Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sub Zero Chickens

Typical teenagers--they don't think it's that cold.
It is below zero outside. It's like a whole body brain freeze. And the chickens live in an unheated coop, so I've been worrying about them. I've been half expecting to see little poultrysicles frozen to their roosts when I open the coop door.

Instead, I'm greeted by their clucks and peeps. They are fluffed up, doing their imitations of Stay Puft marshmallow hens. We have a heat lamp on in one corner, and the coop is well insulated, but I don't think it's doing much good. The water freezes quickly, even under the heat lamp. I've been changing it frequently, filling it with warm water that quickly cools off.

Last night I was >this< close to suggesting we bring them inside. Instead, I sat down and began to Google "how cold is TOO cold for chickens?"

Oreo ventures outside.
I became reassured as I read. Backyardchickens.com is a lifeline for new chicken owners, and there I learned that even at -20, chickens are fine. There are chickens in Canada, you know, I reassured myself. Person after person posted on the Backyardchickens.com forum that it was below zero in their coop, and their chickens were fine. One said hers had the choice of an insulated coop or their outside run, and they chose to sleep outside. Perhaps this reinforces the small chicken brain theory (though I think chickens are smart) but it tells me that they are a lot tougher than I think they are.

I've been imagining how I'd feel in a cold coop, but then I don't have layers of downy feathers from head to toe. (Thankfully.) In fact, many chicken keepers believe a heat lamp will keep their birds from acclimating completely. (Ok, ok. Even so, I'm not ready to go there yet... I've just relaxed about bringing them inside, so give me a little while to think about the idea of no amber light for them.)

This morning I took out kale and cottage cheese (for a little fat), along with a bowl of warm pumpkin puree. I really ought to be eating like my chickens do--I'd be much healthier. They were fine. Happy to see me. I left the coop door open and they hurried outside. Poppy and Betty Boop were wing-to-wing in the nesting box, but then hurried over to see what I'd brought. Pearl and Mabel were in their usual high roost, also wing-to-wing and fluffed up like puffer fish. Violet, Clover, and Oreo, hurried out to see if I'd left anything in the run for them. What's a little sub-zero weather?

All was well. I locked the run door, and hurried back inside where, being human, I stood on the heater vent and marveled at how chickens are engineered.

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