Annual "chickens and cold weather" info. :)

Many of us will get our first freeze of the season this week and that gets people a little panicky about their birds. Chickens are perfectly adapted to take any amount of cold that the Phoenix area can throw at them; we really don't get cold enough here to bother them. An important note about this though is that it's important to NOT give them any heat lamps (I'm talking adult birds here, if you've got 6 week old birds, of course they need some additional heat for a little while longer). Heat lamps keep them used to an artificially warm temperature and prevents them from acclimating to the winter weather. Should the heat lamp fail, the birds will be in trouble and could suffer. It's also important to be sure the birds always have drinking water, so if it gets cold enough that their water may turn to ice, be aware of that and be sure to switch out their ice for fresh water whenever you wake up.

Most people's hens are not laying right now due to the shortened daylight hours. If you choose, you can put a low wattage light (20 watts is more than enough light) on a timer in the coop. Have the timer come on around 4 a.m. and the birds should begin laying for you again in a few weeks. Remember though, hens are hungry when they wake up, so if you've been feeding by hand, maybe a treadle feeder would be a good thing to add to your holiday list.  (Do not have the light come on to extend light in the evening, when it goes off suddenly the birds will be stuck on the ground in the dark, unable to get to their roosting bars.)


-Hens are fine in Phoenix winters, do not add supplemental heat unless your birds are still very young pullets, if that's the case, gradually wean them off the heat lamps by about 8 weeks of age.

-Make sure your birds have drinking water, not drinking ice.

-You can add supplemental light in the early mornings to induce laying.

P.S. All of this goes information is the same for Coturnix quail as well, though the timing of supplemental light isn't as important since quail sleep on the ground.

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  • Thanks for this very timely advice. We'll be swapping out the heat lamp for a low wattage bulb.

    • If they've had a heat lamp for the past few nights, I would gradually move the heat lamp away from them this week, or gradually step down the wattage. Depending on where you live in the valley we could be seeing some nighttime temperatures in the 20's. You don't want to shock the birds if they've had 60 degree nights with your heat bulb until now.

    • The chickens didn't sleep near the heat lamp, and it wasn't very powerful. We have removed the heat lamp, inserted a light on a timer, and are now getting four or five eggs a day instead of one. Our hens are barely old enough to lay and we were concerned they would not lay until Spring. Thanks again!

  • I have a very airy and open hen house. Should I close up some of the 'windows'?

    • Yes, wintertime is the time to close the windows. Go ahead and close all of them, make sure all of the bedding is cleaned/rotated so that there's no ammonia build up-- If it stinks or burns your eyes after the windows have all been closed it needs changing.

    • On it. Thank you!

    • What if you have no windows?  I have a 3 sided coop with one side completely open.  Should I hang a shower curtain for a 4th wall?

    • I'm not sure how much protection a shower curtain will add, but it can't hurt. Again, the cold is much less an issue than the heat.

  • Thanks Rachel.  With all that goes on this time of year in our lives, that's a great reminder. I'm plugging my light timer back in today. 

  • Rachel, thanks for the reminders.

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