Chickens and Snow

I have had a huge amount of people email the poultrykeeper site asking what to do with their chickens in the snow so I thought I’d better put a quick post here to help.

In general, most breeds of Chickens can handle the cold very well, in fact, in Canada they are often in temperatures of -20 degrees without additional heat. Chickens have an excellent ‘duvet’ of feathers that they can adjust to keep them at the right temperature. How do they do this? Well, by trapping air between their feathers, they are adding insulation to their ‘duvet’ which keeps more body heat in.

Chickens in the Snow
Clear an area of snow for your chickens to stand.

Snow is very stressful for chickens and stress lowers the immune system, opening them up to many passing diseases. Chickens can’t understand why what was their ‘normal’ environment has suddenly gone white!

Here are some things to remember that will help your chooks cope in the snow.

  • Remember chickens cannot handle draughts in their house. Allow adequate ventilation but ensure that their roosting area is free from draughts.
  • Clear snow away from the immediate area around their house so they are able to stand without being buried. Chickens will generally not venture into snow more than an inch or so deep. Keep food and water containers inside or close to the hen house door to allow them to get to water without having to walk through the snow.
  • Ensure drinking water is available for them. Frozen water is no good to them.  I bring my water containers in on cold nights but you can try covering a water container with an old coat which also works if it doesn’t get too frosty.  A heat pad such as this one can also be used to stop it from freezing in the day.
  • Throw them some extra mixed corn on the area you have cleared. They need to eat more food to produce more heat during cold weather and the yellow maize in mixed corn is high in fat which helps them to produce the extra heat they need.
  • Cockerels with big combs can have the tips of their combs frozen. This usually only happens when the humidity of the air in the house is high and the temperature drops below freezing. Vasaline rubbed on the comb can help. Chickens do not suffer with a frozen comb because they tuck their head under their wings to sleep.
  • Using Apple Cider Vinegar in their water can help them to deal with the stress of the snowfall

What do you think?