We’ve been experiencing a cold snap here (oh, who am I kidding? – our entire winter is a cold snap). It hasn’t been warmer than -15C (5 F) for a couple weeks now. I worry about my girls.
My logical self has done the research. We made sure to raise cold-hardy breeds of chickens (smaller combs and wattles – less chance of frostbite). We winterized like crazy. We have an insulated coop. We have a heated water dish so they have fresh water. We built a wind shelter under the coop. I feed them cracked corn before they go to bed so they warm up a few degrees while digesting. I’ve done everything I can. But still . . .
My emotional self worries constantly for my girls. How? How can they be okay when the temperature is dipping to -22C overnight? How can they possibly survive when they only have feathers? (Once again, logical self steps in and reminds me that goose down is very warm, and obviously their feathers keep them warm enough). The forum at backyardchickens.com assures me that chickens can handle the cold temperatures, as long as they’re dry, but emotional self does not believe it. Emotional self wants to install a natural gas furnace in the coop to keep the girls warm (hi-efficiency, of course).
On top of all my regular winter concerns, Ginger, my 11-month old pullet, has decided that December is a good month for her first mini-molt. She is losing feathers like crazy. I check her every day, and yes, the new feathers are already growing in, so it’s not like she’s completely naked, but honestly. December, Ginger? Really!?
And since this is the first winter with four chickens instead of two, we have discovered that we don’t have enough ventilation in the coop. Frost has built up on the inside of the coop walls, and if it’s that humid in the coop, then there’s a threat of frostbite. So, last night before supper, Will got out the Sawzall and cut a hole in the back wall of the coop, up near the top so the warm air that rises can escape. Logical self says this is a good thing; emotional self screams, “Now there’s a HOLE in the coop. No one is safe! They’re all going to die!!!”
This is going to be a long winter. Then summer will come, and I will replace winter worries of freezing to death with summer worries of overheating. It never ends! It’s hard work raising livestock. You don’t want them to be pets, but you can’t deny the emotional bond that comes from caring for these little creatures. Sigh.