This morning when I woke up and looked at the thermometer, it was 5 degrees below 0. That’s cold. The hens live in uninsulated coops with concrete floors padded in pine shavings. The bedding is not the “deep litter” system that (when done right, but only if done right) generates heat like an active compost pile. The only tiny bit of man-made heat in the barns comes from the electric water heaters, which, if you touch them, don’t feel warm at all when it’s in the single digits. Still, they do keep the water from freezing.
Despite this deep freeze, the girls were fine. Just fine! They did not turn into chicken popsicles overnight. In the morning, Grand Dame Buffy claimed the spot in the sun. That’s quite a feather coat that she has fluffed up.
I gave the old girls an extra handful of scratch corn and hulled sunflower seeds. They could do with the added calories on such a cold day. Greens are always a boost, so yesterday I gave them some fresh kale.
The Gems, in their sunny, dry, well-ventilated, clean, barn didn’t show any signs that the temperature had dipped so low. They didn’t require special care, but they lucked out; I forgetfully left my stash of butternut squash in the garage, where it froze, which ruined it for cooking – but not for the hens who were happy for something to do as the ground is frozen solid and no good for scratching in.
The goats, with their thick fur, don’t mind this weather, although somehow they managed to convince me that extra hay in their bellies would keep them even more comfy. It’s hard to say no to the boys.
So, for those of you who are skeptical when I tell you that hens do fine in bitter cold temperatures, without electric heaters, this is proof.
Eggs, though, do freeze and burst, so I’ll be going out to check for them a few times during the day. Winter eggs are too precious to let them crack (and become inedible to all but the dogs.) I’ll have to bundle up, coat, gloves, and insulated boots. I don’t do half as well in the cold as the chickens do.
For more about winter care of chickens, read my FAQ.