ventilation is the most important thing. These animals are built to withstand more drastic temps than we are...although we wonder how. As long as they don't have cold wind blowing ON them, they are good.

Just to be certain they'd stay cozy I put plywood over the screened portion of one side wall, and I hung a red heat lamp . I didn't hang it low as you would if brooding chicks, it's just hanging from the ceiling...I can walk under it. So mine still have good ventilation. Also the deep litter generates heat, and they have each other for warmth.

The red lamp is easier on them...they DO need darkness. They can sleep better with the red than anything bright. Plus, I've heard predators usually won't come close to a red light. Don't know how true that is...but...regardless, it is nice and cozy in there, with no drafts.

If you still feel it's too cold or you just not comfortable with it, could you put the two hens in a plastic dog carrier in the garage overnight? As you know...the ducks are fine. Probably loving the cold!

Suzie


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

Is a regular red light bulb just as effective as a infra red one?


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

Thanks all, for your continued advice. On the continuum between pet and livestock, our poultry falls toward the latter. Still, I want that no animal in our care would ever suffer from ignorance or laziness on our part.
So, I'm glad I asked.

LF (RJ)


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

Beeliz, don't know the answer to that one, but I'm gonna guess that it's not. The one I use says "Ideal for heating bathrooms and animal habitats". 250watt, infrared.

lfrj...I agree...pets and livestock are one and the same here, too. Maybe because our operation is still small, we've made them all pets. But I don't ever want any animal to suffer because of our ignorance or laziness. They are our responsibility, and I(try to)take that responsibility pretty seriously.


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Re: chickens drinking in the winter

I have a shallow black horse tub with a birdbath heater in it that works great for watering the chickens this time of year. I have noticed lately since it has snowed that they have not been drinking a lot. The water is clear, clean and tastes great (don't ask...if it's good enough for them...) Do chickens eat snow for water? During the summer they drank a lot of water. They are still eating like little pigs. I have 24 hens and one rooster. This is my first winter with them. I had a very nice "house" built for them furnished with roosts, nesting boxes, etc...very nice. I have become very attached to them. Thanks for any advice. The folks at the farm and home stores can't seem to answer my questions.


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

ok..today,the water froze,which isn't a good sign...I wanted to fall down and cry after all the preparation I've done. I had to break the water bucket which was under a lamp(obviously not enough wattage)
If I put a 65 watt lamp over the water bucket(outside) will this be enough to keep it from freezing?
Also, I had to increase the wattage inside the chicken coop..that water froze too.. :( I'm so disappointed.
I don't have a heater because their coop is too small for one, can anyone relate...or have advice for me? Thanks xo


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

Sorry beeliz I have no advice but I just wanted to jump in and say how sorry I am your preparations didn't work. I am in awe of you folks who have to deal with such cold weather I don't think I could do it, in fact I don't think I could cope without at least some sunshine all year.
How long will it snow where you are? and when do you get some warm weather again?
xxx, Ruth


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

A simple water heater that is put under the waterer and is thermostatically controlled would sure be less expensive than heating the whole house. They operate like the heated pet bowls. They only turn on when the temp gets to freezing and then turns off as long as the water stays above the freezing point. The birds shouldn't need additional heat as long as the coop is draft free.


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

The heated pet dish works great, is cheaper($30) than the heaters($60) sold for under a chicken waterer which can't be used with plastic waterers anyway. They do get dirtier faster because they are not covered however.


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

Where would I find a heated pet dish? In a common petshop? I'll have to ask santa for that this year! Would make life lots easier!
ruth.s,The spring and warmer weather will come in around april...so our winters are long..from november throughout april! Always so glad to see spring! Mind you,these water changing chores ect are giving my arms a good workout! haha!there's always something good to look at right? bye for now xo


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

Wow beeliz 6 months of cold weather is almost unimaginable for me, I shall count my blessings and stop complaining about the wind and rain we've been having.
xxx, Ruth


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

Been busy lately, so I am coming in late on this discussion.

