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 Chickens in the rain and snow
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want2danse
Farmgirl in Training

19 Posts

shelley
Athol Idaho
USA
19 Posts

Posted - Nov 07 2006 :  2:26:54 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hi Ladies,

I can't seem to find any information about chickens in the winter time. We had our first snow on Oct 29th but the temperatures increased, rain fell (and continues to fall) and washed away the snow.
We have our 5 chickens in a 10 by 10 coop with an 8 by 10 covered yard. But the yard is muddy now and where the chickens "dusted" is just a big mud hole. We tried to cover a portion of the "yard" with solid wood but the rain just comes in through the side fences anyway. Today I kept the chickens in the coop thinking that they shouldn't be out there in the rain and muck. There is a heat lamap in the coop to keep their water from freezing and keep the coop warm. (I learned that you cannot put the heat lamp too close to the water because the chickens are not smart enough to stay OFF the top of the water container and thus keep their feathers from being singed ! )
My question is (or are): should the chickens stay inside the coop on rainy/snowy days? How can they "dust" when there is no dirt in which to dust? We covered up the droppings pit with a solid board so that the draft wouldn't get in.......and now, of course, the board under their roost is a mess. Is this okay for their health?

Any advice would be greatly accepted.

XOXO Shelley

If you're going to walk on thin ice, you might as well danse.

Jami
True Blue Farmgirl

1238 Posts

Jami
Ellensburg WA
USA
1238 Posts

Posted - Nov 07 2006 :  2:57:29 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hi Shelley:
We put straw on the floor of our coop and just change it out when it gets dirty with droppings. On the dusting issue, they pretty much don't have a choice when it's rainy or snowy to find loose dirt, but I guess you could supply them some inside the coop in a corner if you felt it necessary. My hens are 8 years old but have free range of our farm so possibly they are finding more places to dust in the wintertime than I know of like under equipment or the horse trailer...they certainly make big messes in my flowerbeds all of the warmer months...grrrr.
Jami

The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same--and a good border collie doesn't hurt!
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MsCwick
True Blue Farmgirl

775 Posts

Cristine
Farmville Virginia
USA
775 Posts

Posted - Nov 07 2006 :  5:18:15 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I'm not sure how true it is, but I have heard that chickens won't produce eggs when they have wet feet, so if your egg productions halts all of a sudden, this may be why. In commercial chicken houses(my dad used to raise broilers for Perdue) they use saw dust, which you could get by the bag at your local co-op. This might be easier to change out than straw.
Cristine

Love is to the heart what summer is to the farmer's year. It brings to harvest all the lovliest flowers of the soul. --Billy Graham
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ThymeForEweFarm
True Blue Farmgirl

705 Posts

Robin
An organic farm in the forest in Maine
USA
705 Posts

Posted - Nov 07 2006 :  6:52:48 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
The chickens will probably want to stay in on rainy days. I make mine come out all winter unless it's below 0° or extremely windy. If they stop laying now it's most likely related to the short day length. A regular light bulb to extend the day length will help with that.

I would remove the heat lamp. They're a serious fire hazard, and as you've already seen, dangerous to the chickens. They don't need the additional heat unless it gets extremely cold. What they do need is to be cool enough to develop a good "winter coat." Without that, they'll have a very uncomfortable winter. We've been through 10 Maine winters without ever giving any of our chickens additional heat without losing any to the cold. I think the best thing we can do for our animals is help them be hardy. They might need more food in winter and be sure they have access to water at least a couple of times a day. Mine get fresh water morning and late afternoon. During the day they'll eat snow rather than go back to the hen house to get a drink.

Good luck!

Robin
www.thymeforewe.com
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bybiddie
True Blue Farmgirl

267 Posts

susan
upstate ny
USA
267 Posts

Posted - Nov 08 2006 :  09:02:59 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I'm with Robin on the heat lamp. Murray McMurray (or any of the poultry suppliers, I'm sure) sells a heater that you set the waterer on. I only use mine when the weather is going to be below freezing for more than a day. I give them fresh water every morning. My chickens have access to the outside at all times and I find that they can regulate when they've had enough. During the winter, with no dust baths available, I will every so often dust them with a food grade DE (along with putting some in their food every month to deal with any worm issues). Chickens are amazingly hearty, I've found - you just have to keep an eye on frostbite with large combs. Smearing on a layer of petroleum jelly will guard against frostbite.

Lovin' my life
http://BizzyHands.etsy.com
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want2danse
Farmgirl in Training

19 Posts

shelley
Athol Idaho
USA
19 Posts

Posted - Nov 08 2006 :  4:32:35 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thank you, farmgirls, for the wonderful information. I'll definitely switch to a regular lightbulb instead of a heat lamp. It was quite scary to see that the chickens could have been injured badly or even killed. I also didn't know that chickens developed winter coats. Unfortunately, my chickens can't roam around freely unless I'm out there with them because we have horned owls on the property, but at least they can have a bit of fresh air in their little covered yard when it's not raining. As far as the "food grade DE" goes, I'm not familiar with that. What is it?

XOXO Shelley

If you're going to walk on thin ice, you might as well danse.
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Bluewrenn
True Blue Farmgirl

1122 Posts

Erin
Texas
USA
1122 Posts

Posted - Nov 08 2006 :  10:05:44 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Ditto on the warnings about heatlamps - the material I have been reading says not to heat the chicken coops as the birds will get sick when they go from there to the outside. And that their combs and wattles might freeze. But insulating the ground with hay can't hurt, as long as they still have adequate ventilation to prevent ammonia buildups.

