Chickens in the Cold

firstsnow2

Most new chicken keepers worry about their flock when the temperatures drop. The biggest concern is whether or not a heat source should be added.
If you have provided your flock with adequate shelter from the wind and rain or snow, and there’s plenty of hay or straw in their house, I don’t recommend adding a heat source.

The extra things you can do to help your chickens fair the bitter cold is to give them scratch feed before bed and first thing in the morning. This is a hot feed and will help them stay warm, not to mention they love it. If you are worried about frost bite, the best solution is to apply Vaseline to their combs and wattles.

Your chickens will huddle together to stay warm. For peace of mind, stick your hand down between them at night and you’ll be pleased to find they are toasty warm. Chickens are hardy creatures, so my best advice is to not over think the questions involved in caring for them.

Remember, chickens in numbers are warm, and they acclimate rather quickly to temperature changes. If you have young birds that are just out of the brooder, a heat source is necessary until they are fully feathered, usually at about eight weeks of age. Just make sure they have been introduced to the cold and have been given time to acclimate.

Further Reading…

Raising Chickens in Cold Country
Cold Weather Care

Backyard Chickens, Know What You’re Getting Into

Is keeping backyard chickens cost effective?
How much time in caring for them is involved?

These are valid questions, and certainly something you should prepare yourself before you buy those cute little chicks at the feed store. Chicks are tiny and super easy to manage the first couple weeks. But, about the time they reach 3 weeks of age they will  begin to outgrow the brooder box and become a bit of a chore to clean up after.

Baby chick

They will most likely be in a box in your house or garage with a heat lamp dangling overhead until they reach at minimum 4 weeks of age. By this time they are still about two weeks shy of being fully feathered and ready to be moved to the outdoor coop. From day old to six weeks is a long time, and indeed a commitment. During this time you are going to be busy cleaning the brooder box every day multiple times. They will also need to be slowly weaned off the heat lamp each week. Trust me, you will spend countless hours adjusting the temperature.

Timing is everything, make sure to buy your chicks when the temperatures where you live aren’t extreme. Otherwise you’ll be struggling to either keep six week old chicks warm or cool during the transition from indoors to out.

TBN Chicken Coop

Keeping chickens can be fun and easy to care for , but you just can’t skimp when setting up their housing, one way or another you’ll pay for it.

In other words, chickens are expensive, no matter how you slice or dice it, that first fresh egg from even a small backyard flock will cost at minimum, about $700. It’s true! That’s a lot of store bought shelf eggs.  But everything comes with a price,  the value of fresh eggs vs shelf eggs is something only you can decide.

I’ve thought about the cost effectiveness of raising chickens, and it really doesn’t add up. I’ve done the math, and well…there’s just no way! A dozen eggs can be bought for about a $1.29 here in Phoenix, sometimes even less. It definitely costs more to feed a small flock than it does to buy eggs! A $20 50lb bag of layer pellets for six hens will last about 30 days.  That equals about 180 shelf eggs a month from your local grocery store.  If each one of your hens lays 5 eggs a week, that will give you 120, not taking into consideration your hen’s rate of lay will significantly decrease in the winter and during molting. Let’s not forget you’ll be feeding those hens for 5 to 6 months before they even reach their point of lay.

Even raising meat birds can’t possibly be cost effective. I can go to any grocery store in town and buy a hot fully cooked rotisserie chicken for only $5.00! Oh my, it would cost me way more to feed that bird, and then I have to slaughter it too? Nah… I’ll pass.

There is an expense involved for the bedding in the coop and nesting area too. Pine shavings, hay, or straw will be necessary not only for the hen’s comfort, but it will keep the hen house cleaner and much easier to maintain.  The bigger the coop, the easier it will be to keep clean, but bigger also means more bedding to buy.  It also means your hens will be happier, and better egg producers. It’s like anything else, better always comes with a higher price tag.

Chickens are fun to watch, bring much enjoyment, and having fresh eggs is wonderful. There is no dispute over fresh eggs being a healthier choice, just be sure you are willing to put in the effort for the benefits.

Understanding Chick Starter and Poultry Grower

Chick Starter feed and Poultry Grower can be confusing, to keep it simple, this is all you need to know…

If the feed bag states Chick Starter Feed, then feed it until your chicks about 10 -12 weeks old, then switch to Poultry Grower until point of lay. Depending on what state you live in, you may find that Starter/Grower combined is all that’s available for chicks, if so, this is all you need to feed until the point of lay.

chicks_black_silkie__MG_9268

Poulrty Feeding Chart