If you keep chickens and there’s snow imminent it’s natural to worry how they’re going to react when it comes.
Of course, not everyone needs to worry about snow, but if the place where you live is prone to regular snow or long hard winters there are a few things that are good to know when it comes to chickens and snow.
As chicken keepers who live in the Welsh mountains, we’ve got to know how our chickens react when it snows and we’ve found some ways to keep them happier when things get bad.
In short, chickens don’t like snow, not just because it’s cold, but also because the snow covers up the ground they’re used to scratching through for food. Chickens can become a little disorientated in snow and will generally seek shelter when it’s falling or if the snow ground covering is deep.
Read on to find out more on how to expect your chickens to react when it snows along with some tips on how you can make things a little easier for them while the snow lasts.
How Chickens React When it Snows
Although how each chicken will react is really down to the individual and breed, in general chickens aren’t too impressed when it snows.
Depending on the breed and size of the chicken, some will be better equipped with thicker feathers etc which help to keep them warm.
A chicken’s natural instinct is to be outside and grazing for food by scratching it up from the ground surface with their feet, when they can’t do this they tend to get frustrated and a little confused.
Here are some behaviors you might notice when your chickens are out in snow:
- Staying in or around the coop – when snow is bad they tend to stay close by the coop because their normal surroundings have changed.
- Hunching and fluffing up – chickens will do this to stay warm during bad weather.
- Standing on one leg – because their feet get cold in the snow it’s normal for them to alternate standing on each foot to stop them getting too cold.
- Being vocal – when chickens are unhappy they will often be very vocal about it.
- Disorientation – chickens get used to their surroundings and when it snows they can get a little confused about where things are.
Chickens do tend to be creatures of routine and something like snow is likely to through them out of sorts for a little while the snow stays around.
Our chickens go into a generally confused state when it snows, they’re used to being free-range, but instead, they just stay around the coop looking a bit fed up.
This is very different to their normal behaviour so we keep an extra eye on them during the snow days to make sure they’ve got what they need and aren’t being affected by the cold too much.
Is It Ok for Chickens to Be Out in the Snow?
Although chickens aren’t huge snow fans, it’s ok to let them out in the snow providing conditions aren’t too extreme.
Chickens are able to self-regulate their body temperatures and will usually choose to stay inside the coop or to seek shelter if conditions are too bad for them to go outside.
It’s important to allow chickens the option of being able to go into the run and coop during the day in bad weather and not to coop them up all day because they will become bored and frustrated.
If the snow is deep or persistently coming down, you might want to keep the run closed, rather than free-ranging as they could become disorientated, trapped or unable to find their way back to the coop.
We chose to do this since we had chickens not finding their way back to the coop to roost, fortunately, we found them in the hedgerows but this is something they’d never done before.
In very extreme snow and low temperatures it may be necessary to keep chicken inside while the worst passes, in this case, they will need access to food and water (which can’t be knocked over).
How to Look After Chickens When It Snows
If you keep chickens in your garden or backyard, they’re going to need a bit of extra help when it snows to the extent that there’s a coving of snow on the ground.
Pentagon Pet is the owner of this article was first published on January 26, 2021..
Here are some things which you will need to do or keep an eye on when it snows:
- Keep checking and topping up water – snow brings with it low temperature so it’s likely your chickens’ water will freeze.
- Give them some extra food – especially if your chickens usually free-range they won’t be able to find any food through grazing under a covering of snow.
- Put some extra bedding in the coop – this will help to insulate the coop and gives them the option to roost in nesting material if they’re feeling cold.
- Cover the coop roof – for added insulation, you can buy covers but material such as carpet will work too.
- Keep them penned in – as covered above, chickens will easily become disorientated in heavy snow so it’s a good idea not to open the run.
- Check them regularly – if you can, check your chickens regularly while they’re out in the snow just to make sure they’re doing ok and don’t look like they’re struggling too much. Although they don’t like snow, they should still look alert.
As well as your chickens’ usual feed it’s also a good idea to give them corn feed later in the day in cold weather. This helps to keep them warmer as they roost as the corn digests through their system – they love it too.
If you live in a particularly cold and snowy area, an Omlet Plastic Eglu coop (see below) is a really good idea because they’re insulated and designed to keep chickens warm in winter yet cool in summer.
Our recommended coop
Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.
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This article and its contents are owned by Pentagon Pets and was first published on January 26, 2021..