Would you folks do all of us a favour and post your zone next to your names... Some of you I know (Hi Suzie, Roberta, LFRJ...) but some of you are fairly new to the forum and it is hard to comment on "really cold" when I don't know if you are in Zone 3 or Zone 7.

If your chickens are in a decent chicken house without drafts they should not need supplementary heat in Zone 5 or higher. Housing waterfowl in the same building is not a great idea as they do tend to increase the humidity considerably by splashing water about.

Too much supplementary lighting can lead to pecking problems... See Sullicorbett's current thread.

Heated pet dishes can usually be found at feed stores, TSC, and better pet supply stores. Let your fingers do the walking... I like the heated dishes for chickens and the buckets for geese. By the way, geese will demolish electrical cords in no time flat. Enclose them in a conduit to keep the little darlings safe. They are the most exasperating birds you will ever love.

Sorry if this post sounds brusque... I am so much busier lately and just don't have the time I used to have...


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

tsm -- my chanteclers just love it when I walk into the hen house with snow on my boots. It feels so funny as they peck away at it. Somedays I'll make them a snow ball and leave it in with them.

One solution for the watering is to use a small picnic cooler. WArm water will stay liquid for quite a while in them.

My big problem in this weather is finding the eggs before they break. My hens (I'm up to 25 now) keep laying them in different places. It should be too late in the season for them to be broody, but they get mad at me when I take their eggs into the house to eat. Today I found about 8 of them, behind a piece of plywood -- all frozen solid.


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

  • Posted by suenh cold end of 4! (My Page) on
    Sat, Dec 9, 06 at 8:30

I had a rooster that lived outside for several years before I finally caught him. He roosted in a pine and would nestle up to the trunk on cold nights. He could go into the coop any time but choose not to until he got into his golden years.

Water isn't such a big deal. Unless your watering tons of chickens just swap buckets periodically so the water stays thawed. It won't kill them to have the water freeze overnight.


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

What zone is Quebec Canada? I'll remember to write my zone as soon as I find out what it is! :)


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

I don't have chickens (yet) but I have cockatiels. When we lived in an apt. the landlord controlled the heat. It would get very cold where the birds stayed so I purchased a flat heat panel and put this between their cages. They would sidle up to it at night to sleep. I was careful not to have it near water, bedding, or where they could peck the wires, etc. This may or may not be a solution to the issue of outdoor chickens, but it worked for my indoor "chickens"!
http://www.eheat.com/


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

Dreamgarden,
I checked out the eheat site that you mentioned. It looks like a pretty neat heater. They've come a long way since I last looked at one. I was always afraid of electric heaters being fire hazards and have never owned one. The panel heater would probable work really well. Thanks for the info.


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

Regarding the EconoHeat panel heater mentioned by Dreamgarden: I purchased one and have been using it now for a few weeks and it's working out great. It's been weirdly warm here though, so it's only been on a few nights. It doesn't collect as much dust as the heat lamps. I have it on a thermostat so it only goes on when the temp inside the coop reaches 35 degrees or less. The only problem with it is that the heat doesn't stay down, it just floats right up through the roof. I ordered some of the foil-foam-foil insulation to put up and I'll see if that helps keep some heat in. But otherwise, I really love it so far.


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

jillylam I'm glad to hear the heat panels worked out! I used to worry about electric heaters too.

The birds liked to perch near the top of the cage, so I would drape towels over the top of their cages at night and that would hold in the heat. I made sure it didn't touch the heat panel. Chickens like to roost up high, so perhaps draping a tarp over the top of the coop might be helpful if the foil isn't quite effective enough. Glad your chickens are being well treated! What kind do you have?


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

dreamgarden,
I have 3 Rhode Island Reds and 4 Ameraucanas. They are definitely well treated - my animals and hens are my kids since I don't have any human ones (although my dogs think they are human). Thank you for your suggestions.
Jill


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

Around here, Farm and Fleet had heated dog dishes for sale for $8.00. Now, we have two of those for our cats, but I really worry about a large bowl like that for chickens in real cold weather. I think you really want a system where the chicken can put her/his beak in without getting the wattles wet. You don't want wet parts for birds that are going out in temps below zero.

