Chickens molting, single digit temps

My chickens have decided to begin molting while we’re in the single digits with negative wind chills :cold_face::woman_facepalming:t2:

This is my first experience with molting, and naturally I’m worried about them freezing to death! They get a 17% protein organic layer feed and free range during the day, and I’m planning on adding some scrambled eggs to their diet during this time.

Do they need supplemental heat while they molt? Do I need to move them into the barn or garage or will they be ok in their coop?

We have had molting chickens in winter. It gets to around -30C here in winter normally. We have not had one freeze to death. Our chicken house is insulated, but no heater (other than the heated water dish- which does actually make a difference for them). There are “chicken sweaters” available if you want to do that. Made for just this issue. But I have found that when it is cold, chickens will bunk in together to stay warm, a bunch of them get into one egg box together, body warmth.

They’re likely fine. Chickens in winter need:

Ventilation! Their coop needs to be as DRY as possible, without being drafty. So, vents up high, lots of them. Their breath and poop give off humidity, and that needs to escape. Preferably do not keep their water inside their coop. If you must, a heated horizontal nipple bucket would be best, as the water is contained.

Water They need fresh, clean, liquid water at least twice a day, if not three times. Or you can use a heated bowl or bucket and change it out every few days as it gets dirty.

Feed Your 17% layer should be fine, and adding eggs should be fine as well. The quality of the protein is of concern moreso than the amount, per se, especially when molting. Getting some animal protein in them, without going overboard, is good. If you find sardines on sale, a sardine per bird every other day is good, or your leftovers like a chicken or turkey carcass, any meaty bone really (maybe not ham, too much salt isn’t good), etc. Just make sure they have feed available at all times, especially before bed. And don’t fall for the, “Give them corn to keep them warm!” schtick that goes around every year, it’s bunk.

They almost never need heat, as long as they are dry and draft-free. I wouldn’t use a sweater either unless they truly are mostly bald, although they ARE cute.

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Everything @Mosey_2003 said :+1:

I have a small flock - 5 hens, 2 roosters (don’t ask :smirk:) - that lives in a converted garden shed w/attached fenced run.
We’ve had single-digit daytime temps & subzero nights for the last 3 days.

Mine finished molting less than a month ago. Not a hard molt, where they looked like all they lacked was the foam tray & plastic wrap, but lots of feathers in the coop.

I have a heated waterbowl & a single redbulb heatlamp in the coop & have left that on the last 2 days.
No one seems interested in going into the fenced yard - few tracks in the snow. At night they roost very close together.

Chickens wear down coats year-round :sunglasses:

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I always feed back extra eggs in the Winter to help my hens even though they have free choice 18% layer feed. I have some molting and they never even act cold when the nights get freezing.

I just hard boil the eggs and smash them with the shell and all and feed that nightly along with whatever table scraps I have.

I usually feed extra eggs as treats, but this year they’re all on strike! The few that they get I eat myself. I bought eggs last week for the first time in years.

Anyway, above posts are good advice. My Cream legbar always molts HARD, like bald, but luckily she does it in Sept/Oct. The barred rocks just finished, like look great right now. The red sexlink and white leghorn are laying about an egg/wk. They’re both almost two years old and have never molted, egg laying machines. They look pretty ratty right now. I was hoping they would have molted already, now I’m afraid they might start. Calling for -30C Monday night.

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It’s mainly to make myself feel better, but in the dead of winter I leave a single heat bulb running in the coop. (our high temp today was 5below, with -25 wind chill). They have tons of roosting area that’s outside the cone of the light, so they can choose to be near it or not. I find it’s 80/20 – most of them are scattered around the roosts, but 20% of them hang out right near the lamp. They have tons of ventilation, a heated water bowl, and they get a huge variety of ktchen scraps. Never had one die in the winter.

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@Mosey_2003 That’s a great list, thanks for sharing. Seems all of my bases are covered in that regard.

Thursday, however, my chicken who is molting the hardest was attacked by a hawk. I scared it off before it killed her, but it did leave a nasty wound behind her wing. So, now she’s in a separate coop by herself recovering (doing well, thankfully!) but I was extra concerned about her keeping warm all alone with windchills down to -5 the other night. I piled lots of extra bedding in her coop, and fortunately she was just fine yesterday morning. They are hardier than I ever would have thought!

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@candyappy that’s a great idea to feed them hard boiled egg with the shell, especially since scrambled freezes almost instantly in these temps! I’ll give that a try and see what they think :slight_smile:

@2DogsFarm oh yes, love my heated waterer! I keep it in the run versus the coop, but I do keep a small feeder in the coop.

@GoodTimes I wonder if it’s a hybrid thing to wait so long for the first molt, mine are cinnamon queens and will also be two this spring. I hope your girls wait until the cold snap passes!

@EssexFells I know a heat lamp would make me feel better, at least :rofl:!! I just don’t have a great place to put it in my coop that wouldn’t make me paranoid about starting a fire.

I did see those “cozy coop” heaters at the farm store yesterday which looked interesting. Does anyone use one?!

I have a wall heater like the cozy coop ones. It doesn’t warm the coop, you have to be within a few inches to feel any heat. I hung it beside the roost that mine like to sleep on, and I only turn it on for the really cold nights (-15C or below). I notice they’ll sleep normally instead of with their heads under a wing.

My coop is insulated, but well ventilated. It only stays a couple degrees warmer than the outside temp.
Heated water stays out in the run.

Last Monday it was -20C here and we lost power at 6:30am, came back on around lunch time. Would have been a pretty big shock if I had a heat lamp on and they weren’t acclimated to the cold.

We have one molting as well and it’s 15 degrees today. We don’t heat our coops so I think she just made a questionable decision.