Is it frostbite or something else?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by pattersonflock, Nov 12, 2014.

  1. pattersonflock

    pattersonflock Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 13, 2014
    This is our first winter with our flock of 3, all about 7 months old. 1 RIR, 1 EE, and 1 Silver Dorking. We live in northern Colorado, so snow does happen. We've had a VERY mild fall, however, with temps never getting much below 50 in the day and 40-30s F at night. Two nights ago the temp dropped significantly (to the teens) and last night to the single digits. It's not supposed to get above 7F at all today. This is very low and a very fast temperature change. We JUST finished their new coop, which is 4'X4' + nest boxes, insulated, with sand as bedding. My husband who built it is a certified electrician wired the coop so we have safe heat in there, which we only want to use in extreme cases. I'm all for letting them adapt to the cold, but going from 50 to 5 does not seem like adaptation conditions to me, so we're using the heat for now. It is still only upper 20's the coop. We have some ventilation, but after hours of research, I've determined it's not enough. Of course it's so cold we can't do too much about that today, but we will be adding more vent windows and holes as soon as we can get tools out there.

    I'm worried about our silver dorking. Yesterday, they had to go outside when it was in the teens for a couple of minutes because they'd spilled water everywhere and we had to get it dry in there (waterer situation is fixed now too). I started noticing the longest tips of her comb start to turn slightly purple. I put vaseline one her comb and wattles (and of the RIR). This morning the tips seem to be worse. They are very cold and hard to the touch.

    Is this frostbite or should I be worried about something else? Other than not thrilled to be locked in the coop, she seems normal otherwise. I am worried about frostbite too, of course. Should I bring her in and try to warm up her comb? Or should I just let it progress and monitor it, accepting there's not much I can do and it needs to run its course?

    Everyone's feet seem to be doing ok.Here are some pictures (very difficult to get). Pay no mind to the ceramic eggs ;)

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  2. JanetMarie

    JanetMarie Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oct 23, 2014
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    I agree that going from 50 degrees down to 5 suddenly is not time for adaptation, and I also would use heat to slowly acclimate them to the colder temps. It looks like it could be slightly frostbit. I have had combs turn dark like that and not be frostbite, and when it was frostbite the combs were more black than your pictures. If it is frostbite, the comb will stay black and when it does unfreeze it will bleed all of the dead tissue off. If that happens blot the blood off, don't rub. Keep in mind that if you bring her in the house to warm her she will acclimate to your house temperature and it will be more difficult to acclimate her in the coop. I would bring her in the house only if she starts acting like she doesn't feel well. Hope this helps.
     
  3. nikicolorado

    nikicolorado Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 3, 2014
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    Hi, I'm in NoCo too and have been worried about my flock's first winter. It is a drastic drop in temp, and I'm relieved to find that they are doing well; so far no colds, no signs of frostbite, and still eating/laying normally. Here's what we've done to adjust to the cold: first, we swapped a screen door for a solid door on the front of the coop so that they have three solid walls and only one with ventilation (in addition to the rooftop vent). Second, we added extra bedding for insulation - pine shavings for the floor and shredded paper in the nesting boxes. Lastly, I am giving double scratch rations in addition to their feed that is supplemented with Calf Manna (and their cold-weather scratch includes plenty of corn for energy, and plenty of proteins like millet, sunflower, and red winter wheat) as they need all the energy they can get to stay warm. I will be getting some "poultry spice" to add to their feed too - cayenne, turmeric, and other spices that act as a thermogenic.

    From what I've found in my research, that does look like frostbite. A few of mine have a touch of dry pox, and their black spots are randomly placed, not on the edges like yours. I would avoid petroleum jelly, as it would prevent the tissue from drying properly. When we had goats, I picked up some blood clotting powder from our local feed store (the folk remedy to stop bleeding is to apply cobwebs - nifty wisdom, but not very handy when you've got a bleeding animal) and I plan to use it for my hens when needed. (I've heard they can go into blood frenzy and cause serious damage to each other). In the event that your hen's comb starts to crack and bleed as it is healing I would use some blood clotting powder, and keep it dry. Any excess moisture retained in the tissue will just keep freezing.

    But I think the culprit is your coop, and the recent water spill. Having heat may not be the solution to the cold problem. Because hens expel moisture only through breathing (and pooping), a coop that is inadequately ventilated and heated retains too much moisture, causing condensation and freezing conditions. I would suggest checking your ventilation and humidity: one square inch of ventilation per cubic foot of coop space, and leave the waterer outside. Also consider some bedding that would allow the birds to use more of their own body heat - like straw or wood shavings.
     
  4. pattersonflock

    pattersonflock Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 13, 2014
    Thank you! I agree with your perspective - I'll only bring her inside if it's really an emergency and she's not feeling well. Really appreciate your thoughts on this.
     
  5. nikicolorado

    nikicolorado Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 3, 2014
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    Ok - good luck and I hope she heals well! It's hard to not worry over them...especially in this cold! There are some other recent threads about winterizing - really good info from veteran henkeepers!
     
  6. pattersonflock

    pattersonflock Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 13, 2014
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    Last edited: Nov 12, 2014
  7. pattersonflock

    pattersonflock Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 13, 2014
    Hi Niki - hey fellow NorCo neighbor! Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions. The girls won't even go outside, so I'm not sure if I can move the waterer out there, plus on a day like today it would freeze immediately (we are working on a water heater solution right now too). I just feel like I totally did not prepare for this winter enough and are scrambling to figure out solutions. I'm also going to see if we can get more immediate ventilation relief, since I know that's a major issue. My husband will just have to deal with the cold and get the drill out there.

    Questions for you:

    1 - do you think I should wash off the petroleum jelly and let the comb and wattles dry well before taking them back outside?
    2 - Where do you get your winter scratch and calf manna? What's the ratio of the calf manna to feed and poultry spices that you use?
     
  8. nikicolorado

    nikicolorado Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 3, 2014
    Colorado
    Hey neighbor, it's getting colder by the minute and my wifi keeps freezing up so I'll make it brief:

    I would call a vet or someone who has experience with handling damaged combs. My sense is that the frostbite might make it extra sensitive to abrasion, and petroleum jelly can be stubborn to remove. Terry at J&T Country Feed in Greeley is a veteran champion henkeeper and has a lot of practical info.

    I get Calf Manna from the feed store - I think it is a purina product. I portion it into the feed at a 1 TBSP per hen per day ratio.

    The scratch I just improvised from what I found out from online research and what my hens seem to prefer. I did however slowly introduce them to whole grains - younger birds need time to allow their gizzards to develop adequately to handle breaking down whole grains. I haven't yet started on the poultry spices, though in this kind of weather I wish I already had! I need to do some more research before I introduce it to their feed.

    Best of luck and stay warm!
     

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