The other day I started wondering what you do with your backyard chickens when it starts to snow? Do they just stay in their coop for weeks or months? If so, how do you clean it? Do they need climate control or did nature enable them to withstand the cold on their own? I mean, I do see other birds outside in nature during the winter. So many questions! But first, let me recite the specific train of thought that led me down this particular oddball path…
My husband has always dreamed about having a little farm: some chickens, a goat or two and food crops for personal use. Maybe it’s because he is the one person who took the Garden State nickname of his birthplace to heart or maybe he just EIEIO-verdosed as a kid, but the dream lives on. He’s also just a little obsessed with chickens in general; when we went to the Dominican Republic for our honeymoon, at least a quarter of the photos on our camera were of chickens. Somehow our marriage survived. :)
Ok, fast forward to a few years ago when I read an article that it’s actually totally legal to own backyard chickens in New York City and Brooklyn. That sparked a lot of research, but, in the end, nothing happened – probably because we got pregnant with our first baby (and she was way cuter than a chicken).
Then, my sister & her family moved to Vermont and bought a house with enough acreage to make keeping chickens a serious possibility and, wouldn’t you know it, they’re interested in doing so. Inevitably on visits down there, my husband and brother-in-law get to talking about chickens (and all other outdoorsy, hunting, fishing, blah, blah, stuff). On top of that, my sister has embarked on an eternal crusade to convince us to join them in the Green Mountain State permanently. After months of brainwashing, somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I must have begun to think about what our life would be as Vermonters, which would obviously involve chickens.
So, to answer the questions you didn’t know you had, apparently chickens do need heating if their coop will get below freezing. According to this article at BackyardChickens.com, if you’re on a shoestring budget, you can fill the coop with straw for hens to burrow into when it gets cold, or set up an electric heater for a small coop. They recommend at least partially covering the chicken run too to provide protection against the elements.
I also read that tolerance for snow really just depends on the personality of the hens in your flock. In this forum post, also on BackyardChickens.com (great site!), some people said their chickens walked around in 5 inches of snow with no complaints and others said their flock flat out refused to leave the coop. Really interesting!
There you have it. I hope this one day aids someone in a bar trivia game or a Jeopardy question. And for that, you are welcome. :)