Thursday, November 3, 2011

#128 - Stubborn Chickens Survive Bad Weather

Belle the Yorkie has been converted into a full-fledged chicken lover.
She is proof that change is indeed possible! update on my "Tighten It Up Thursday." I am five pounds down in my desire to conquer 25 pounds. I'm going nice and slow. I might have some ups and downs, but overall, the downturn is the greatest so far. I'm delighted to continue shedding pounds I no longer call "friend." The past couple of weeks, I've added Yogurt to my daily intake. It is filling and satisfying, especially with a few devilish M&M's added!


Onto the blog of today...Cold weather and chickens is something I know nothing about; the combo is a new experience I've never encountered, until last night.

Last night we had a Texas-Style winter blast move in. This meant that the temperatures dropped within seconds as a powerful whirlwind knocked things around the neighborhood. The strong winds whirled about for a couple of hours and today we're still experiencing strong bursts of wind...but last night I kept waking to the sounds of things being blown onto the side of the house.

Since we've been sleeping upstairs, I looked out the window around 1:30am to see the chicken coop in the yard below. There is a little door leading from the interior of the coop to the tractor run. Sitting there inside the tractor run, exposed to the elements, on a little perch, were two chickens nearly being blown over as they clung to the rough stick perch. They were so very close to the door that leads inside the coop. I stood upstairs, looking at them and saying quietly, "Go INSIDE you silly birds!!"

They didn't. As the weather worsened, I kept getting up to look out the window to see if they had gone inside the coop, but they stayed in their place.

Even as the rain pelted down upon us in a driving force, the birds sat there holding firm, ruffling their feathers in an attempt to shed the drops of rain landing on their feathers.

Eventually, I had to go back to bed and listen to the sounds of the rain hitting the panes of glass and debris hitting the house. I had no idea if the chickens that were so stubborn as to try to stay outside during the storm would survive the cold blast. I have no idea how much of the cold a chicken can take and how much exposure they can withstand.

Texas can have mild winters, but when a northerner blows through, it can be rather brutal with biting wind and temperatures that drop severely and quickly.

Early the next morning, when it was still dark outside, I glanced out the window to find all five chickens pecking around the tractor run, already eager to be let out. They seemed to be anxious and were making an out of the ordinary sound. I think it was their version of a complaint about the cold. So, I went ahead and put on Deputy Dave's thick robe, then headed for the backyard with a mixture of feed so they could forage around the yard for the day and find their own comfy zones as the wind continued to blast around.

I realized that very cold nights will require us to close the side panel door that lets the chickens roam free inside the tractor run. On very cold, bad weather nights, they simply cannot be given the choice to roam around inside the chicken tractor because it appears that they would rather subject themselves to harsh, dangerous conditions than to take the few steps required to be safely back inside the coop. Like little children who do not have the awareness to be cautious for their own good, chickens seem to need pro-active intervention during bad weather because they appear to be incapable of taking initiative to protect themselves.

They are indeed my little babies. My little feathered, sharp beaked, scary-clawed babies.

Since Texas is slow to experience "winter" and since it comes at sporadic day it will be 80 degrees, the next it will be 32 degrees...we must be prepared to help the chickens get through the long, cold nights.

Chickens enjoying outdoor fine dining of Ms.Baird's bread.
Through the long months of very high temperatures and a Texas drought, we've already dealt with a chicken surviving heat stroke. It was a very high anxiety time in this household as the chicken lay lifeless, looking as dead as an unplucked Tyson chicken on our living room floor while Deputy Dave tried to revive her. Hanging by a thread, she spent a couple of days in recovery while sitting on a towel inside our master bathtub. I was shocked, but she survived and has been living well since that horrible day of nearly being cooked by the Texas sun.

Putting all of the chicken-pot-pie jokes aside, I don't think I could handle having to eat one of our backyard chickens. These are hens dedicated to providing our family with delicious, fresh eggs, not meat. One day, we will raise some chickens specifically to be processed, but the ones fluttering around the backyard are supposed to be happy and healthy and entertaining. The trick to all of this enjoyment is...keeping the chickens alive.

These days, I am thoroughly enjoying being able to do a chicken dance or two...with actual chickens. It's a good life.


LindaG said...

Yup. Chickens have to be encouraged to go into the coop for the night.
Once you get to your property you will have to be firm with them, because there will be more dangers than you have in the city. (For the most part.)

That said, I'm glad all your chickens survived the night! :) said...

Linda --- You are definitely right. In the country, we'd wake up to find feathers and no chickens. I hope we'll have something that I can step inside before dusk with treats to lure them inside on my own. For now, each night, Deputy Dave has to put them inside the coop, the mostly stay inside but still have the run of the inside of the tractor section. Unfortunately, two of them really want to be outdoors in the tractor run section...not good during bad weather. I thought about running outside and trying to push them, with a bamboo stick, back inside the opening of the coop, but I was watching things whiz about in the air and decided against it...they were protected by the chicken wire, but the blasts of cold wind were FREEZING! I'm so glad I didn't wake up to a couple of dead chickens!

Becky's Barnyard said...

I'm glad everyone survived. I'm lucky because the chickens I have now all want to go in the chicken at night. Four go in the shed because of the pecking order and opossum scare. Then I just close the door at night.

Rae said...

Huge congrats on the weight loss! Slower loss is much healthier for you than rapid, you know. :)

I wouldn't worry too too much about your girls. Ours stand out in the rain looking miserable, rather than going in the coop. Silly birds. It was 25deg out a couple mornings ago, and they spent the whole morning (and all of the freezing day) outside scratching around. You should have seen our geese... They spent the day running around and playing with pieces of ice from their wading pool. :) Too funny.

A Primitive Homestead said...

I found some of my chickens do not like snow & cold but some will roam about. I worried their toes would freeze. As I read I was afraid you would tell us you ran outside in the storm & retrieved the chickens. I was glad to read you did not. I seen your comment that you gave thought to it. I shut my chickens in at night. Not safe for them. My run is not attached but I had planned to attach it to the coop so they could come & go. I find from your post I will still have to shut them in at night. Thanks for sharing. I have been amazed just how cool chickens are. Always thought they were dirty & unsmart creatures. Not so. I really like raising them & caring for them. They were to be egg & meat suppliers but they will only be egg suppliers. When they start to lay. I hope soon. I only have 3 store bought eggs right now. They all got names & personality. Maybe another coop for meat chickens someday. No names for those. Blessings!

Texan said...

Chickens are... well stupid... I hate to say it but they are. They will sit in freezing rain when they are a foot away from a dry warm place. They don't seem to have the mental capacity to figure out to go in out of the rain or ice. You will have to make them :O)...

Farmchick said...

What a sweet little Yorkie to hang out with those chickens!

Karen said...

I read your post and your previous comments with great interest. I've had chickens around most of my life and have never had to coax one into the coop at night. Just about a half hour before sunset, they all make a beeline for the coop and are on the perches long before dark, waiting for us to lock them up. I wonder if it's the breed that makes the difference? Or maybe, being 'country' chickens, they know what would be in store for them if they didn't go in? (Death and dismemberment from opossum, raccoon or fox, owl, hawk or skunk.)

I have a mixed bag of hens here, everything from tiny banty hens to full size mutts that are as cagey as the day is long. Only a few of ours were very tame, and sadly, those are the ones who have been killed by a hunter's dog who thought he was hunting chickens and not rabbits.

As far as the cold weather goes, as long as you can provide them with unfrozen water and ample feed, they should be fine. Our nine survived winter down to twenty-five below zero with no problems, not even a heat lamp. They don't lay many eggs during the winter, if at all, but that's ok, since I know they have to utilize their energy to stay warm. They sense the temperature changing and their bodies adapt. I've never lost a hen to freezing. Mine are going through a molt right now, seems so silly to lose feathers when the nights are in the 20's already, but there's a whole bunch of new feathers coming in, almost overnight they will be all feathered out again.

Chickens are a joy and a worry at times, aren't they? You take such good care of yours, they will be fine!

Lilla said...

I'm new to your blog, and enjoying reading about your adventures! We got chickens a little over a year ago and in my research I found out they can do OK in cold weather, if they have adequate shelter. We live in Colorado and my hubby built a well-insulated coop with a heat lamp for winter and my chickens still got frostbite on their combs last winter! It's interesting that your chickens want to stay out at night. My girls instinctively get in their coop and up on their roosts around dusk every night. All we have to do is close the door to their coop. Maybe you have some rebel chickens!

Kelsie From Our Country Home said...

Silly birds indeed...My rooster takes great delight in standing out in the torrential rains here in FL...As my yard becomes a swimming pool in just minutes, Chicken Boy Bravo can be seen standing out there looking ridiculous with soggy droopy tail, trying with all his might to become a lightning fried chicken...I just don't understand it.

Oh and I have heard of turkeys drowning because they will look up at the rain.