1. Mountain Peeps

    In the frigid winter months we all worry about different aspects in our flock. Water freezing, eggs freezing, wind chills, etc. Frostbite is a big concern also. Frostbite can attack chickens in three, main areas; their combs, their wattles and their feet. The most common area effected is the comb. Some chicken breeds have smaller combs which helps prevent the probability of frostbite. But, all chickens can get frostbite.

    What is it?
    Frostbite can be defined as, "injury to body tissues caused by exposure to extreme cold."
    What causes it?
    Frostbite can be caused by a number of things. The most common causes include:
    -Wind chills
    -Wetness/moisture mixed with cold temperatures
    -Freezing temperatures
    -High altitude
    -High humidity
    -Inadequate ventilation
    -Poor or lack of shelter

    Moisture collected on the comb and wattles equals frostbite when mixed with the cold. Wind chills caused by a drafty living area also can cause frostbite. It's imperative that you build your chicken coop so that there is ventilation. Poor ventilation results in high humidity levels due to the flock's breath and droppings. This is another cause of frostbite.You need good venting in your coop ceiling to rid the coop air of all this unwanted, moist air. If you don't put in good ventilation, during those really cold winter nights, all this moisture is going to rise up to the ceiling since warm air rises, and if it has no place to go, it will fall back down as water or frost making your birds very cold and uncomfortable. The ideal way to create good venting is put in 1 square foot per bird of venting in the roof. Split it half and half on either side of the ceiling, one vent higher than the other. You don't want any venting near the floor. This will create drafts. So what really does this do? It makes it so the moist air from the chickens slowly rises into this positive air coming in the lower vent and out the upper vent. Birds themselves put out heat. So they literally are roosting in a nice warm bubble of air. The moist air rises and goes out these vents. You don't want to disturb this air space around the birds with drafts. So make sure to seal up all cracks above the birds a foot or two. Venting can be worked on those cold winter nights by closing off some of the lower vents to slow air movement in the coop. You never want to close off the higher vents. You will not retain much heat by closing off the vents, but you will keep the birds drier, especially if it is a bitterly cold night and you use heat lamps. Hot air meeting cold air creates condensation, so keep the air moving to prevent this. If you live in a very cold climate then you'll need to insulate your coop too.
    Frostbitten feet is caused by damp litter mixed with cold temperatures. I had a hen who slept on the floor one night in 12 degree weather. In the morning she couldn't even stand as a result of the waterer leaking on the bedding combined with the cold. She is now permanently weak in her left foot. So, be sure to keep bedding dry in the winter. Frozen feet also can be caused by too thin of a roost. For example: if you have 2x4 roosts, they should be positioned so the chickens sleep on the 4" side. This insures that they cover their feet entirely when they sleep which will help prevent frostbite.
    The symptoms of frostbite are many.
    -Color change (blue and black are the most common)
    -Blisters (good sign)
    -Unable to stand
    -Not eating

    How to treat it
    Frostbite actually can heal itself as long as it is not too severe. You must make sure not to massage the frozen areas, not to cut off the blackened areas, (only cut the frozen areas off if they become infected) and NOT put direct or sudden heat on the areas as this will just damage the nerves further. Toes/Feet Frostbite in the feet will become discolored and swollen if severe enough. If there is infection, the swelling will feel hot. In such cases the chicken will not be able to even move her toes or stand up. To treat frostbitten feet you'll need to wash them with lukewarm water. First, bring the chicken in from the cold but into the coolest place in the house so that she warms up slowly and doesn't burn up. Once she has gotten used to the warmth, wash her feet with epsom salt. Keep her isolated in a box with towels and lots of water. Healing can take anywhere from a day to a couple months. If your bird got frostbite bad enough and you didn't treat it early then, sadly, the frostbitten parts will shrivel up and fall off resulting in a lame chicken. [​IMG] Wattles and Combs Like I mentioned before, frostbite is more common in roosters but if the temperatures are bad enough and/or the coop is built poorly then hens as well as pullets and cockerels can get frostbite just as easily too.The frostbitten areas will sometimes may appear swollen, blackened or discolored. They also may be cracked and bleeding. The best way to treat this is coat the combs or wattles with an antibiotic ointment after you wash it. You may need to keep the bird isolated for a short bit of time until it either stops bleeding or the discolored areas go away.[​IMG] How to prevent it
    -Keep your chickens warm and in a coop with ventilation and dry bedding
    -Rub vaseline or coconut oil on their combs and wattles every night (vaseline and coconut oil will not prevent frostbite entirely but it helps protect tissue)
    -Prevent drafts in coop
    -Provide lots of water
    -Use wide roosting bars so that the chickens sleep with flat feet
    -Choose chicken breeds with smaller combs (chickens will large combs get frostbite much more easily and frequently than breeds with small combs)
    -Prevent water spillage. (If the water hangs consider putting it on a brick so that it can't spill as easily)
    -Monitor your chickens

