Brrr, I say, BRRR.
It’s cold up here, and I’m Canadian, so I know of what I speak. When I awoke, it was -3. That Fahrenheit, y’all. Today’s high is to be all of 14F, with a low tonight of -8F. That’s -22C, which, I’m sure, is business as usual for Mike up in Thunder Bay, but, for us pussy weenies down here? DAMN.
I really felt badly for the girls last night, and it kept me awake for a good long while. We don’t heat our coop, and I did a lot of research before coming to that decision. There’s a fantastic (and very long) thread on Backyard Chickens on this subject, and when chickeneers from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Alaskan interior tell you that their chickens do just fine in unheated, uninsulated coops, it has to give one pause.
Here’s what I’ve gleaned: it’s not cold that’s the danger; it’s moisture. If your coop is dry, the cold is much less of a concern. Further, if you heat your coop regularly (and many chickeneers have heaters set to kick in when temps fall below freezing), your chickens will not have the opportunity to develop their full winter down, which sprouts in response to need. So, I have never heated.
I’m sorry, it’s brutal out there. My poor girls are hopping from foot to foot on a freezing concrete floor. I’ve already collected one cracked, frozen egg today, and it’s only 9am. There is only so much hot oatmeal that even I can dispense.
So, I’m heating the coop tonight, just a bit, with the 250w red heat light, and the 150w ceramic heat bulb, both covered in dust, in disuse since June. I have them going in the coop now, in an attempt to get a heat curve going in there, and give the girls the option to roost in relative warmth. Just for today and tonight, mind you.
Of course, heat lamps require electricity. We have electricity in the barn, thanks be to the Great Chicken, but when I plugged a heat lamp into the long-unused outlet…nothing. No heat. Poopypants.
The electricity to the coop is achieved through a pair of very long, inelegant, heavy-duty extension cords; clearly, something was amiss. I traced the cord (did I mention it was -3F?) from the outside of the coop, through the doorway, under some lumber and behind the stored canoe, which is up on sawhorses. It took getting down on my hands and knees, under the canoe, moving storage boxes and the girls’ bicycles, everything coated in a thick layer of barn dust, to get the cord hooked into the wall.
If that ain’t love, I don’t know what is.
So, there are two heat lamps attempting to dent the extreme cold in the coop; we shall see if it makes a difference.
Power to the chicken.