There was recently a question asked about the chickens at Orchard Park, in particular, about the cold weather. We wanted to open this for discussion, but first provide some general information and resources to help residents who may be unfamiliar with raising chickens to understand the nature of these loved farm animals.
1. The first and most asked question, "How cold is too cold?"
The standard answer to this question is minus 20 degrees F. Chickens are extremely efficient at maintaining their own body temperatures. (Just think about that really warm down coat you wear in the winter... that's made with bird feathers and is VERY good at trapping heat.) Chickens huddle together up on a roost (off of the cold ground) at night and keep each other very warm as well. The key to maintaining this heat is to avoid the wind. Although some situations could suggest additional heating elements that can be added to a coop, it is usually not recommended due to the risk of fire.
Also, it is important to remember that there are special breeds of chickens that have evolved to live happily in cold weather, such as Rhode Island Reds, Comets, Osterlaupe, and Wyandottes, all of which are in Orchard Park's Urban Farm area. 2. What do you do if their drinking water freezes?
Warm tap water is brought to the chicken coop every day and stored in the water dispensers in the coop. Rarely can the water freeze in these containers (remember, they are being kept above freezing temperatures because they are in the coop with the chickens). Also, did you know that chickens (like every other type of wild bird) will eat snow to stay hydrated? Yep, even though they usually don't like to walk around in the snow, they will still take on a nice snow cone every once in a while (except without the cone.)
3. What can I do to help?
Orchard Park is always happy to take donations to help with the upkeep of our feathered friends; this can include time and volunteering as well as funding. They are fed a special non-GMO organic chicken feed, which is great for the birds, but can be expensive.
Also, we love that folks drop off their vegetable scraps and compost for the birds, but there are some dietary restrictions we would like you to keep in mind: as far as vegetables, please do not feed the chickens onions, green potatoes, or dried beans. Also, never feed chickens chocolate (just like dogs, this is very bad for them) and for the love of all things feathered- DO NOT FEED THE FARM BIRDS: EGGS, CHICKEN, OR TURKEY MEAT.
Any questions or comments? Please post your thoughts below. :-)