In this article I hope to talk about how my chickens are doing in the winter time. All of the hens were bought as chicks within two weeks of each other. The first chickens were bought on the last weekend of February 2012, the next batch were bought the first week of March. The final batch were bought around March 7th or 8th, 2012.
Part of my long term SHTF survival plan includes having a self-sustaining chicken flock. In a previous thread we talked about how many chickens a family may need for a TEOTWAWKI event.
My wife and I have a small flock of 13 hens:
4 – Rhode Island Reds
2 – Silver Laced Wyandotte
2 – Barred Rocks
2 – Australorps
2 – Black Jersey Giants
1 – Speckled Sussex
My observations are based off a rather small sample size, so we will have to take part this thread with a grain of salt. When my wife and I get moved to the homestead, we plan on adding 12 – 13 Dominickers.
As the flock size increases, the sample size increases. Hopefully next year I will be able to provide a article with a larger sample size.
The breeds that seemed to be affected by moulting in December include Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Red and Speckled Sussex. They lost their pen feathers first, then some of their breast and wing feathers.
At no time was bare skin visible due to feather lose.
The Speckled Sussex appeared to be sickly in late December. During mid-late summer, the Speckled Sussex would approach the coop door when I opened it. When she was moulting, the stayed on the perch, and did not approach when the door was opened.
Within 1 week of putting a light in the coop, the chickens started regrowing their pen feathers.
The Silver Laced Wyandotte, Australorps and Black Jersey Giants were not affected by molting like the other breeds were. As of Christmas Day 2012 none of those three breeds lost their pen feathers. Behavior seemed to remain about the same from summer to winter for these breeds.
Egg production across all breeds decreased during December.
A couple of times in December only 3 eggs a day were collected.
When the weather warmed up for a day or two, egg production went up to 6 eggs a day.
One month after putting the light in the coop, on January 1, 2013 we got 10 eggs. Temps have been in the 50s for the past few days.
Open Bottom Chicken Coop In Winter
When I built my chicken coop, one of the questions people asked was how the open bottom was going to do in the winter time. The night of December 19 – December 20 a cold front passed through southeast Texas. Our cold fronts are more like cool fronts to the rest of the nation. Rarely do temperatures stay below freezing for more then 24 hours. If temps stay below freezing for 48 – 72 hours, its probably a cold front for the history book.
Over the next few days nightime lows are supposed to dip into the lower 30s, maybe even into the upper 20s. To people in northern parts of the United States, that is more like summer temps instead of winter temps.
The chickens are molting, they are loosing feathers, and egg laying has dropped off. To help keep the chickens warm on these cold nights I setup a 250w heat lamp inside the chicken coop.
The question I have, how much does the lamp help? To answer that question, a thermometer was hung at the same height as the roost, on the opposite side of the coop from the heat lamp.
Coop measures 6 feet wide and 8 feet long. A large window was left open to make sure the chickens did not get too hot. Once the temperature stabilizes, I may close that window to help retain some of the heat.
The thermometer was hung inside the coop at 7:30pm, then given 30 minutes for the temperature to stabilize.
December 20, 2012
Outside Temp: Weather bug says 44, weather channel app says 47
Inside Temp: Around 47 – 48 degrees
Since there was so little difference between the inside and outside temps, the large window was closed. I left a slight crack (about 1/2 inch) so fresh air could enter the coop.
Outside temp: Around 43 degrees. One weather app says 43, the other says 44.
Inside temp: Around 43 degrees.
December 21, 2012
Lets just use the weather channel app for the outside temp.
Outside temp: 41 degrees
Inside temp: 46 degrees
Outside temp: 40 degrees
Inside temp: 45.5 degrees
With all of the windows closed, there seemed to be a 4 – 5 degree difference between the inside and outside of the coop.
A buddy of mine asked what good is only 4 – 5 degrees? Here in southeast Texas our lows usually get to the mid – upper 20s. 4 – 5 degrees means the difference between the inside of the coop being above or below freezing.
The hens bunch together on the roost, so their body heat helps keep them warm anyway.
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