Temperature Changes and Your Flock
Updated: Oct 29
Happy isn’t sure about the snow!
Yikes! It’s only the end of October and already our ground is covered in snow and the temperatures make it feel more like December. We went from 60 degrees and beautiful fall foliage to 20 degrees and snow in 2 days. That’s life in Minnesota for you! Next week, we’re supposed to be back up towards the 60's.
These weather shifts are intense for us humans, so how do you think it affects our flocks?
Chickens are made to regulate their own body temperature with their downy coat and by eating certain foods that create more energy in digestion and heat. They don’t have sweat glands, so it’s actually easier for them to tolerate the cold as opposed to the heat.
So, if you’re a first time chicken keeper, don’t be afraid of the winter! We will talk about a couple things today to put your mind at ease and understand how to best care for your flock.
First, let’s talk about our coops. I think the biggest mistake most chicken keepers make is having too small of a coop. Unless you’re an urban chicken keeper where regulations come into play, I’d recommend going bigger than you think you will need.
When we started our recent flock, I swore I’d have no more than 6 chickens...period. I’m now up to 28. If you haven't heard of this, us backyard chicken veterans call this chicken math. Meaning, one chicken leads to one more. In all seriousness, fully grown chickens need 2-3 sq. feet inside the coop and 8-10 sq. feet in the run. So, always plan for more space than less.
Next, we need to make sure our coops are draft free, but have good ventilation. Moisture from the chickens combined with poor ventilation can lead to frostbite on their combs, wattles and feet. For your coop you want the moisture to escape but also keep the wind, cold, snow, and rain out.
Then, a question I often get is, “should I insulate the coop?”. While this is a great thought for winter, it can make summers close too unbearable in the coop. Many people will stack hay bales around their coop or wrap parts of it in heavy duty plastic to create more of a barrier. I choose to use the deep litter method to create more insulation without making a permanent decision. The deep litter method allows the bedding to create warmth while creating an incredible compost for your garden. I could never use the deep litter method without Coop Recuperate though! Coop Recuperate uses organic essential oils and organic diatomaceous earth to keep my coop smelling fresh, dry and free of bugs. Check out this quick video all about the deep litter method and how you can start using it too.
Lastly, let’s talk about heat. Heat lamps are the largest contributor to coop fires. I can’t stress this enough. Be careful! Remember chickens are always wearing a winter jacket. If they have good ventilation and no drafts, they will be just fine. I remember the first winter we had chickens, I was so worried about them! We had had a couple -60 degree wind chill days. Yes, I said -60! It hurt our skin to even walk outside. But, inside the coop, the girls were just fine. With their coats and each other's heat, they handled it better than I did! Haha!
If I ever feel the need to add a little extra heat, I do add a heat panel. It gives off enough heat to keep them a bit warmer, but doesn’t make the temperature fluctuate to extremes.
To see how I setup my coop, check out this video below!
When the temperatures drop or fluctuate, the biggest thing is to make sure their water doesn’t freeze and they have access to good food. I give our flock a solid diet of chicken crumbles and some treats. My girls love a good chicken scratch with cracked corn.
Corn is high in carbohydrates and this helps their little bodies work harder in digestion, thus keeping them warmer. I also give our girls Flock Fixer when the temperature can’t make up its mind or is extreme. Flock Fixer has probiotics, prebiotics, essential oils, vitamins and minerals to support your flock in times of stress. It has carried my girls through Minnesota summers and winters and they have done very well because of it!
Scratch grains with corn
HOW COLD IS TOO COLD?
It's important to note that if chickens are too cold and are no longer able to regulate their own temperature because of it, you may have to step in.
How do you know? Chickens will look cold. They may be puffed out, huddled up and won’t move much. They may be standing on 1 leg in order to keep the other one warm while it’s tucked underneath their feathers. If this happens and you suspect it’s impacting them too much, you may need to add in a heat panel, more bedding or even move them into a warmer area in your garage or home.
However, I don’t recommend this because it’s actually harder on the bird to move into heated spaces and then move back out to the cold. So, I’d say only in severe cases such as injury or illness is it okay to do this. Try everything else before you’d move them in and out.
Chickens are tiny but fairly resilient birds. Proper care and nutrition will always benefit your flock. Flock Fixer has helped me navigate the Minnesota weather when it comes to our flock. I always know they’re getting what they need in times of stress when I’m adding it to their water. Plus, it’s the easiest supplement to use! 1 scoop added to 1 gallon of water. It can’t get any easier to care for the health of your flock!
The “Dream Team”...in my humble opinion
All of these Chicken Essential products are now available on Amazon!
Meanwhile, autumn please come back. I wasn’t ready to be done with you yet.
The Wing Lady