Backyard chickens: how to help them when it’s snowy

It’s hard enough to be a pampered pet pooch in rain gear and snow footies, or a house cat who disdainfully shakes its paws in horror and blames you on the snow filled yard, but try to be a barn yard fowl.

Most chickens (mine seem to be the exception, as spoiled house pets) get their coop door open and are let loose into the wild and woolie world.  Some days that includes a whole new world of SNOW. When you look at those little dinosaur-looking-scaly legs, it is enough to make you feel cold, no matter what you are wearing. But these little guys are low to the ground and despite their downy undercoats, have long and unprotected naked legs and a lot of their body temperature flows through these appendages.

Chickens (and waterfowl, ducks, geese and swans) appreciate a nice, bedded down area of straw that is dry and thick enough to insulate the animals from the ground chill. Their housing should have open ventilation, but be free from chilly breezes or drafts.

Protein intake should be carefully monitored, as the extra calories will provide them with more internal strength. And there is no doubting the importance of extra, fresh, clean water, slightly warmed to prevent freezing, but of huge importance to farm fowl life at all times of the year but especially in the frozen winter.

As a complete side benefit, coming as being the friend of someone who is suffering severe predation problems, snow can inform you as to what sort of varmints are pestering your flock and you can defend accordingly.

Stay warm!

Dorene, and little Sumo-San and Cuckoo, all shoveled free of snow and warm in St. Louis

Dorene Olson, animal trainer and animal behavior consultant

5 thoughts on “Backyard chickens: how to help them when it’s snowy

  1. Dorene, you were very close on my name! Your article certainly matches my experience with our girls at the coffee shop and on our nearby urban farm. Two Rhode Island Reds have simply refused to leave the inside part of the coop for two days now; the Ameraucanas seem more adventurous. I did not know if the inhibitor was fear of snow or cold. Thanks for the enlightenment!

    Oh, and to those who have not attended, Dorene organizes a terrific Meetup!

    Paul Whitsitt
    Kitchen House Coffee
    3149 Shenandoah @ Compton

  2. Our local Backyard Chicken Meetup Group had a Meet and Greet yesterday hosted by (yours truly) at the delightful Kitchen House Coffee Shop owned by Paul Whittsit and his lovely four resident chicken girls, who had definite opinions about the weather, this being their first ever snow. I hope that I did not just butcher Paul’s last name.

    But our chicken group is very active and we have a lot of interesting meet ups planned (well, I think that they are interesting but I planned them 😉 so if you have chickens and/or are planning to get chickens, now is baby chick season and the time that many people start their flocks, come join us!

    Dorene in St. Louis

  3. When I my young ducks went piling out the back door and discovered snow, they instantly dropped to their bellies, tucked their webs up under their wings, and GLARED at me to FIX the back yard! I have never felt so conflicted – was I powerful enough to have created snow or being vastly unfairly blamed for something completely out of my control?! Poor ducks, and oh, by the way, I was never forgiven.