If you live anywhere that sees the change of seasons, you've been having a rough winter. (Come to think of it, some people have had a rough winter who never see snow. I still feel bad for people in Atlanta sleeping in CVS.)
When we've had the polar vortex days and the heavy snow fall and the ice storms, a lot of people ask "how are the chickens handling the snow?"
Well, in short, just fine.
We went through a period in the late fall/early winter where molting and the reduction of the daylight hours made all four stop laying - we got only a few eggs over that time. This seemed to be happening to a lot of people this year.
Thankfully, one of our black australorps is a laying champion and she started up again, even during the short winter days. Both black australorps are back at it, and just recently we got our first green egg in months, from one of the americaunas.
As far as water, we use a heater system that Mark rigged up, which uses one of those holiday cookie tins with a light kit attached to the side. The light bulb warms the tin and keeps the water from freezing. We just use Chinese takeout containers for their water in the winter since they are easily refillable and seem to help the water stay in liquid form.
However, they do like to knock it around from time to time, and one day this winter found me in my dress clothes on the way to work, crawling into the coop to recover it.
Way to stick your face in her butt just as I snapped the photo, lady.
As far as snow, they aren't big fans. We try to keep areas of the backyard shoveled so they can walk around a bit without being up to their beaks in snow. We usually have a path from the coop to the deck, where they like to hide for a wind break and to be close to the house, which gives off some warmth. Their feet are sensitive to cold, so they prefer to stay out of the snow, but I've seen tracks around, so I know they aren't completely averse.
Now ice? That's another story. The ice storm we had recently had them going nuts, clucking away and making all kinds of noises because they were irritated that they couldn't walk well. I had to bring hot water outside to de-ice their coop (and took a spill myself) to even get the door open, so when they realized that they couldn't step outside and get any traction, they made an unholy racket.
In the cold, they huddled together a lot and hung out under the deck to get a wind break. We give them extra scratch when it's going to be a very cold night so they have food to be digesting while they roost.
They'll be happier when they can poop all over the yard and get back on top of the compost pile, but they're doing fine. I think I'm more sick of the winter than they are. But who isn't?