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Keeping Chickens Happy in the Snow

January 12, 2014

Credit: Celeste Longacre
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Chickens love to go outside during the day.

Yes, they do come home to roost at night, but they love to romp in the Sun when it’s up. They scratch the ground looking for bugs and worms, stretch out and sunbathe in the rays and dig deep dirt holes so that they can “dust bath” in them. They emerge from their baths completely covered with dirt and create a huge dust cloud around themselves as they shake it off. It’s quite hilarious to watch.

Chickens, do, however hate snow. Once the white stuff has hit the ground, you open their door and the first foot that goes out comes right back in. Some chickens actually spend the entire winter indoors for this reason (I’m sure that’s where the saying “cooped up” comes from). But I think it’s healthier for the chicks to keep going outside. They won’t get any vitamin D in their eggs if they stay inside and the coop gets dirtier and dustier. In northern climates where the snow does fly, this requires a bit of planning on the part of the chicken farmer.

During a storm, I give the girls some squashes, pumpkins or sunflower seeds to chew on so that they don’t decide to chew on each other. Sometimes I will hang a cabbage from a roost for the same reason. Once the storm has departed, I get out the shovel. I slide the snow off of their ramp then shovel them a courtyard. Our chickens can get under their coop, so I make their yard where they can then get under it. Then, I spread out some hay or leaves. They love to poke through this stuff and it entices them outside. The hay generally contains some seeds that they like as well.

If we get a dusting on top of the hay, I just lift if up over the snow. This way, they continue to go outside and are generally much happier than just being “cooped up.”

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Celeste Longacre has been growing vitually all of her family's vegetables for the entire year for over 30 years. She cans, she freezes, she dries, she ferments & she root cellars. She also has chickens.

Celeste has also enjoyed a longtime relationship with The Old Farmer's Almanac as their astrologer.

Her new book about living lightly on the Earth is coming soon!

Comments

I live in the mountains of

By Daniel Webster on October 9

I live in the mountains of California where we will get a good amount of snow a year. Im looking to get a few chickens for my kids to raise and care for. I feel its much better then video games. My first question is how do you keep the water from freezing in the winter? My first thought was maybe a fish tank heater. my next question is what is a good breed for the beginners. I want something that will yield eggs but also something that my kids will have fun with. I plan on building a 6Wx8Lx6H coop. I know this is an old thread but sure could use some advise.

Dan

Celeste! I've been thinking

By Bridget LeRoy

Celeste!
I've been thinking about you!
I moved back to Long Island and I have chickens and a semi-farm.
Would love to hear from you.
Oh....loved this article too. Someone sent it to me on Facebook not knowing we were old friends. :-)
xoxoxo
Bridget

Excellent article! I really

By Jodi Phipps

Excellent article! I really hadn't thought to hang cabbage for them for boredom. We are in Northwest Idaho. We have Blue-laced Red Wyandottes. Unfortunately we have 7 rooster and 3 hens. We separated one rooster with the hens and 6 rooster together. All get along very well for now. They are all 5 1/2 mo old. We get 3 eggs on sunshine days and 1 egg on overcast. Our chickens love to be outside be it rain, snow, or sunshine. They only go in if the wind is blowing hard or raining really hard. They can't wait to go out. They also don't eat scraps much. We have taken them apples, lettuce, carrots, pineapple--they don't want it. We keep grit and oyster shell down all the time as well as layer feed and corn for the winter to help them keep warm. The layer feed has everything they nutritinally need so I guess that's why they don't like veggies. These chickens are very large about 8-10 lbs. Our friend has a variety of chickens but came over and called ours Pterodactyls! They aren't full grown yet. I just love them. They talk to you when you go out and they run to keep up with you. We are very proud of our birds! I guess this breed is perfect for our mountain climate. We will be moving them into the shade for the summer in a new coop since they like the cold weather so much. Thank you for sharing your insights!

Hi Jodi, Thanks for your

By Celeste Longacre

Hi Jodi,

Thanks for your kind comments!

How are the chickens

By LeoG

How are the chickens producing Vitamin D from sunlight?

Hi LeoG, Yes, all animals

By Celeste Longacre

Hi LeoG,

Yes, all animals (including us) do convert sunshine into vitamin D.

Animals (including man)

By Animal Magnet

Animals (including man) naturally convert solar energy into Vitamin D. That's why it's so important to be in the sun (while protecting yourself from the sun's harmful rays).

My chickens do well in the

By Chick Mama

My chickens do well in the winter. They know when they need to go in the coop. I usually just make sure that they have extra food , unfrozen water and extra hay. They do well in the winter. They don't lay as much as they do in the warmer months. They are fun to keep and teach little ones responsibility to care for animals. They get lots of treats, and when I go to feel them one of them gets a treat by getting to be tucked in my jacket.:-)

Hi Chick Mama, I agree that

By Celeste Longacre

Hi Chick Mama,

I agree that chickens are fun to keep and a good way to teach little ones about responsibility and how to care for animals.

I'm wondering if it's

By DONNA ESTEPP

I'm wondering if it's necessary to keep the chickens warm in winter. It worries me to no end that they are cold especially when it gets down in the "teens". I was thinking about putting one of those little heaters in the coop for them. What should I do?
Thank you

Hi Donna, Chickens actually

By Celeste Longacre

Hi Donna,

Chickens actually have a harder time with the heat than with the cold. They are birds, after all, and can fluff up. I don't usually worry about my chickens until it gets significantly below zero.

Interesting! I hope that

By potsonna

Interesting! I hope that everyone's weekend was both great and safe,had a nice weekend,having a good week and has another good weekend,plus I also hope that they had a nice MLK Day! That goes for last year and all the other years that I've missed. I'm sorry,but it slipped my mind.

Great ideas in your post,

By Angie Gentley

Great ideas in your post, Celeste, thank you! Our biddies love their enlarged coop for winter; it has access to an outside pen through a small opening, the plastic sheet hangs in place like a doggie door. They love to get out on the warm days. They also appreciate an extra thick layer of wood shavings to nest and bury their eggs in.

Thanks for your comments,

By Celeste Longacre

Thanks for your comments, Angie. Good ideas as well!

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