Monday, January 13, 2014

Windchill, Frostbite, and Eggs! Oh My!

What an interesting few weeks it has been at the coop! 

The weather has been crazy with huge temperature changes.  In one 24 hour period we went from 52 to 5 degrees with a wind chill that made it feel like -20.  I have been on a crash course in chicken keeping in severe weather.  I have also discovered the need to be more aware of the weather.  Previously I just worried about what it was like when I had to go to the car or the kids needed to go to the bus stop.  Now I'm paying more attention to lows and highs and wind speeds and wind directions.  Add meteorology to the list of skills Chicken Keeping taps into!

So after learning that while the Ladies can manage the cold temperatures the sudden radical changes are not good, we instituted the Great Chicken Round Up!  We set up the big dog crate in the garage and brought them all in.  The garage stays pretty cold - stable at around 20 degrees but that was good so that they wouldn't get used to being too warm.  We brought them in right at roost time so it was just a matter of plucking them off the roost.  They were not amused!  With the exception of Lacy who just hopped up on a perch in the crate and went back to sleep, the other Ladies made a ruckus.  Bella was most vocal about her displeasure and alarm.  But let's face it.  Bella is always most vocal about her displeasure and alarm!  They spent a few days in the garage and it got us through the cold spell.  I should also say - I sure wasn't minding only having to go into the garage instead out to frigid temps to take care of them!

Even with all that, Luna got a touch of frostbite on her comb.  The very tips of her comb first turned yellowish and then grey.  Now the tips are whitish.  It doesn't seem to bother her in the slightest.  We've been coating her comb with Bag Balm and that seems to have prevented it from getting worse.  Now the Bag Balm.... that she minds!  Who knew a chicken could actually wipe things off their combs with their feet!  Now all the feathers on the top of her head are all greasy.  All she needs now is a little leather jacket and she can join a 50's sock hop!  I'm hoping the points of her comb don't fall off.

White tips and greasy head!

This weekend it warmed up to normal winter temps and the Ladies were beyond happy to be out in their coop and run.  They really don't seem to mind the weather at all.  Rain, snow, cold, wind - they are good.  Soon after moving them back out, I noticed Miss Luna squatting whenever I'd come near.  Apparently that is a sign that a first egg is imminent.  And yesterday our long wait and months of good chicken tending was rewarded.  Seems silly to be as excited as we all were, but since Luna is one of the ones we have raised from chickhood it does seem more exciting than when we brought Lacy home and started getting eggs immediately.

Luna at 1 week

I had been told to put a fake egg in the nest box so Luna would know where to lay.  I didn't have quick access to ceramic eggs so I raided our Easter supplies and found as neutral a plastic egg as I could find - bright yellow.  I filled it with sand and plunked it in the nest box.  I think chickens are smarter than people give them credit for.  Luna was not fooled.  She examined it and pecked it and rolled it around.  But when the time came she dug herself a little nest inside the coop (not in the nest boxes) and laid her big beautiful egg.  I found it first thing when I went to clean the coop.  Luna came running in.  I'm not sure whether she was coming to show me her egg or to warn me away from it.  Too slow Luna!!  I had already scooped it up so she spent a little time looking for it before getting on with her day. 

Today her egg was in the nest box snuggled right up against the bright yellow Easter egg!  Way to go Luna!  Now Jiji, Ebony, and Bella!   Get going.  No more freeloaders around here! Or off to Chicken Jail you go!

The Chicken Chick


  1. The joys of chicken-keeping in winter. I feel your pain.Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

  2. That's a huge looking first egg. Congrats!

    Sorry to hear about the frostbite. I'm new to your blog after you just commented on my fodder post, but like you I also do not heat my coop and do not provide artificial light. We had -15 lows (not counting windchill) a couple weeks ago and I didn't do anything special for my girls and they came through just fine. I've read that -30 is about the tipping point for the cold hardy heritage breeds like you and I seem to have. God forbid we ever get to that in SW Ohio and I'll throw a blanket on top of their coop ceiling for some extra insulation or something. Right now it's a completely open hardware wire mesh ceiling, with the slanted roof 2-6 inches above that to allow for plenty of ventilation.

    I try to discourage folks from adding artificial heat since that can be more dangerous to the birds. First, it's a big fire risk. But maybe more common, the chicken never slowly acclimate to really low temps if their coop is always kept at 35. Then if the power ever goes out they get thrust into dangerous temps and aren't die. It's better that they slowly and naturally get accustomed to cold temps over the fall and winter.

    Anyway, looking forward to reading more of your blog.

    1. Thanks Mike. Glad you came over to visit! I've been pleased with my decision of no heat or light but have been bringing the little flock into the garage during these "Polar Vortex" periods. Interesting to hear the -30 as a threshold! Maybe I'll be brave next Polar Vortex! :)