It's Cold Out

We’ve been having a record-breaking mild winter in New England, but last night it got down to 15 degrees F. Did I worry about the girls getting cold? No! I find it amusing that the only chicken fanciers who worry about heating their henhouses are those who live in warm climates. People in the moderate Northwest advise heat lamps. Folks in the south put in a heater if there’s a frost. But trust me, the hens will be fine.

We do have a heating pad under the waterer; chickens must have fresh running water at all times. This simple gadget is made for use in barns and it is lovely not having to bring water out to the barn several times a day, like we used to before we got the coop wired for electricity. Local feed stores, or the mail-order companies listed on my chicken keeping Web site, sell these.

My coop is draft-free, but well-vented, so dry. We keep it bedded in clean wood shavings. You can tell the girls are fine – this morning they were out in the yard, scratching around, comfortable as can be in 20 degree, windy weather. My dog, Lily, on the other hand, is a giant rat terrier, and a total wimp about cold weather. She put her nose out the kitchen door and turned tail and came back in. (See a photo of Lily.)

Some chicken breeds do need a tad more care in cold weather. If you have chooks with large combs, or roosters with showy wattles, you can smear some vaseline on them to prevent frostbite on these exposed, sensitive areas. Frizzles (those are chickens that have twisty feathers) aren’t as well insulated, so they might appreciate a heater. And I hear that the naked-neck birds (yes, they’re out there, and personally I think them quite unsightly, but to each their own) need a heater.

For those of you with only one or two hens – your girls might be more comfy with a heat lamp, since they don’t have friends to huddle up with. Then again, perhaps this is an excuse for you to get more chickens?


The molt is over and the darkest day of the year has passed and one of the chickens has celebrated by laying an egg! Some people know that the calendar has turned to Spring when the seed and flower catalogs arrive in the mail. My reminder that winter doesn’t last forever is a McMurray Hatchery catalog in the mailbox and an egg in the nesting box.

Thanks CBC Radio!

On December 29, the Canadian radio show, Freestyle, mentioned as one of it’s five favorite Time Wasting Web sites. I’m honored! So, fess up and email me. How much time do you spend watching HenCam at work? Don’t be shy – you’re in good company. I’ve heard about company-wide Candy watches (loud hooting when the bunny hops by the camera). I know about the manager who keeps a window on her computer open to HenCam all day. And I’ve heard about the IT manager who banned some engineers from watching HenCam because they were using up too much bandwidth. What’s your story?


Have you noticed how fluffy and gorgeous the girls look? The molt is over and their new feathers are glossy and full. But, this beauty makeover isn’t just because of the end of the molt. Those of you who have watched the girls for the last few months have been concerned about Ginger’s naked neck and that ugly, bare patch of skin on Petunia’s back and the scraggly feathers by the hens’ vents. Observant HenCam viewers have seen the culprit — Snowball. Yes, the littlest hen is a feather picker. But she must have reformed her ways, because the girls are decked out in full-feathered splendor for the New Year.

I’m not sure why Snowball has given up her feather-picking vice. We did add calcium to her diet (free choice ground oyster shells) and we’ve given them new dirt in the run (more minerals?). Or, maybe, its just that she picked at the feathers the most when it was hot and sunny and the girls were sunbathing. Whatever the reason, I’m pleased to have the hens looking so pretty.