We got the heated bases for under the waterers and connected them between the two hoop houses. They only go on when the water gets below freezing and then they go off once the water is above freezing. Yep, they cost more than a heated dog bowl, but are energy efficient and won't set the coop on fire. We bought a 8 gallon galvanized waterer for each house and I don't think we will ever go back to the hanging ones.


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

Great place for info thanks!!!

I have a great coop that I created from an existing log cabin that was on the property (one of 3). It had a dirt floor and one window. I screened the window and replaced the roof and made the over hangs long so the snow stays out. I scatter straw on the floor and have boxes nailed to the logs on the inside at an appropriate level. It gets pretty cold here and the yard adjacent to the coop gets pretty snowed in sometimes I shovel the snow if it's too deep. I have 10 birds one Langshan rooster 2 hens and the rest are Auracana hens. They seem to do pretty well with their arrangrment. The cabin is about 16 by 10 the door faces east and I use a shallow water bowl (much easier to deal with when the water freezes) There is also a 5 gal water can for warmer times. It can get pretty cold around here not like Montana or Idaho but it stll gets down there in the dead of winter. The gaps in the logs help to keep the moisture down and there are still places to get out of the wind down low. I usually close the door partially in more inclement winter times so the birds can still get out.


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

I am in Maine-
I recently brought one of my hens to a vet. This vet has many of his own (call them hobby or pets) chickens. My Chicken had a problem with her leg and than it seemed to be both legs all of a sudden. Originally, it looked like she had a broken leg, but when she couldn't walk at all, I was completely lost. While we were waiting for him (the vet), I noticed she had a bug. He checked her and said that she had head lice.
He didn't really feel her legs like he would if it were my dog, but assumed that the chicken had neurological damage created from the head lice. He said she would not live.
3 months later, she is running around fine. She looks as if the break didn't heal in the correct place and limps a bit on it, but overall she is doing great. I fed her lots of tomatoes (vita c, although it may have had nothing to do with it!!)and kept her confined (until she could get up by herself) so she had to rest.

My object is to make you understand that you need to study your birds and your situation. You will be the only one who can answer most of your questions.
People kept telling me that my birds would be fine (in the winter) as long as they were kept out of draft. One of my hens (who had a large comb) and my rooster got frost bite on their comb the first year I had them.
The second year, I put up two heat lamps. One was too bright and they pecked at each other. It seemed to make them irritated. I spend a lot of time observing them. I have since purchased other kinds of chickens and have noticed that some hate the cold but will stay outside to be with their "clan".
This year, I have fully insulated the hen house. It was cold and windy (28 but felt like 16 degrees)today and most of them went outside but acted as if it were painful for them (standing in one spot and not moving as they typically did). They had a choice to go in but chose to be outside (like children).

I have an infared heat lamp hanging from the ceiling and the insulation I used was that aluminum stuff that reflects heat. Where they roost, their body heat will reflect back at them.
They act calmer and more comfortable at this point.
The moral to the story is...watch your birds long enough so that you will be able to tell if they are comfortable or not. It is easy to tell whether they are cold, hot, unhappy, etc if you get to know them. And remember--they are not all alike.
Although I believe that you can make your birds dependant on heat and if it goes out and you can't get it back for them, this could be harmful (because they are used to the heat). But if you supply them with a source of heat that they can go to if needed (250 watt infared bulb) and keep the place dry and draft free..I think all should be fine.
As far as keeping the water thawed, keep it near where the lamp is shining and it should stay above 32 degrees and not freeze (lower the lamp if this is not the case), but I do swap the water out each day to keep it fresh and just in case of a very cold snap.

Hope this helps.

