Frostbite at 15 degrees

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by just3girls, Jan 16, 2011.

  1. just3girls

    just3girls Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 13, 2011
    Hi everybody - this is my first real question here, so thanks in advance for any info anybody has for me!

    I appreciate the notion that chickens can live in very cold places without heat, etc - in theory anyway. But when it got cold here for several nights in a row (15 degrees at night), one of our chickens (a barred rock) got some black spots in her comb which I assume was frostbite. Is this unusual?

    I saw a suggestion here not to use lamps, etc., but to watch the birds and see how they're behaving and watch for signs of frostbite and that seemed like a reasonable approach. And it was that approach that led me to notice it. We had thought about using a lamp or something but I realized that it was too much of a fire hazard. The coop is very small and it seemed crazy to put a heat source so close to so much flammable material. A little info on our setup: we have three chickens in a small hen house, which has a small door which we've kept open (even when it's very cold) because we've read about the importance of ventilation. It is not insulated.

    So first, is it unusual to get frostbite at 15 degrees? Is it just a fluke? And any suggestions to keep them a little warmer at night? Definitely not a lamp but something? Would it make sense to close the door if I scoop out the poop every day so the moisture wouldn't build up? It's not cold here often but when it is I'd hate to have them suffer unnecessarily. We're new to this so we're kind of making it up as we go along!

    Thanks!
     
  2. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    My chicks do fine at much, much lower temps than 15. First, I only keep hardy breeds. That's number one. The list for cold hardy birds is quite long and most hatcheries and other breed information sites do a good job of giving you that information.

    Barred Rocks are pretty darn hardy birds and folks keep them, as cold climate farmers have for ages. In fact, they were bred and kept for a century before the invention of rural electricity. How did they do that? [​IMG] Anyhow...

    Frost forming on the birds is a function of humidity frosting on their combs. My Rocks hide their heads under their wings when they sleep on the roost. No one bit of frostbite.

    I would agree that the fire danger is real. I'd also have someone take a look at your design, either in person, or through photos, to see if you can stop drafts, but increase your ventilation, which is key.
     
  3. True Grit

    True Grit Chillin' With My Peeps

    Are you sure the black spots are frostbite or could they be peck marks? If they are cooped up more than normal they could start pecking. What are the dimensions of your coop? Are the birds on a roost? You could try putting jugs of hot water in the coop to give them a little warmth but 15 degrees isn't terribly cold if there is no wind.
     
  4. just3girls

    just3girls Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 13, 2011
    It's possible that it's not frostbite but peck marks or something else. There were several spots that were completely black, as I recall. But no, they were not cooped up more than usual. They have the run of our yard in the winter time. And it did heal. Maybe it was just a fluke. But I do like the water jug idea; that might help.

    It's funny, though, I would've thought that ventilation is, by definition, drafty. But I suppose there is a distinction.

    Thanks!
     
  5. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    No, drafts, by definition are cold breezes that hit directly upon the hens, particularly while on the roost.

    Ventilation is provided at the top of the coop, air escapes, taking humidity with it. I serves the same purpose that you have vents on top of your home. This lets humidity escape upward. A coop must be designed for ventilation, as a chicken puts out pounds of water vapor over time. 6-10 hens? make that gallons.

    Study good coop designs. This topic is well discussed on many, many threads here.

    Temps of 15 just isn't cold. But if there is poor to lousy ventilation, that is a major issue. I wish you the best on your study. Again, suggest having someone put eyes on your coop design, or post a series of good photos here and allow others to speak to the situation.
     
  6. teach1rusl

    teach1rusl Love My Chickens

    If it's a pretty small coop, as you suggested, then I'd definitely close the door at night time. With temps that cold, cold wind could be blowing in the door. Cold is one thing; icy drafts are another. As long as you're cleaning regularly, even a small coop would do okay closed off overnight on really cold nights. You can open the door each morning.
     

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