Another frigid night

img_35301As I write this at 8:15, it is -8°F, clear and sunny.  Last night’s low was -13°F, still pretty freaking cold but within the zone 5b (nearly 6) range.  Ellie from Chicago commented yesterday, worrying that if she gets chickens, that they wont’ survive in freezing Chicago temps, where it was -13°F there yesterday morning.

Ellie, if you take some care, you won’t have to worry.  Our girls are doing ok.  They certainly don’t enjoy the cold, but there is no sign of frostbite or illness as of yet.  Pretty much every morning for the past week or so, I’ve brought them a warm treat from the house –leftover rice,  some winter squash, leftover pasta, whatever, warmed in the microwave.  They love the treats, crowding around me expectently when I open the coop door.  I feel better knowing that after a long cold night they have a nice warm treat. This morning’s eggs had begun to freeze and cracked, but the girls lay the eggs pretty early in the morning, then get back on the roost so the eggs sit without a nice warm hen over them in the nest box.

Henbogle Coop is small, with an insulated floor, and we have a heated water fount and a light for warmth.  In cold weather, the girls crowd together on the roost bar, which is T-shaped to make it easier to snuggle up to one another.  We use a deep layer of wood shavings on the floor for additional insulation.  During the days, the girls can stay in the coop or venture out to the Hendome for some scratching and dust-bathing.  I used to worry about frostbite, but none of the girls has actually ever had any, despite what I thought might be frostbite.  We give them hay, or a cabbage, or a frozen pumpkin to keep them entertained, and thus far they’ve been ok.

Ellie, I hope this is reassuring, as I think chickens in Chicago is a great thing!  My brother lives in Chicago, within walking distance of Lincoln Park, and I think it would be great for him to know other people keep backyard hens, too, even in his city!

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7 Responses to “Another frigid night”

  1. mangochild Says:

    It sounds that your hens are very warm and comfy in their home. I like the idea of the insulated floor. The past few nights have been so cold here too, well into the negative degrees. It got me to thinking about insulation in my own home – I definitely think that the reason even the same temp setting on the heat seems colder is that there are hidden drafts coming in. Things to think about – in this cold, I’ll take all the ways to improve heat efficiency I can get.

    Are the eggs still usable if frozen?

  2. deborah Says:

    Well, if I had chickens (which has always been one of my dreams), I would be asking if you thought they could survive in -30 (before the windchill). But it seems, with a few precautions and the excellent care you provide and describe here, it is very likely they’d be just fine.

    It’s 9:00 a.m. here in Minnesota north country and already 12 degrees (above zero, for a change!), so maybe the frigid snap has snapped. Let’s hope so!

  3. Lisa Says:

    Hi Ali. Speaking of frostbite, one of my hen’s combs looks just like Poppy’s did back on 2/6/07. If it isn’t frostbite, what is it?
    Thanks!
    Lisa

  4. Ali Says:

    Mangochild, we live in an old house and every year find some new place that needs insulating. It is a never ending process, I’m afraid, but we love our old house.

    Lisa, it turned out that Poppy’s comb was dirty — the vaseline attracted the dust their scratching turned up. So I’m happy that I don’t yet know how to treat frostbite, but suggest the backyard chickens forum for help if it is frostbite. http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/index.php

    Good luck,
    Ali

  5. Ali Says:

    Oh, and it depends on how frozen the eggs were, and for what use. Sine the shells cracked, I will use them in baking. Once the shell is cracked they aren’t safe to keep for light cooking, and once frozen the yolk gets weird for cooking, so mixing them in a baked item is the best option.
    Ali

  6. Chris The Gardener Says:

    I had never considered that the eggs would freeze. That would have been a surprise when I finally get the courage to get chickens. How well do frozen eggs bake? Do you notice a difference between frozen and not frozen in baked goods? About how many eggs are you getting at this time of year?

  7. Ali Says:

    Chris,
    We have 5 hens, 4 are going to be 3 years old in April, and we have one 4 year old hen from our first batch of hens. We are getting 2 eggs a day for the most part, occasionally more, occasionally less.
    As for baking, I used my 2 frozen eggs last night for a blueberry cake, and noticed no difference, even with separating the eggs and beating the whites. It was yummy!

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