How cold is too cold for chickens to be outside - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 11-21-2008, 10:52 PM - Thread Starter
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We have been getting some pretty cold weather and we are wondering how cold is to cold to let your chickens outside. We were told that when it got too cold they just wouldn't go out, but ours seem to like being out in the snow. When should we just not let them out?
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#2 of 17 Old 11-21-2008, 11:13 PM
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no chickens here, but you got me curious.

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#3 of 17 Old 11-22-2008, 01:35 AM
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You might want to ask on

This will be my first winter with chickens, my friend had chickens last winter. She let them out every day, in all weather. They had access to go back in their coop at all times.. and she just let them do what they wanted. She didn't loose a single one..
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#4 of 17 Old 11-22-2008, 11:23 AM
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We've always just let ours go out or stay in as they chose. We used to lock them up at night and let them out in the morning, but with the nice electric netting we don't have to. This time of year, we do have to bring their water in though at night so's it can thaw out. Then they get a drink in the morning till it freezes up...
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#5 of 17 Old 11-22-2008, 06:23 PM
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I don't have chickens now, but I grew up on a farm and we had them. We would let them have the choice, but my Dad and I always cleared snow out of an area so they could go out and not into the snow to prevent frost bite. But on really brisk snowy days we kept them in because it was safer.

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#6 of 17 Old 11-22-2008, 06:30 PM
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When we had chickens growing up we had lights inside the coops to keep them warm. We just made sure the lights were on on the coldest nights and stuffed the boxes with lots of straw. Those chickens NEVER went outside when it was cold
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#7 of 17 Old 11-24-2008, 03:42 PM
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When we lived in a suburb and had a coop with a run, we just let them choose. We kept lights on in the coop for them at night and when and if they felt like going out in the snow, they did.

Now we have a chicken tractor that just has a tarp covering one side and one half of the top of it. Last year, we didn't give them a light or anything and when they didn't want to be in the snow, they just stayed under the tarp. They can create tons of BTU's to keep themselves warm...I wouldn't worry about them unless you have subzero temps for days on end. Then just don't let them out.

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#8 of 17 Old 11-24-2008, 05:43 PM
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I let my chickens out every day. They can always hop back into their house if they need to get out of the wind or rain or snow, but they hate being cooped up in there during the day.

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#9 of 17 Old 11-25-2008, 12:11 PM
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This is my first year with chickens. We have sub-zero temps for months on end. My parents used to keep theirs in the barn in the winter, but I am waiting to see what my chickens do- I am giving them the choice to stay in or out by leaving their access door open during the day. There is snow on the ground already, but they don't mind. They wander in and out. But it will get a lot colder come January-February.

I have also heard that some breeds are hardier than others, so if you are in a really cold place, you might want to consider that. When I culled my roosters, I didn't keep any of the breeds with the large combs because I've heard that combs can freeze and cause ill-health.

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#10 of 17 Old 11-25-2008, 08:45 PM
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We've only had chickens one winter so far, but last year was really cold and snowy, and they did fine. They wouldn't come out much, but they always have that option. They just huddle together in the coop! And egg production drops off considerably.
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#11 of 17 Old 11-26-2008, 03:53 AM
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We live in Utah and the winters get pretty cold with snow, but my chickens do great year after year. I can give you some tips.

Chickens can handle very low temps as long as you make sure they are dry and free of drafts. It doesn't matter how you accomplish this. You don't even need a fancy coop, as long as you meet those requirements.

To make things even better, you can get an inexpensive watering bowl that heats the bowl just enough to keep the water from freezing. It doesn't use much energy. If you can't find one, you can get one online. There are more expensive ones just for poultry too if you want.

A heat lamp is great, hung up inside a shelter of some kind. The birds can huddle underneath it when it gets very cold. Look up chicken winter care on the internet for lots of great ideas.

Chickens are definitely happier in the winter if they can still scratch around. I have seen inexpensive runs covered with clear plastic to let sunlight in and keep the ground dry. Some people have made frames from PVC pipe and covered them with plastic or tarps. It doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. I put some timothy hay on the floor just to give them something to scratch in. I add another layer every so often, and rake it all out when spring comes along. It makes great compost!

Sometimes, just to give my hens a little relief, I cook up some rice and soak it in a little milk. I serve it to them warm, and they act like they appreciate it a lot. Yes, mine are spoiled little things

Hope this helps.
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#12 of 17 Old 11-26-2008, 07:44 PM
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It highly depends on the breed. We have buff orpingtons, which are supposed to be winter hardy...we shall see how they do this winter. If you add a light or lamp, make sure you have backup in case you loose power. I've had friends loose their flocks when they lost power for a few days because their chickens were used to having a heating source.

like a pp said, is a great place to go and ask the pros.
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#13 of 17 Old 11-29-2008, 04:34 PM
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We give them the opportunity to go out whenever they'd like. I'm in MN, my chickens live in an unheated coop and have access to the outdoors. We've yet to lose a chicken to the cold.

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#14 of 17 Old 12-02-2008, 06:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Well so far so good. We have been letting them come and go as they want unless it is snowing heavily and they seem to have no problems.

Thanks everyone for the great advice!
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#15 of 17 Old 12-02-2008, 10:12 PM
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When I had chickens we used to keep them in most of the time in January and Feb if there was snow. For some reason in the snow they would get lost and not go back to their coop, but with a run that wouldn't be a problem. If there was no snow I'd let them out on a sunny day without too much wind, the temp was usually between -5 to -10, plus windchill, and could dip down to -20 occasionally. If they stayed out at night or in the wind they would freeze their combs which turned black. We would rub Vaseline on when this happened. We put a regular incandescent bulb in the coop at night to provide some heat, which worked well. It also helped dh see the rats which he used to hunt at night when they raided the coop.

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#16 of 17 Old 12-09-2008, 12:32 PM
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Mine are scratching around in the snow and seem happy. It's funny to be able to track them on their "rounds" by watching their little chicken tracks.
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#17 of 17 Old 12-09-2008, 04:55 PM
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Yk, I think it can sometimes be too cold. Some chickens are more um, dumb than others? I say that with love... lol

Some will go in when they are cold, and some, like my Silkies, will stay out and freeze to death. I don't know why that is. Silkies are not very insulated, but they seem to not get they should get out of the cold. A nice fat RIR with good feathering, fi, will be able to take more than birds who are less well insultated

Mine do love to play in the snow and that's fine, and gives them something interesting to do. It's warmish today and there is snow on the ground and they are having fun.

Sometimes combs will freeze, as people have mentioned.
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