Chickens and Hot / Cold Weather including Snow


Herefordshire, UK.
This FAQ provides some information about Keeping Chickens during Extreme Weather conditions - Hot - Cold and in the Snow

Chickens are very adaptable creatures, living in some of the hottest and coldest countries around the World. They are however some things you can do to help them adapt to extreme weather.

Chickens can handle the cold very well. Many people keep chickens in temperatures of -20 degrees in countries such as Canada. It is heat that causes them more problems. Obviously they have a good deal of insulation with their feathers to keep them warm. Just like wild birds, they fluff up their feathers, trapping air between the layers to insulate themselves and keep themselves warm. During hot weather, chickens cannot sweat and need to find shade taking shelter from the sun. You will often see them spead their bodies out, to cool off. To cool themselves down though, they drink water.

Here is what you can do to help them in the cold / snow:

The first thing to do during poor weather conditions is to allow yourself more time to take care of their needs. What normally takes me 10 minutes in the morning can take me 30 if water is frozen and if there is snow on the ground, I could be 45 minutes or longer.

  • Housing - Should always be draught free, yet still well ventillated. Adjust your ventillation according to the weather - point vents away from the prevailing winds.
  • Ensure they have fresh drinking water available. This is essential for them - Frozen water is their biggest enemy. Bring water containers in on really cold nights or cover them with old jumpers etc. A heat pad such as this one can also be used to stop it from freezing in the day.
  • Throw them some mixed corn / scratch. They need to eat more high energy food to produce more heat during cold weather.
  • Snow - Chickens are nervous to changes. They get stressed easily by small changes in routine or food for example - Changing the floor to white is a huge change for them to deal with. Clear a small area of snow around their house so they can stand out of the snow. Ensure they can get to their food / water without walking through the snow. Bedding will get wet quickly if birds bring in snow on their feet or if they stay in all day. Try to keep the hen house dry. Keep water containers close to the hen house door to allow them to get to water without having to walk through the snow.
  • Use Apple Cider Vinegar in their water can help them deal with the stress of a sudden snowfall
  • Cockerels with big combs can have the tips of their combs frozen. This usually only happens when the humidity of the air in the house is high and the temperature drops below freezing. Vasaline rubbed on the comb can help. Chickens do not suffer with a frozen comb because they tuck their head under their wings to sleep.

Here is what you can do in the heat:

  • Always provide Shade for them to get out of the direct sun.
  • Provide fresh drinking water to allow them to cool down. They will drink far more during the heat than at other times.
  • Expect egg production to drop in high temperatures.

Further Information

-FAQ on Apple Cider Vinegar
-Article on the Poultrykeeper Site about Frozen combs in Cockerels