Tag: frostbite

The Chicken Chronicles

As you probably read yesterday, this has been a whopper of a week with bitter cold to winter weather.  The ladies are about sick and tired of it.  😀  Even though they can get out into the snow, I don’t see where they have chosen to do so, and I am sure they are ready to change that.  Look at the looks they are giving me!

Easter Egger hen giving me the stink eye

What Are You Looking At?

Speaking of the Easter Eggers, they really are either the smarter of the two breeds we have, or they are weaker.  Check out how they huddle together at night on cold nights:

Easter Eggers Huddling Together

Easter Eggers Huddling Together

That is actually five birds, though it only looks like three or maybe four.  There is one totally covered by the others and another partially covered by the others.  They are hanging out over by the water dish, which is where I have my heated growing mat that keeps their water from freezing.  Silly birds.

I am please with how the birds are doing though. We had temperatures down to -9 F this week and even without heating the coop there was no signs of frostbite.  In case you are wondering why I cover my coop, look at the next picture and see the blue around the window near the roosting bar.  That is a place where wind would easily blow into the coop and could cause frostbite.  I hope to fix that this upcoming spring or summer.

I guess since I have showed two pics of Easter Eggers, I should show at least one of the Rhode Island Reds, well at least they are in the picture.  They really are a more aggressive bird, and I think they are just plain tougher.  Here they are eating upstairs on a bitter cold day:

Feeding Time

Feeding Time

One of the “fun” things we have discovered lately is that when we check for eggs late in the evening, someone, we think Blondie, will come peck at our hands.  I am not sure if she is playing, getting broodie (haven’t seen her sitting on eggs), or if she is just protecting the nesting box from what seems to be a predator.  Who knows, but it makes getting the eggs and adventure.  😀

Speaking of eggs, my assumption was correct, the egg production fell off this week for the Easter Eggers.  The totals for the week were 19 Rhode Island Red eggs (a few less than normal) and 10 Easter Eggers eggs (a big drop from last week).  In short, the Easter Eggers are proving how much they are daylight dependent when it comes to egg laying.

Speaking of an adventure, I think we may get a couple of more baby chicks in a week or two.  The local co-op is supposed to have baby chicks in next week, and if they have any interesting, winter-hardy breeds that are different from the two we have, we may get a couple of new ones.  I am thinking perhaps Welsummers.  I would like to add a couple of birds, or at least one, a year to keep the egg production somewhat stable.  I am not ready to order them though, I don’t think, as that can get expensive.  I should know something next weekend or the weekend after.

The Chicken Chronicles

Whew, the cold weather is back again!  If you read yesterday’s post, you already know that we have a doozie of a week happening, with a big snowfall yesterday (total of over 8 inches at my home) and some bitter cold temperatures coming.  This resulted in us wrapping the coop with a tarp again to protect the birds from the wind that may come in through my less-than-windproof coop.

Our Coop Wrapped in a Tarp

Our Coop Wrapped in a Tarp

Speaking of that, my aunt brought up a good question the other day.  She can recall growing up not having to do anything special for the chickens in the winter, and I can’t remember my grandpa doing anything special with his henhouse.  So why is it I feel I have to?  Basically it boils down to this:  I am not worried about them surviving the cold.  There is plenty of chickens that make it even in -30 degree weather, but you do have to worry about frostbite.  My Easter Eggers have no waddles or combs to speak of, so I don’t worry about them, but the Rhode Island Reds have waddles and combs that are a larger and more susceptible to frostbite.  They would survive, no doubt, but it is introducing a possible health issue which I don’t want to have to deal with if I can avoid it.  The answer is this: keep the wind and moisture down.  Fortunately I have good ventilation in my coop, perhaps too much, which is why I choose to insulate it further with a tarp for the bitter cold: to keep the possible drafts in the coop to a minimum.  So far our hens haven’t suffered any frostbite that I can see, so I will continue doing this when temperatures are down in the single digits.

Covering the coop this week will probably result in a decrease in the Easter Eggers egg laying.  In fact, their egg production has gone down this week, though I think they laid during the middle of the night twice this week, which ended up meaning the eggs broke and hens ate them.  That could have added 3-4 more eggs to the list, which would put in more in line with the normal production.  This week the totals were as follows: 22 Rhode Island Red eggs and 13 Easter Eggers, an increase of two for the Reds, and a decrease of six for the Easter Eggers.

I was surprised that none of the hens ventured out into the snow yesterday, or at least not that we saw.  I did see what might have been footprints in the snow, but it had already snowed enough more that I couldn’t tell for sure.  They didn’t stay in the coop either, but they did stay in the part of the chicken run right under their hen house, rather than venturing out into the new northern extension.

I don’t mind a good snow like this once a winter, but I do wish it weren’t accompanied by the terribly cold temperatures.  We are now expecting -8 F later this week, which is very cold for our part of the country.  So cold, in fact, there are numerous warnings going out to folks in preparation for the possibility of busted pipes.  In short, this is not something our infrastructure is really built to handle.  Praise God it is just a day or two, right?

Just in case you are interested, I did take some pictures of some of the song birds eating on our deck rail yesterday.  I am particularly fond of the Cardinals, how about you?

The Chicken Chronicles

Whew!  What an interesting week!  Winter has arrived!  As first time chicken owners in the winter, we are learning a lot, not the least of which is how to care for the birds in the bitter cold.  We have received some low-teen temperatures this week, which I felt were cold enough to warrant supplemental heating.  The challenge is doing that safely.

After much reading, I decided to use a red heat lamp – the same lamp I used to keep the birds warm when they were too small to handle the cold.  I have read many comments against this method, mainly because of the fire risk, but also because of the potential of causing sickness in the birds if they go from hot to cold temperatures.  I felt confident the light was secured, and it was far enough away from the birds I felt it would not allow them to get hot.  The truth is, I didn’t think it was making enough difference, so we added a second red heat lamp.

My intent with this was not to heat the coop, it was simply to knock the chill off.  I don’t really want to raise the temperature even above freezing, but just up above the 25 degree mark.  I am reckoning that will allow them to not suffer from extreme temperature changes.

Even with all that in mind, there are many blog and forum posts out there of folks who are a lot further north than I am, yet they do not heat their coops.  Their coops are well insulated, but no heat.  That surely makes me question if I am making the right choice.

All that said, I have only heated the coop a few nights now, but I already have lessons learned.

  1. This must be used judicially.  The birds do not need a sauna.
  2. A better option is a well-insulated (and yet well-ventilated) coop.
  3. These birds are resilient.  They can handle colder temperatures than I thought.
  4. Water, water, water.  The birds must have water, not ice!
  5. Finally, I may not continue this plan.

Whether I continue or not remains to be seen.  I need some more time, and I need to get the coop insulated.  In the absence of insulation, I have to provide, or at least I feel I have to provide, supplemental heating on nights below 20 degrees.

As you can see, I still have lots to learn and decisions to make.

As if that is not enough change for the week, I am also dealing with a dramatic reduction in egg production.  Wow.  The Rhode Island Reds laid 22 eggs, but the Easter Eggers only laid 10!

Never a dull moment, that is for sure.

 

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