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Frostbite in new coop

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by LazyOakes, Jan 30, 2014.

  1. LazyOakes

    LazyOakes Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 5, 2012
    Southampton, MA
    I live in Western MA, and it has been very cold this winter, getting down into the single digits most nights. I got a new coop this year for my 7 chickens that is a converted shed, 10'x12' in size, with the idea that I would get a few more hens this spring. I have large screened gable vents, so feel like they should have enough ventilation. I have a heated water bowl so they always have unfrozen water. I have also been giving them extra scratch and a small amount of extra fat. On the coldest nights, I bag balm everyone's combs and wattles. They have a dry, covered run, although they will stay inside on colder days, and are closed in the coop at night. The problem is that they have all gotten frostbite on their combs,and the rooster on his wattles, something I haven't experienced in previous winters. The frostbite isn't extreme, but I feel like I must be doing something wrong. I have read lots of the posts here about winterizing the coop and whether or not to use heat lamps. I would rather not use heat lamps if possible because I am not comfortable with the fire risk they pose. In addition, I tend to lose my power often in storms, and I don't want my birds to become accustomed to the warmth with the risk that it will become suddenly unavailable.

    Is my coop too large for the number of chickens I have? Is there something else I haven't considered?
  2. LazyOakes

    LazyOakes Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 5, 2012
    Southampton, MA
    Here are some pictures of the new coop so you can see the vents. I have been leaving the windows closed at night for now.



    Two of the older hens with frostbite on their combs:

    Cochin rooster and welsummer with more frostbite:

    The rooster would not cooperate for pictures, so this was the best I could so.
  3. pawtraitart

    pawtraitart Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 30, 2007
    What kind of bedding is on the coop floor? Chickens can handle the cold, but high humidity plus freezing temps can cause frost bite. A thick layer of bedding will help wick the moisture down. Also, how big is your water bowl? Are they getting into it and spilling?
  4. LazyOakes

    LazyOakes Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 5, 2012
    Southampton, MA
    I have about 3-4 inches of pine shavings on the floor, but now that I'm thinking about it, I had about a foot of shavings on the floor in the old coop. The water bowl is one of those heated dog bowls, and they have knocked it over on occasion. I remove the wet shavings when that happens, so there shouldn't be any areas that are sopping wet, although everything is freezing quickly now anyway.
  5. JackE

    JackE Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 26, 2010
    North Eastern Md.
    I'd say you do not have enough ventilation. I would open a couple of those windows up, away from the roosts, at least 4-5". Chickens generate A LOT of moisture, just by breathing. I've read that they have a respiration rate, if we were to match it, a man would have the respiration rate of a horse. They HAVE to have plenty of fresh air supply in a coop. Throttle it down too much, and you'll have problems.
    My coop is an open-air design. The whole front wall is wide open, year round. I've had temps close to zero this winter(Not including windchill), it was 2 degrees this morning. My birds have had absolutely no problems with frostbite. And I have BRs with some tall combs, and they are having no problems with the cold.
    Open the coop up a bit, and you are right to stay away from the heatlamp.
  6. scooter147

    scooter147 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2008
    I am going to say also the humidity in the coop is too high. I've been at this for 40 years and the only time I had issues with frostbite was during the winter of 1989 (I think) in which it got to like 20 below zero (no wind chill) for like a week at night and barely to zero during the day. That was extreme and the birds did get some frostbit combs.

    One way to tell is when you go out in the morning do you have frost build up on the windows, roof and/or walls, if so then there is too much moisture in the coop and like Jack said you are going to need to crack some of those windows.

    Also with the covered run I would put the water bowl in the run if at all possible. That will prevent spillage in the coop causing moisture and water evaporates very quickly in the dryness of the winter.
  7. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I'd go in and cut a big ole hole in the gable end protected by the run roof, and cover it with 1/2" hardware cloth for predator protection.

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