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?