My Homesteading Journal http://toomyvara.livejournal.com

My craft journal http://bluewrenn.livejournal.com

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bybiddie
True Blue Farmgirl

267 Posts

susan
upstate ny
USA
267 Posts

Posted - Nov 09 2006 :  08:16:13 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Shelley, DE is diatomaceus earth (sp?), basically, powdered shells. You can find it easily on the internet. Be sure to get food grade.

Lovin' my life
http://BizzyHands.etsy.com
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MullersLaneFarm
True Blue Farmgirl

596 Posts


Rock Falls IL
596 Posts

Posted - Nov 10 2006 :  07:18:48 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
We have either straw or saw dust on the coop floor. Off to the compost pile when coop cleaning time comes. Be sure to wear a filter mask when cleaning the coop.

We have the coop light on a timer in the winter to extend the duration of light to keep them laying.

Poultry (like all animals) need more protection from rain and wind than they do the cold. Our coop is not insulated, has no heat and has plenty of ventilation. Our birds (chickens, turkeys, pea fowl, guinea, ducks) have done very well in NW IL winters. Major loss was frost bit combs.

Cyndi
Muller's Lane Farm http://www.mullerslanefarm.com
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Annab
True Blue Farmgirl

2900 Posts

Anna
Seagrove NC
USA
2900 Posts

Posted - Nov 10 2006 :  10:11:38 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
As long as chickens are kept draft free, they should fare ok.

And no wonder I only retrieved 1 egg the other day after the heavy rains tuesday! Rediculous!
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want2danse
Farmgirl in Training

19 Posts

shelley
Athol Idaho
USA
19 Posts

Posted - Nov 10 2006 :  10:47:24 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thank you again for all your replies.
So if I left the droppings pit uncovered (which is under the place where they roost) and covered it with straw, do you think it would be draft-free enough? It just seems that it smells a lot better (which would probably mean less ammonia build-up) when the droppings pit is uncovered.
And Cyndi, when you say that you have the coop light on a timer, what are the hours that it is left ON? I have been leaving mine on all night so that it's not too cold. We already are having temps in the teens at night.
Believe it or not, I have read two books on raising chickens.....LOL

XOXO Shelley

If you're going to walk on thin ice, you might as well danse.
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MagnoliaWhisper
True Blue Farmgirl

2816 Posts

Heather
Haysville Kansas
USA
2816 Posts

Posted - Nov 10 2006 :  12:37:01 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Yup agreed. We used straw/hay. However, we always had a dirt floor for our coops, so we never raked it out. We just put new on top, it never smelled or anything the old hay/straw just decomposed underneath no problem. However, we never had a LOT of them either. And a pretty sizable coop. The wet feet thing I don't agree with though, ours seemed to do fine wet feet or not. Only one year did it get extremely cold and they froze, but we checked on them daily when they were frozen, my mom was very sad and upset so we brought them in the house and put them in a huge military crate (about 4 feet high by 8x8 feet wide) with a office lamp that was on a bendy thing bent down towards the inside (but at the 4 foot level) of the crate. About 5 hours later we were in the living room (They were in the family room a room away), they came flying (fluttering/jumping, walking!) into the living room! lol haha That was the one and only time we had a problem, my mom next insulated the coop with real insulation and put sheet rock on top and never again did they freeze! Also never again did we have that severe of a winter, that was a odd winter!

Heather
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bybiddie
True Blue Farmgirl

267 Posts

susan
upstate ny
USA
267 Posts

Posted - Nov 10 2006 :  12:52:35 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I have always used shavings in the coop - and in the nesting boxes. I just rake the droppings out of the nesting boxes and every other day I rake the floor of the coop to keep it dry. Then, twice a year in spring and fall, I clean the whole thing out and start over. By then, the combination of my raking and the chickens scratching has reduced the shavings & droppings into nice compost material. It's always so nice when I put a new bale of shavings in the coop - smells piney. Of course, that lasts for about 5 mins...

Lovin' my life
http://BizzyHands.etsy.com
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Alaska farm girl
True Blue Farmgirl

123 Posts

dorothy
skagway Alaska
USA
123 Posts

Posted - Nov 11 2006 :  11:11:09 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I used sawdust.I collected lots of it for winter.Used it both in the stall and in the coop.When we built our chicken house we put it on pilings so the hens could get under the house and dust themselves.
I used lots of sawdust in muddy conditions as I was told birds can get mud fever and it does stink like rotten mud,yew! When the mountain of sawdust froze in winter,I'd take a pickax to it.After loosening it up, it was exposed to the unfrozen section and was able to use.Can't wait to fix up the new property and have chickens again!
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MullersLaneFarm
True Blue Farmgirl

596 Posts


Rock Falls IL
596 Posts

Posted - Nov 14 2006 :  07:59:17 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Shelley,
Paul has it set so it comes on about 30 minutes before dusk and turns off past the time the sun sets (I'm thinking it turns off some time between 7:00 - 8:00 PM) so the girls have a full 12 hours of light.

Cyndi
Muller's Lane Farm http://www.mullerslanefarm.com
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