    Frostbite is a very bad and painful problem in chickens. But with the correct care, frostbite can be prevented and treated. The key is warmth, dryness and ventilation.

    Helpful sources Have questions or comments? Feel free to PM me.

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  1. tarahharlin
    Great article! Thank you!
  2. WoodsysChickens
    It was -30 here, and my problem chicken, (she always has something wrong with her, but is layer so I tend to her) went and go frostbite on her bad foot. I noticed it yesterday and looked it up right away and got her inside and warm and this morning her foot is already half back to normal. Thinking its because it's her bad foot. Because my coop is ventilated and the floor is dry. I will still be changing out their roost though to 2x4. But none of my other chickens have any signs or symptoms. Maybe jealously because once again Princess gets to be inside for the rest of winter with her own food and water. She may be doing it on purpose.
  3. Liz C
    It plunged below zero here the week before, took me off guard too. My guys are in a closed in wood shed with lots of hay on the ground, they have a smaller nesting box with clean fine flake shavings and straw for night that I cover to keep the elements out. I am sure it happened in the day, just a little frostbite on the two with the biggest combs and waddles,this article popped up a day late but I think the initial vaseline coating and now on cold days I use the bagbalm(keep it near the woodstove or someplace warm so its soft going on) I felt pretty bad too.Hope your guy is ok .
  4. hhartsong
    Thank you so much, I'm just worried about what to put on him because I can tell by looking at it he must be in pain, and really hope I can find something that also has an analgesic in it.
  5. Liz C
    I would bet a tube of neosporin like you would use on yourself would help if its getting infected,....bring it in somewhere where you can maybe spray Vetericyn on it (search the name if you never used it) but because it's a wet spray I think I would put the chicken in a dry warm place for awhile and then use the bagbalm or neosporin to coat it. Veteric
  6. hhartsong
    What brand of antibiotic ointment do you recommend to treat frostbite on a Roosters comb and wattle?
  7. Liz C
    opting for bag balm instead but praying for warmer temperatures!!!
  8. Liz C
    great article, I am opting for bag balm instead
  9. BigRedRoo
    Id like to start of by saying this was and is a great arctical. I just have one problem with it. I saved a couple of chickens Last year one of them had frostbite so bad on her toes that thier was no saving them. They shriveld up and fell off two months after I got her. She has been named Toes now because of her lack of toes. She does just fine scavaging and dusting and even roosting. This was cause because the guy use a ladder for a rooting rail and she was unable to cover the tips of her toes. Shes not lame nor was she when she came to me. Chickens are interesting creatures and can over come some pritty remarkable obstacles.
  10. cluckcluckgirl
  11. Mountain Peeps
    Thanks to you all!
  12. sunflour
    Great article, thanks for posting.
  13. lil red hen
    you guys are so awesome just jumped on to ask this question and you already have the answer thanks!
  14. Henna56
    thanks following this advice and so far so good and it has been -28 !!!
  15. Book Em Danno25
  16. Acornewell
  17. familyfarm1
    very helpful!
  18. Yorkshire Coop
    Excellent article! Thankyou. I've just had my first case and it has helped me very much.
  19. Chickenchick11
    Good article Mountain Peeps.[​IMG]
  20. Frindizzle
  21. MyPetNugget
    Great post! I've been having problems with frostbite this past winter and now I know how to really deal with it. Thanks so much!
  22. TwoCrows
    Very informative article describing how to prevent and treat frostbite! Great job!

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