I think we are pretty close to half way through winter. I can honestly say that I have NEVER paid this much attention to temperature before I got chickens. If truth be told, I did worry about the hens when the daytime high was only -14C during the 3rd week in January. I’d also be lying if I didn’t confess that I woke up a few times to check the coop temperature on my wireless weather station on the nights when it dipped down to -20C. For what it’s worth, here’s what I have discovered:
*NOTE: Coop is insulated with 2″ styrofoam and heated with a 100 watt lightbulb from 6am-7pm.
1) On the coldest of days, the coop temperature dipped down to 2C. This kept the eggs and drinker from freezing.
2) On the coldest night (-20C) the coop temperature dipped down to -3C. Relative humidity ranged between 55%-65%.
Before winter,I read a lot of hype about frostbite being caused by inadequate ventilation combined with high humidity. It was really what prompted me to buy the wireless weather station for the coop since it provided actual relative humidity readings. I’m glad I bought this product because it confirmed that I AM managing humidity in my coop by implementing the following steps.
A) EVERY MORNING pick up as much poop as you can in the coop before you take off for work!
B) Replace all pine shavings in the coop once every week.
C) Close coop door once the hens go into the coop at dusk. My timer is set so that the light stays on for 1 more hour after I close the door. By doing this, the coop temperature increased another few degrees within the hour. This, combined with the residual heat that each hen gave off ( I have read that it is 10 watts per hen) generally kept my coop temps. between -3C to +2C throughout the night.
D) A handful of scratch is given when I close the door to the coop. Scratch is high in calories and fat and generates more heat than layer feed when it is digested. That’s why it should be given at night and first thing in the morning during the winter. It also helps to satisfy the hens’ need to scratch and peck, since free ranging is limited during this season.
My hens continue to lay EVERY day! Occasionally, Honda takes a day off, but for the most part, we get 3 eggs/day from our girls. I thought that confinement might be an issue because free ranging is limited, but I do not see any signs of bullying or pecking. I attribute this to the size of the run and satisfying their need to forage by providing leafy vegetables and scratch each day.
On occasion, they do get out to free range, but Swiffer and Rosie are not too interested if there is snow on the ground. I now understand why we sometimes call people “chicken”!