Cold Chicken Coop and possible frost bite

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by Katieswan, Nov 18, 2014.

  1. Katieswan

    Katieswan Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 5, 2014
    Hi all, I am a new chicken keeper of 7 hens a few weeks ago. I live in Minnesota and the weather as gotten cold/snowy and windy pretty quick. I moved into a new house that has a log building on the property. It is obvious that the previous owners had chickens in it at some point. So I decided to use it for our chickens as well. The log building is about 12x12 and 6 feet tall with a upstairs that has a separate entrance to it. I knew that the building may be cold because the chickens had a lot of space in it so I put some straw bails along one wall to insulate it a bit. The coldest it has gotten in there is 14 degrees F when it was -11 outside with windchill and a 10-15mph wind. Some of the chickens combs seem to be a bit dull and grey in spots. I believe they may have some frost bite but I am not sure why or what to do about it. It does not seem moist in the building as far as I can tell. There is some air exchange between the the ceiling/floor of the upstairs which I was thinking would be good enough ventilation. I cannot really add more ventilation as the windows do not open and I cannot alter the log building easily. I may be able to pull up some floor boards to let more air escape. But would I want to do this since it's already chilly in the coop? How do I know if the frost bite is from just being cold and restricting blood or if it is from moisture. Again, it really does not seem moist in there. I also know that the winter will be long and there will be colder nights. I do not have a heater or heat lamp in there now but I do have a 100w bulb that comes on in the morning for a bit and afternoon a bit. Any pointers on how to tell if its too moist in the coop or if there is enough ventilation or what to watch for to make sure the chickens are ok in the cold weather would be great.

    oh yeah, I have put petroleum jelly on the combs and it seems like this happened in the next day or two after.

    Any insight would be appreciated.
  2. TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Show me the way old friend Staff Member

    Mar 21, 2011
    New Mexico, USA
    My Coop
    Hello there and welcome to BYC! [​IMG]

    Good ventilation is about 1 square foot of vent space PER BIRD in your ceiling or eaves. Never vent from the floor up. Even though it might not seem moist in your coop, when the chickens are sleeping, they are putting out lots of warm moist air from their breathing and their pooping. This warm moist air rises and if it has no place to go, it falls back down on the birds as water or frost. So you need to add more venting to your coop up high, generally equal venting on two opposite sides one vent higher than the other. Keep the birds roosting low to the floor so that they are roosting in quiet air and there is plenty of space between them and the venting. No sleeping in the rafters. They will create their own bubble of warmth around them, which you do not want air to disturb. Keep your bedding very clean and dry. Dirty bedding will add more moisture to your coop. Remove all water at night as well. Bed them deep in grass hay or pine shavings.

    You can put a layer of vaseline on your birds combs to help prevent frost bite. Don't rub hard on a frost bitten comb as they can be painful.

    With your cold temps, I would tack an old towel to your roost bar. Birds lose heat through their feet. So warm feet mean warmer birds. Oh, and make sure your roost bar is wide enough. A 2x4 with the 4 side up is recommended. Something so that they can tuck their feet under their beast feathers. Exposed toes can also get frost bite.

    And only if your over night low is going to be 30 or 40 degrees less than your AVERAGE over night low would I add a heat lamp. No doubt your birds have acclimated to your cold temps, however a 35 degree drop at night can shock them. So you can add lamp over the birds. You are not trying to heat the coop, only to warm their little bubble up a bit. You can remove the heat once the cold snap is gone. And always permanently attach the lamp to the wall or ceiling. Never rely on that clamp as they can fall and cause a fire.

    Good luck and I hope you can get your coop vented up and your birds healed up soon!
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2014
    2 people like this.
  3. Wyandottes7

    Wyandottes7 Overrun With Chickens

    Jul 24, 2013
    Welcome to BYC! [​IMG]We're glad to have you.

    TwoCrows has given you some good advice already.
  4. BantamLover21

    BantamLover21 Overrun With Chickens

    Jul 24, 2013
    [​IMG] Glad you joined us!

    X2 on Two Crow's advice. Good luck with your birds!
  5. sunflour

    sunflour Flock Master Premium Member Project Manager

    Jan 10, 2013
  6. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years. Premium Member

    Aug 26, 2009
    Out to pasture
    and to think winter hasn't even started yet - oh gee. Glad you joined the flock,
  7. Katieswan

    Katieswan Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 5, 2014
    Thanks for the advice. I may need to do some figuring out on how to get a bit more ventilation. However, this may be a dumb questions , but would the bluish / gray color rub off if it was frost bite? I reexamined my hens this afternoon and with a bit of curiosity I wetted my finger a bit and lightly rubbed the comb of the one that looked the most gray. The grey wiped off and didn't look like anything weird underneath. Is it possible I but a bit too much petroleum jelly on and they are just dirty ? Should I try to clean them?
  8. Kelsie2290

    Kelsie2290 True BYC Addict Premium Member

    Feb 18, 2011
    Hello :frow and Welcome To BYC! The Vaseline does tend to collect dirt even if you don't put much on. If it has been awhile, mild cases of old frost bitten skin will kind of rub or scale off if it is healed and you'll just see normal looking comb underneath, not sure if you have seen this article but it has some pictures of mild frostbite in various stages
  9. Katieswan

    Katieswan Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 5, 2014
    Yes, I have looked at that before and it does not really look like that but a couple birds have some small blackish spots (not at tips) that look a little like it. Could this be marks from getting pecked? It has only been one or two days that I have noticed the overall darker color of the the combs on the birds and it was after I put on the petroleum Jelly. Should I try to was them off or put more on? Thanks for all the advice! I am learning a lot with these birds.
  10. Mountain Peeps

    Mountain Peeps Change is inevitable, like the seasons Premium Member

    Apr 23, 2014
    At our lodge
    My Coop
    Welcome to BYC! Please make yourself at home and we are here to help.

    Ventilation is probably one of the most important things to have in winter. Without proper ventilation your birds will get frostbite, respiratory illnesses and other problems.
    Chickens can survive brutally cold temps as long as they are dry and out of all drafts. Sealing up all cracks in the coop and putting in about 1 square foot of vent space in the eaves per bird. Wind chills are merciless on chickens sleeping at night so make sure your coop is draft free.

    Other things to do to help keep your chickens snug this winter include using straw as a bedding, using the 4" inch side of a 2x4 roosts. I also put a towel that has been in the dryer and put it on the roosts to warm their feet. Make sure that there is no water spillage or moisture collection on the bedding as this can also result in frostbite. On the very cold nights you should rub vaseline on the chickens' combs and wattles to help prevent freezing.
    Here's a link on frostbite and ventilation.

    You don't need a heat lamp if you have ventilation, proper bedding, proper roosts and proper feed. In the winter you should be feeding your normal layer, grower or chick feed along with scratch as this will keep the birds warm especially if you feed it in the evenings.

    Bedding that is warm and absorbent is also necessary. Wet bedding mixed with the cold temps and wind chills equals bad frostbite. So either use straw, shavings or shredded paper. Straw is possibly the best bedding to use in winter. Line the nests with straw to help prevent eggs from freezing. Bales of straw help act as insulation and keep the coop even warmer.

    Heated water bowls are also imperative. Chickens drink non-stop in winter and they can't do that if their water is frozen! So either buy a heated bowl or use a heated base on the bottom of their regular waterer. I've also heard of people who place a 40 watt bulb in between bricks and then put the water on top in a bowl. Make sure the waterer isn't plastic.

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