Coping with Cold

It’s been a cold two nights in Northern Maine.  Not any  colder than what one would normally expect at this time of year, but after a perilously mild November and early December, watching the mercury sink below zero for the first time this morning was a bit nerve wracking, particularly since our girls were out there in their coop and I, sitting by the pellet stove, had nothing better to do than worry about them.

Even though we have gone with a cold-hardy breed (Buff Orpingtons) and they’re in a draft free but fairly natural coop (no real source of heat), I find myself as fretful as I was when they were two week old chicks and a freak-mini-tornado blew out our power for 48 hours, taking with it their access to their heat lamp-sun.  I can happily report that not only is our egg production still up, despite the cold temperatures (today’s high was around 12 degrees F) but everyone still seems pretty comfortable, if a bit more puffy than normal.

I will admit that with tonight’s low predicted around -6 F, Jason and I spent fifteen minutes taking some extra precautions to ensure a safe and healthy evening.  I started out by applying a thin coat of Vaseline to the comb and wattles of each chicken, focusing more on the roosters than the hens because our girls sleep with their heads tucked up under their wings (they look like feathery little footballs!).  We then refilled the feeder (it wasn’t empty, but I did top it off), refreshed the grit and oyster shell (just because it was a convenient time), checked the water (still plenty and running clear) and tossed down 3/4 c. of cracked corn to get everyone up and moving before bed.  Several of the sources I’ve been reading suggested a later evening feeding to ensure that the flock goes to bed with full crops to ensure that the digestion process helps keep them nice and warm overnight.

I’ve also continued watering with hot water each morning (typically by six a.m.) to give everyone a nice warm start to the day ~ their version of my coffee habit.

Here’s hoping everyone stays nice and warm tonight!

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