I am not on here much so if you need to contact me I am at clhodg@roadrunner.com


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

I live in Los Angeles, and lately it has been in the low 40's at night. I have one chicken who lives in a rabbit coop outside at night. Is she okay in those temperatures? I have a travel dog kennel that I can put her in in my house. At what point do I need to bring her indoors?


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

It's been a steady -10 c to -16 c here for about a week. My roo has been keeping the hens inside where it is warm (with an infrared lamp) but I've noticed that the 2 younger chickens (hatched sept 3) have been outside by themselves pretty much all the time. DH went out tonight to see if everyone was warm enough, and found them huddled up together outside sleeping against the coop. He said, when he brought them inside, the other chickens pecked them mercilessly. I wonder if it's the lights, or just bordom?
I partitioned off a corner of the coop for the young ones as best I could, but they will have to learn to fend for themselves eventually. In the meantime, I gave everybody a couple handfulls of sunflower seeds and a whole cabbage to keep them busy until morning, and I'm hoping for the best.


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

My younger ones were mercilessly picked on all the time. A couple of them hid most of the day in a nest. They have learned to cope with it now and are older and a laying, so it's not so much of a problem, but those hens and the roo were really mean to them. I had to separate them or they would never have been allowed to eat or drink anything. I hand fed one of them, who was a lot younger then the rest. She's in with the group and doing quite well now but she was six months old before they would accept her and let her move around and eat anything.

I'd separate them for their own safety and to make sure they were eating and drinking until they're accepted.

I still hear some squabbles in there, but I guess that's life for everyone in the flock...


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

I took your lead and gave mine a whole cabbage this morning for the first time, to help with the boredom. I'll see how it went when I get home from work. I want to get some old storm windows and put them in the side of the chicken house so it's not so dark in there all the time in the winter. They have a small screened high window in the summer but it's covered with cardboard in the winter time, so it's quite dark in there all day now. I've asked for some old windows on Freecycle, but no got much so far. We'll see how that goes.

We are having those -15c to -19c temps here too this week. So far no problems with the cold.


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

It has been well below freezing here with the wind chill. I had worried about the chickens but they seem to have suffered no ill effects. I have a red heat lamp in there and that seems to help a tiny bit. The water still freezes but I go in twice a day to refresh it. I do have a heated waterer that I need to set up but for now I am just using a plastic container that is easier to manage than trying to unscrew frozen waterers. There have been a few days where I didn't open the coop for them due to extreme weather but on those days I put a few extra treats in there to keep them busy. We had bought some alfalfa bales for the pigs and the chickens just love scratching through that. I still have buckets of pears and apples in the barn and toss some of those in there for them. They generally eat every bit of those when they have them. Lori


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

My spoiled girls didn't eat the cabbage I put in yesterday. They loved it when I broke off little pieces for them but didn't touch the whole thing. Its probably frozen in there now. I think I'll just leave it in there for a bit and see what they do with it.

I had a whole tree packed full of little red apples that I was going to feed the chickens through the winter this year. We don't spray them so they are full of worms. The chickens love them, however, we also have racoons and so got zero apples! The coons took every last one of them in the fall! I was so dissappointed! They didn't even leave one little apple anywhere. Next year I'll have to beat them to it. Do apples ripen off the tree?

I'm growing a lot of sunflowers and millet this coming year too. I'll hang them to dry and save for chickens in the winter, if I can rescue them from the wild birds.


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

well, my cabbage was gone in the morning...try shredding the top of the cabbage a bit to get them started. (make paralell cuts about 1" deep and 1/4" apart)
or cut an X in the top and peel it back a little.
I grew sunflowers for the girls this year but haven't given them one yet.


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

Beeliz,
Acording to your page, you are in zone 2, which is a little colder than I am, but we have had chickens survive down to -52 F. here. Our coop is insulated with double walls with sawdust between and a vent. I use heat lamps in the coop when it gets cold, but have them in a hard-wired ceramic fixture in the ceiling. A number of people here have lost barns and livestock to lamps that were clamped on beams and fell into straw. A friend uses something he calls "oil heaters" to warm his chickens and keep the water thawed. I don't know where he got them, but he puts one under the waterer and one under the roost--rising warm air works better than the lamps for him. His heaters look like upside-down metal feeding dishes.


