Severe weather calls for special accommodations in the chicken coop

Oh the weather outside is frightful….

The forecast for tonight is not good; -8 F with winds chills of 20 below zero. That is some severe weather! So what do you do when weather this extreme arrives?

First, we picked up some cracked corn for the chickens. Giving the chickens corn will help because corn is a bit tougher for them to digest. The digestion process causes their body temperature to rise slightly. This will help the chickens stay warmer and help heat the coop. Typically, people give the chickens corn just before they roost for the night. We decided to let them eat it during the day as well because of the cold temperature. Once the daytime weather gets a bit warmer we will remove the corn during the day and allow them to have it just before they roost. We do not want them to eat nothing but corn for an extended period because it will affect their egg laying, but a day or two is ok.

Next, I went and made absolutely sure all holes in the coop were closed as much as possible but I did not seal the coop 100%. The coop should allow the exchange of air but not allow air to blow directly onto the chickens. too much air exchange will quickly pull all the heat inside the coop away from the hens. All small openings I left were much higher than the chickens can get so no cold air would blow on them.

Lastly, because I know the coop is a bit oversized at this time for the number of chickens we have, I decided to temporarily make the coop smaller. I did this by simply adding a few boards above the roosts, high enough for the chickens to jump onto the roost without hitting their heads, but lower than the existing ceiling, Over the boards I draped an old tarp. I fastened the tarp so in the event a chicken jumped up on it, the tarp would stay put. The tarp basically reduces the height of the coop and keeps the heat trapped just above the birds. The tarp also hangs down toward the floor a bit to help keep as much heat under it as possible.

I think the chickens appreciate the modifications, they spent most of today on the top roost right in the new comfort zone. I think when tonight rolls around they will appreciate it even more.

I will admit that I was tempted to supply heat for the girls just for the night. I decided against it for two reasons:
1. If the power goes out because of the wind, I do not want the chickens depending on the heat from the bulb. I would not use a heat lamp bulb in a chicken coop (EVER) but did consider a small incandescent bulb.
2. I am very nervous that if the lamp gets hit the coop may catch fire. I refuse to kill my chickens with kindness.

What do you do to keep your chickens comfortable in severe weather?

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