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How Are The Chickens?

girl with chickens in snow"How are your chickens?," I am asked frequently. The follow-on question is, "Are they ok in the cold?"

We chose backyard chicken breeds specifically for cold hardiness.  Indeed our Orpingtons, Australorp, and Speckled Sussex seem to be surviving quite well, though they are not clucking and cooing with pleasure as they did in the summer and fall.  Maybe they miss their visits from Lil, far more infrequent in the cold weather.

Winter Chicken Keeping Tactics

We took pity on the girls when the high temperatures dropped below freezing and installed a ceramic heat lamp in their coop.  This gives enough heat to melt snow on top of the roost lid.

We frequently add layers of bedding so they can nest in dry spots.  The biggest risk to chickens is frostbite on their combs and feet.  We are checking their health daily and thus far see no evidence of harm.

We change the water as often as three times a day to prevent it from freezing.  backyard chickens in snow

We refill the feeder every two days.  The hens are consuming a lot more dry feed than they did over the summer when we filled every three or four days.

Lil and I are growing sprouts for them to eat.  They love the greenery and sprouts provide great supplemental nutrition.

The chickens free-range in the yard very little, seemingly fearful of the snow.  We question whether they are smart enough to return to the coop when their feet are cold, so we limit their snow play to an hour or so at a time.

Winter Egg Laying

backyard speckled sussex moltingAs we expected because of reduced daylight, we are collecting far fewer eggs.  Our current average harvest is 10 eggs a week whereas in summer we were collecting 25.  Sussey the Speckled Sussex seems to be molting and not laying at all while she regrows feathers.

The eggs we do collect are more precious than ever.  We use them for dishes where egg quality is most noticeable, such as sunbread and breakfast scrambled eggs.  As much as it pained us to do so, we bought eggs from the store this week to fulfill our holiday baking needs.

Thanks to all who have asked about our girls!  We love to talk about them and are very glad they are doing well so far this winter.

Added to Simple Lives Thursday.