DanInWisconsin
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Lowest Temperature for Chickens & Still Lay Eggs?

Hello; I've raised chickens for meat, and now I'm considering raising chickens for eggs. It gets very cold here in Wisconsin. We've had many days at or below zero this winter. It was -18 just the other day. I do not want to heat the coop. I think the only practical way would be to get them very early in Spring and butcher them in late Fall. Is that practical? What is the lowest temperature a chicken can comfortable withstand, without causing undo stress on them, and they will still lay eggs? That will determine the range that I could keep them.
Thank you.

n8young
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Re: Chickens for Eggs

hey there - i live in southern maine, and i have chickens. We have been experiencing temps this year down to 0 and a few degrees below. my chickens are in a coop outdoors, and thriving nicely. coop has vertical decking as the walls, with obvious shrinkage gaps in between each board(aka - the wind can get hrough and into the coop. I have tons of rventilation up in the roof as well to allow the moisture to vent out, and I have not had any problems with my chooks and the temps. I have one light fixed into the ceiling, i think mayeb a 60 watt bulb....more to encourage them to still lay egss throughout the winter, but i think also it might provide a tad of heat against the chill of winter. Other than that, no insulation, no heaters, and all is good.

Hope that helps a bit

tomc
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Re: Lowest Temperature for Chickens & Still Lay Eggs?

How tight your hen house is, and how much supplimental light will dictate how well they'll lay. I kept mine in the lakes region of NH in a tight building with a single 100W light and they layed till January and resumed late in Febuary. They didn't get any supplimental heat, just a bulb.
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applestar
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Re: Lowest Temperature for Chickens & Still Lay Eggs?

I don't have them, just wish I could and daydream by researching about what breeds I would get if I could -- and breed descriptions seem to imply that winter hardiness and willingness to lay during winter depends on the breed as well?

Just for curiosity's sake what breeds do/did you have?
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tomc
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Re: Lowest Temperature for Chickens & Still Lay Eggs?

Rhode Island reds and a single (Polish I think) rooster. Well he came with the name Stachu, so Polish he was...
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DanInWisconsin
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Re: Lowest Temperature for Chickens & Still Lay Eggs?

Thank you all for your helpful suggestions. When I raised meat chickens... last time was in 2004, they were Cornish Rocks. This year I was thinking of getting 25 Cornish Rocks again along with 5 Rhode Island Reds or Plymouth Rocks. I'd like to raise them together for the first 8 weeks. Then after the Cornish Rocks are in the freezer, continue to raise the egg laying chickens for as long as the weather would permit. It sounds like with a little supplemental light/heat, I'd be able to keep them thru the winter and beyond. I am fine with a 100 watt light. I just want to avoid months of actual electric heat or something comparable.

tomc
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Re: Lowest Temperature for Chickens & Still Lay Eggs?

As long as I changed the water daily, mostly the chickens kept laying in a breeze free building (NH). Goof off on that and the girls will go on strike till they think its spring.

Change water as in knock out old ice replace with unfrozen water...
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ruggr10
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Re: Lowest Temperature for Chickens & Still Lay Eggs?

this winter it hit -17F and i got 4 eggs out of 6 chickens per day that week.

tomc
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Re: Lowest Temperature for Chickens & Still Lay Eggs?

ruggr10 wrote:this winter it hit -17F and i got 4 eggs out of 6 chickens per day that week.
I think you and the girls did pretty good!
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ruggr10
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Re: Lowest Temperature for Chickens & Still Lay Eggs?

the only tough thing was if I didn't get the eggs quickly enough, they would freeze and split.

shinnam
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Re: Lowest Temperature for Chickens & Still Lay Eggs?

As long as the cold isn't stressing them too much they will lay eggs. It's the "day length" that is important. Chickens are light stimuated breeders, in other words like horses and rabbits they need a longer day length to breed. Light stimulates the pineal gland to make a hormone that gets the ovaries to make eggs . When I had comercial breeding hens the lights were kept on 16.5 hours to maximize production, with one 100 watt bulb for every 30sq ft.
Hope this helps.

DanInWisconsin
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Re: Lowest Temperature for Chickens & Still Lay Eggs?

Yes, this helps a great deal. Thanks to everyone for their advice.

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Kageri
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Re: Lowest Temperature for Chickens & Still Lay Eggs?

We have seen -30 to -40F and the chickens were fine except a few less hardy breeds. The seramas that everyone says will not even survive below freezing just had to have some comb surgery from frostbite. Some breeds it's standard to dub their comb and they are shown that way. It probably started from making them survive temp extremes better. A really sealed off coop is actually a detriment. In high humidity they will frostbite combs at maybe 20- 10F. In low humidity most won't frostbite combs at all no matter how cold your winter gets. You want to maintain enough air flow to still have the hot, humid air moving out but not so much you get a cold breeze. Some put a false ceiling in a tall coop. Just stretch something across that helps hold in heat but allows some of the humidity rise beyond it to the actual roof. You want a good roof vent. Either some centered or some along the top edge of the sides.

As for laying it will depend on breed. Some lay through winter well and others do not. The quality of the birds from the hatchery (a private breeder is often better) will also have impact on their ability to lay. It is not as much cold as light that causes the problem. You don't usually need to provide heat except for the fact eggs will freeze in subzero temps. Ice eggs are entertaining to throw but not so great for some recipes. They can still be eaten if they haven't cracked and picked up dirt. The consistent just won't be the same. If you lock them in a dark coop for a long period of time with short daylight hours they are likely to not lay but it's far cheaper to feed a chicken over a winter than to raise new egg layers every year. They may barely lay before winter their first year. The 2nd and 3rd year are the best. You can keep them through the 4th and 5th year with various results. After that most start butchering them unless they have tons of space for limited egg layers or happen to have a very good hen that keeps laying well despite that age. If you provide some light you can push most of the high production breeds like the rhode island red, plymouth rock, and barred rock in to laying year round even in northern US.

Have you seen the chicken chart? https://www.sagehenfarmlodi.com/chooks/chooks.html

JPNguyen
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Re: Lowest Temperature for Chickens & Still Lay Eggs?

ruggr10 wrote:the only tough thing was if I didn't get the eggs quickly enough, they would freeze and split.
This is very true. I had the same experience during the snow season. It's like a racing game!

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