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

They probably have a heating element immersed in an oil to distribute heat evenly.


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

I have a room in my house that is very drafty and if I let it stay cold it keeps the rest of the house cold. I brought this heater from Target last year, I keep it on 24/7 on a low temp and after about a day running it has kept the room comfortable although not real warm. If I turn it up it will be smokey hot in there which I did not want to do. It has solved the problem. I checked my light bull and it did not change significantly over the year. I am wondering if this might be a solution for you?

You are in zone 7 like I am and I have had no need for supplemental heat outside yet and my birds seem to be doing fine. Their whole pen is made of wire mesh with a box for them to go in at night. The temp has gotten pretty low and when it did the chickens stayed in their box huddled together for a while but for the most part they were business as usual. I did close their box on really cold nights though to keep out the drafts.

HTH

Here is a link that might be useful: heater


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

I am going to need supplemental heating, I think. It has been quite cold a bit in the last couple of weeks, although it is above freezing now. My poor rooster has a bit of frost bite on his comb and wattles. I didn't realize it was cold enough for that yet. It was about -20c (-5f). I will have to be more vigilant with the vaseline when it gets that cold again. It will get colder in Jan-Feb. We get temps down to -20f occasionally and even the occasional drop a bit colder some winters. I think I'll keep a jar of vaseline in the chicken coop but I don't know how I'll get it on him. lol! Maybe I can sneak it on...

They have not needed any extra heat yet. They seem happy. I do have a heating pad under the waterer which is working well for that. I also have a light bulb but will switch it for a red one to leave on at night. Will a red 100 watt bulb be enough heat in an insulated coop with the heating pad?


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

I've read most of the comments, but have not seen degrees. How cold?? Is 15 ok?


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

15 degrees is fine couple weeks ago it was -30 here the unheated but insulated coop got down to -10 with no complaints or drop in egg production


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Coop water heater

Hey all I just usa a old cookie tin ( like costco one (( yum yum )) ) place it on a large paver --notch the can for the cord --set in a ceramic light base ( e 27 ) and usa 40 - 100 watt bulb-- replace top install another paver and walah a great way to keep water and they love to nest beside it when really cold no need to worry about fire hazard I have straw right up against it WilmaDicFit@usa.com


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

Okay, we don't get snow but it does get down to 34 or 36 degrees F for a few weeks. Our coop has a plywood roof and back and barely any plywood on the sides. Three sides are essentially chicken wire and the flooring is landscape rock, covered with sand and then some straw, not too thick. My husband thinks covering the sides and front with canvas will suffice through the cold. I love my chickens and don't want them to suffer. Two of them are sneezing already and the last few nights have been 75ish. Should we buy a heat lamp in addition to covering the coop with canvas?


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

this is my first winter with my girls so far so good we are expecting -45 to -50 below in the next 48 hrs I have a good coop, heated water, 250w indoor heat lamp, straw on floor food and treats for energy anything else I need to do only have 4 hens 2 rhode islands 2 sliver lace


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RE: How cold is too cold for chickens?

The cold a chicken can withstand depends on the breed and the hen's level of resiliency to the cold. For example, an Egyptian Fayoumi won't do well in an Idaho winter, since it's a warm weather breed. Then again, if you raise one Buff Orpington in California, and another one in Montana, then there's a sudden cold snap, like this year. The one raised in colder weather will be able to survive the lower temps the same breed's warm weather friend cannot.

All that said, I don't heat my coop. I change my waterers twice a day, and only feed a little more than usual once it gets under 10F. Once it reaches -5F I start worrying a little bit, but it went to -13 here on Friday 2 weeks ago and they didn't mind at all. So I'm just worried about the plants and trees around here. Mine are rated for zone 6... not the zone 5 weather they got that day.


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