Keeping “Cooped Up” Chickens Warm in Winter
Funny thing about chickens is that they seem always to be the “butt” of jokes. Everyone is always making “chicken jokes” – poor things. I live smack dab in the middle of the state of Nebraska – the prairie, and chickens are plentiful. This in spite of the often sub-zero temperatures and bitter wind chills. So it’s clear that the chicken raisers must know how to keep their broods warm on a cold Nebraska – well, day and night actually. Almost everyone you know here in “outstate” Nebraska raises chickens knows someone who raises chickens, or knows someone who knows someone – who raises chickens.
Needless to say, when I started to think about writing this article, I thought I should get some first-hand advice. I started out with my older friend David. He asked me what I was writing about and I told him – keeping chickens warm in the winter. Without beating an eye, he said – in a pressure cooker. I never see it coming! Then I called my sister, and she asked the same thing. Again, I told her that I was finding ways to keep chickens warm in the winter. With a grin, she said – get them a rooster. Before I could even say – oh my word! – she said – get them a fox “stole.” It was becoming ridiculous, so I decided just to do my own research.
I too know several people who raise chickens, so I asked my real chicken raising friend Tom Hall from Axtell, Nebraska. Tom raises Rhode Island Red chickens, which originally came from Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The University Of Oklahoma Department Of Animal Science says that, “Rhode Island Reds are a good choice for the small flock owner. Relatively hardy, they are probably the best egg layers of the dual-purpose breeds.
Reds handle marginal diets and poor housing conditions better than other breeds and still continue to produce eggs.” So it seems that Tom made a good choice for cold Nebraska weather. Tom says that he uses “one incandescent bulb for every 100 sq. of coop, and he leaves the light on during the night. This keeps the coop cozy, and it keeps the chickens active all night which also keeps them warmer.”
Winter Hardy Breeds
Knowing what type of chickens to breed for winter weather is your first consideration. My friend Tom has a popular breed, but you may want something a bit different, or something that better fits your area. The website, www.mypetchicken.com has great suggestions with photos and prices. Here are a few that they suggest with a photo and the site’s description:
Barred Plymouth Rock Bantam
Barred Plymouth Rocks or “Barred Rocks,” as they’re called, are one of the most popular dual-purpose chickens on small farms today, and this bantam variety is as sweet as can be. The heritage of the breed is unclear with reports of different crosses, but what is clear is that they’re very friendly, great layers of brown eggs and fairly cold hardy for a bantam. Though they tolerate confinement, they’re most happy when they get to range freely.
Black Copper Marans
We’re beyond excited to be able to offer you this breed. [Especially cold hardy,] they lay the darkest egg we could find: a deep, rich, chocolate brown. For those of you who favor colorful eggs, this breed is a must-have! Marans make wonderful pets, too – they are hardy, calm and quiet, and bear confinement well.