It’s been so snowy, cold and dark in the evenings when we get home that the hens haven’t gotten much free ranging. We’ve cleared a section in their run and threw straw down to keep their little toes off the cold frozen ground. We finally got a warm day to let them free range on the weekend. The snow melted leaving some dry spots under the bushes. It didn’t take long for the girls to tear up the ground and start using it as a dust bath. Though they have a spot in their run, It’s been awhile since they bathed and it didn’t matter that they had a share a small space. They were in heaven!!
If you didn’t know, taking a bath in the dirt and tossing it all over their bodies helps to get rid of parasites or mites that may try to attach themselves to the girls. We’ll they’re having none of that today!!
Just before the arctic blast hit, I did a lot of online research on frostbite and most agreed it’s the humidity that increases the chances of frostbite, not the cold temperature. We got outdoor remote sensor thermometers with humidistat so I could see what the temperature and humidity was both outside and inside the coop.
Everyone tries to assure you that chickens do fine in cold weather because they have down coats, but their combs and feet aren’t covered with feathers. Unfortunately some of my girls got a little frostbite on the very tips of their combs when the coop dropped to 7 degrees and the humidity rose to 94%. It turned a little black in the edge. The good news is they really don’t have a lot of feeling in the combs and whatever turns black will just fall off. Thank god it wasn’t their toes! They were still toasty warm.
After that episode I decided to try putting a thin layer of petroleum jelly on their combs like you put on your lips to keep them from getting chapped. A number of people recommended it online and it does seem to help. I have to sneak into the coop at night when they have calmed down enough that they don’t put up too much of a fight. It takes a little time when you are working with 27 chickens!
Watch us put petroleum jelly on the girls combs on their YouTube Channel:
In the midst of the arctic freeze our brave little hens continued laying eggs! Out of 27 chickens were are still getting between 16 to 20 eggs a day! Much more than anyone I know whose chickens completely stopped laying a couple months ago. To keep the eggs from freezing we had to collect them about every hour. Luckily the coop is in the sun so on a normal day, it’s higher than freezing inside.
The girls tend to spend more time sitting on the eggs on cold days anyway. They don’t want to go outside! We’ve been lucky and only found 1 frozen egg since the hens started to lay. They basically crack like the picture above.
We added heating panels that help the coop stay just above freezing, even in the sub zero temperatures. It’s really made it possible not to have to depend on running outside to collect eggs every hour.
There are days I hate the weather man. He is so excited talking about the record breaking low temperatures coming our way with no regard for people like me who can’t bring their animals inside the house for protection! Well….we already have heating panels, but how warm will they keep the coop when it’s a snowy negative 7 degrees outside?! My motherly instincts kicked in and I started to worry so much I couldn’t concentrate on anything but my girls.
I did a lot of online research on frostbite and most agreed it’s the humidity that increases the chances of frostbite, not the cold temperature. We got outdoor remote sensor thermometers with humidistat capability so now I could see what the temperature and humidity is both outside and inside the coop.
Something else I read is giving chickens high calorie, fatty foods will increase the body temperature and help them stay warmer. Those spoiled girls were in heaven! I think their favorite was when I made them warm oatmeal and threw in some chopped up apples we had frozen from our trees.
The freeze ran over 2 days and I hardly slept for 2 days. It seemed like every hour I was checking the temperature. When the temperature outside started dropping way below the temperature inside the of the coop, the humidity inside the coop soared to 94%! Yikes! This is why you don’t want to overheat the coop. The bigger the difference between the inside and the outside, the higher the humidity. I suffered all night wondering what I was going to find in the morning. Surprisingly, they were up, moving around ready for breakfast, not shivering in a corner.
I would not let the girls out of coop until those 2 days were over. They were so frustrated they started to peck at each other requiring me to pull out the chicken saddles again! They were soooooo ready to be out of there!
Finally, once the temperature was 9 degrees outside on the third morning, we got out before the sun came up and snow shoveled a path to the coop, then shoveled out a large area in the run. We covered the frozen ground with straw the so the girls could walk around without freezing their toes. As the sun started to come up I scattered chicken scratch, opened the chicken door and watched the happy girls escape their coop for the first time in 2 days! It was Glorious!
I learned a lot about what to do and not do for chickens in freezing weather and won’t need to stress out anymore!
See how happy the girls are when they finally get outside on their YouTube channel: