It seems like the weather has gone from summer straight to winter almost overnight! We had Fall-like temperatures for about two weeks and that was it. So, it's now time to winterize our coop to keep everybody as warm as possible.
I dusted off our Kenwood Oil Filled Radiator from last year and set the timer so the heater turns on at night and keeps things about 55 degrees. It turns on when the doors close and shuts off when the doors open back up in the morning. I have two temperature gauges that I can read from within the house (they send out a radio signal) to make sure the temperatures are okay – one placed on the floor of the coop, and one placed next to the upper level cages. The heater did a pretty good job of keeping the temp steady last winter, only failing to maintain 55 when the outside temperature dropped close to freezing. I'm trying to convince myself that they can tolerate colder nighttime temps, but since I want to start collecting eggs for incubating soon, I use that as my excuse…the more comfortable they are, the more eggs they'll give me!
I've also taped up any gaps around the windows to cut down on any drafts. Seramas can take some cold temperatures but they have a harder time in windy conditions, especially Frizzled and Silkied Seramas, since their feathers don't lie close to their bodies, which keeps the heat from escaping. You can see the gap in the before and after pictures below. (Yes, I have a sink in my coop – VERY convenient!)
Last year, when the chickens were outside in their runs and the weather was windy, they usually huddled against the coop. Few of them actually went inside to get out of the wind…Go figure! So this year, I put some cardboard boxes for them to go into to get out of the wind. I cut off one side so they could still walk and scratch on the ground, once I found out they didn't like walking on the cardboard itself. Not at all elegant, but it does cut down on the wind.
I am also feeding my Seramas some defrosted frozen corn and Black Sunflower Seeds, which helps them to build up some body fat for insulation; the corn also raises their body temperature, so I'll be giving them some cracked corn in the late afternoon/early evening to help them keep warmer at night once they go to bed.
Winter is not my most favorite of seasons, and I have to be careful in not projecting those thoughts onto my birds…After all, they're just chickens, right?
(Hmmmm…Has anyone ever knitted little sweaters for their birds???)