Super Snowstorm Setup for the Chickens

Today was our first day getting two eggs -- what a thrill! 

Sprite's first egg

I didn't want to leave you hanging after the end of my most recent chicken post. The chickens are a-ok and nobody got frostbitten. I do think that moving them in was a good choice, so no regrets there. We kept them in the garage for just under 24 hours I would guess. 

What happened was this: two days of particularly cold weather with highs below freezing. The next day, a big load of snow, then some sun. In the night more snow with rain in the morning and temps right around freezing. Then, in the late morning clear skies and cold temps. So, after the cold cold days and before the snow and rain I went out and tried to rig things up for their comfort and survival.

I've got two chickens, Rootbeer and Sprite, in our Eglu Go coop. There's no heat in it, but there's not supposed to be. Omlet does sell an extreme temperature blanket, but I was a little frustrated by the fact that I couldn't find particular temperature guidelines on when to use it. I guess I can understand. I mean, how much cold one chicken can take is different from another and how many chickens you have -- 4 chickens vs. 2 chickens vs. a rabbit or something (the Eglu Go can also be outfitted as a rabbit hutch) is also going to make a difference on when you would need to put on the extreme temperature blanket.

I did a little bit of reading online and found out that adding some extra bedding in the coop could help my chickens stay warm, so I did that. We use pine shavings. And I read that chickens are generally hardy in the cold and snow, the problem comes when they get both cold and wet. So as long as you can keep them dry, you're good. 

One website I read said that the blue tarps aren't that good for keeping the rain off because they do eventually soak through, and contractor's plastic is preferable, especially because it will let light in. I had read the suggestion to move the chickens feed and water closer to them so they didn't have to walk the length of the run (or through the rain) to get to it, but our run doesn't have an access door on the side, though apparently they are available for purchase (I guess it's a business to think of these things!). I had also had the tip from a couple of chicken-keeping friends to buy a heated dog bowl to keep their water warm.  

Heated dog bowls were not to be found on the day before the storm. I tried several stores. And since blue tarps were supposedly not great, I found some bubble wrap and decided it would work as a clear plastic cover. I took it out to the run and safety pinned it together, but it wasn't long before I realized I would need a way to pin it to the coop. No problem, I just ran my safety pins through the plastic and the wires of the run. I didn't quite have enough bubble wrap on hand to completely enclose the run, but it was pretty good. I pinned a black garbage bag to one side, as a waterproof windbreak. 

The snow came and it was accompanied by a lot of gusty wind. I was out there every few hours to make sure the chickens water hadn't frozen and to keep an eye on them.  I had now been a chicken keeper for a whole six days! When Rootbeer's comb started looking more and more white in the afternoon after the snow, I made the call to move the whole coop indoors for a bit. It was not too tough to pick up the whole thing and bring it in to our garage. Jacob and I did it, and had some help from Benjamin for part of the way, too. 

So, the chickens were indoors for a little more snow and some rain and plenty more wind. The next day in the sunny weather Jacob and I shoveled the driveway and moved the chickens back outdoors. 

Since then we had another good strong snow, but thankfully this one was not preceded by two days of bitter cold. 

Between the storms, in a time when they were out of the run, the chickens found a sheltered spot under a bush and gave themselves a dust bath. They loved it!

This time we just decided to use our blue tarp over the run. That was a great choice! Having learned a little bit from safety pinning bubble wrap to the run I knew this time I wanted complete coverage and I wanted it to be easy and less fiddly to put on. So, we used clothespins. We spread the tarp over the run and then pushed clothespins into the tarp until they could grasp the wires of the run. It was much easier to rig up (and to take off this morning). Tomorrow morning we expect more snow and rain tomorrow afternoon, so we let them have some sun today and put the tarp back over them tonight. 

They say chickens need a certain amount of light to lay their eggs. I do feel like getting Sprite's first egg today was a sweet reward for all this diligent chicken care we have been doing. And I'm proud of her! Good job, chickies! 

I'm having fun having chickens. 

Related: Books I recommend for a new chicken keeper.

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