Monday, January 21, 2013

Pets in Winter - questions and answers

Sometimes, I get the question 'what happens to your chicken in wintertime'.

Chickens, like many birds that do not migrate, have small feathers that grow in close to the skin, keeping them warm through the winter. Like a blanket they have a layer of warm and cushy air pockets built into each feather. As long as they have a place to roost that's out of the wind, they are warm enough even on the really cold nights when it drops below freezing. Which is really good, since it's supposed to get cold around here this week! Brrrr.

We also chose a very hardy breed to keep, Rhode Island Reds, and they are very cold tolerant. Some other breeds have difficulties in the cold weather with their combs or wattles (the red parts around their faces) getting frostbite. The Reds only have one, fairly short comb, and they can put their heads under their wings if they need to get warm.

We were concerned that the water would freeze, so we bought a heat lamp and a sensor. The lamp gives heat inside the coop, keeping the water from freezing. The sensor makes sure that the lamp only goes on when it drops below 35 degrees F, and then shuts off in warmer temps. We don't want to make it too hot, either!

Here are a few photos of Lucy by the coop in wintertime.

It's hard to get her to come outside when there is snow on the ground (it hurts her toes, I think) but a treat can sometimes encourage her down. Today's treats were two rold gold pretzels. She managed to pick one up in her beak, which I've never seen before (usually she pecks it apart on the ground).


The coop has survived some pretty bad stormy weather - like blizzards and superstorms. I'm sure it wouldn't survive an actual tornado, but it's a pretty sturdy structure. My husband built the A-frame in our basement from an online photo of a similar coop.

Another question I get is 'once she stops laying, will you eat her?' and the answer is definitely NO. I wouldn't eat her in any case (I chose to stop eating meat many years ago) but to our family, she's a pet, not food. Once she stops laying we'll just keep taking care of her as long as she's alive.

How do you keep your pets warm in winter? Do you let them go outside?

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