Recently, Jan brought to my attention that I was due for another update on the chickens. I hadn’t done an update recently because there wasn’t really anything new to share. The chickens still lay six eggs every day (one egg per chicken) and they pretty much just do chicken things all day.
|Most days they like to all lay in the same box for some reason|
However, shortly after Jan reminded me to do a chicken update, we had the whole polar vortex thing. That definitely brought some challenges we haven’t faced before with the chickens, thanks to those Arctic temperatures. I went out to check on the chickens the day before the polar vortex hit and found that somehow the dial on the heating tape on the waterer had gotten turned up too high and the tape had melted a hole in the plastic waterer.
|The heating tape looked similar to this [source]|
Let me back up a minute. When the temperatures started dipping below freezing back in October, Barry brought home heating tape. We had the tape attached to one side of the chicken’s 5 gallon waterer and had a portion of it dipping down into the basin that they drink from, to keep the water from freezing. The tape has a thermostat for the heat setting.
|Five gallon waterer|
So when I went to check on the chickens that Monday (Jan. 6), I found that their coop smelled like burnt plastic and that all five gallons of their water was spilled everywhere from the heat tape melting the water. I think we’re lucky it didn’t catch fire! It was a work day, so I put a bucket of water in the coop for the chickens to hold them over. When I got home from work the bucket was frozen! I went out and purchased a new metal waterer, as well as a heated base to keep the water from freezing.
The floor in the coop isn’t very level, and Barry and I kept having issues with the water spilling while we were trying to get the waterer situated. As soon as it hit the floor it turned to ice because it was already down to single digits outside. At one point I spilled water on the bottom of my jeans and they instantly froze solid. Once we got that situated, we made a few other adjustments in the coop to help keep the chickens warm. For one, we closed their window to try and block some of the wind.
We also set up the heat lamp on part of the roosting poles so that the birds that wanted more heat could get under the lamp, while birds that didn’t want that much could roost on the other side of the poles. Most of them took us up on the offer for more heat.
In general, the chickens seemed very well equipped to deal with the extremely cold temperatures. They kind of hunker down and fluff their feathers, which I imagine helps to trap in their body heat. Point in case? Those crazies were outside running around the next morning, when it was -31 with the windchill.
During this cold snap, Barry and I checked on the chickens twice a day. Typically, we only check on them once per day or sometimes every other day. But like any outside animal, they consume more food and water because they are burning more calories to stay warm when it’s colder out. So it was important for us to make sure they had enough of both.
They still love getting a special treat of cracked corn, and occasionally we also give them dried meal worms. They go nuts for those!