Winter precautions and Frostbite help

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Fliese, Nov 13, 2012.

  1. Fliese

    Fliese Out Of The Brooder

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    Hey. This is my first year keeping chickens and I am in ND, where winters get cold. This past week, we finally got snow that sticks and temps that are staying below freezing. This morning, I went out to the run and my Barred Rock's comb looked like it was dusted white. She is still laying and seems otherwise healthy, so I wondered if it was frostbite? Although, I've always heard that frostbite is black. Anyways, I went out and got some Vasoline to put on all of the combs to help prevent frostbite and when I got back, her comb was red again... but then when I went to put the jelly on it, I saw it was red because it was weeping blood. Her head feathers are also stained with blood, so I don't know if the others pecked it or what. Anyways, I am wondering if I should do anything other than the vasoline while it heals and to further prevent cold damage. I'm also wondering if I have it right and this is indeed frostbite/related to cold.

    The other part of my question is if I should do anything to help with the cold. I already have straw bales piled around the coop and run to insulate and block wind. I also have a little "shack" for them, which is like a 3-walled mini coop. The run is covered so the ground in there is protected from snow and there are roosts in there as well. I have read that you shouldn't provide a heat lamp in the coop because of fire hazard and because if you lose power, the chickens won't be used to dealing without the heat and could freeze as a result. Would the same idea apply to having a heat lamp in the run, that they could opt into during the day, much in the same way I put blocks of ice out in the summer? Or is there no point in it.

    Thanks for any help. I just really want to do whatever is best for the chickens during our brutal winter. It's only November and we have a long ways to go.
     
  2. mg15

    mg15 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi, I am a newbie so of not much help, except here in Nebraska too, very cold at times. I bought a digital thermometer at Bogaars. Put the digital thermometer in the coop. The home base digital in the house and it tells me the temperature in the coop anytime of day. You can also set it so if the temperature gets below 40 in the coop it will make an alarm to warn you. It also tells the humidity. It has already helped because nite before last I had a feeling something was wrong and we checked and the temp had dropped in the coop. The girls knocked over the heater. The heater shuts off when bumped. So it worked out good.
    mg
     
  3. Fliese

    Fliese Out Of The Brooder

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    My main concern with putting a heat source in the coop is that if we get an ice storm or something that knocks out the power, the chickens will suddenly go from a 40 degree coop (or whatever) to a negative temp in the coop. I've heard that they can't take a shift like that, so it's better to skip the heat altogether. We have a generator, but it's not an auto-on sort of a thing, so I don't want to depend on that.
     
  4. janinepeters

    janinepeters Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I share your concerns about keeping a heat source, so I would suggest keeping chickens that are better adapted to extreme cold. Those with rose, pea, and walnut combs generally do not suffer frostbite. Also, birds with roundish bodies tend to tolerate cold better, because they retain heat better than slender breeds.

    I know this does not help with your current problem, but I hope it makes you think breeds like chantecler, wyandotte, buckeye, and brahma, for the future. They all have chunky bodies and short, thick combs and do really well in cold winter climates.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. Fliese

    Fliese Out Of The Brooder

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    I did try to choose by winter hardiness. Henderson's Chicken Breed chart gave me the green light for the Barred Rock in a cold climate. Oh well. Hopefully the Vasoline will help prevent further damage and they'll be fine. I'm switching to rounded 2x4s as roosts this week so they can roost with their feet covered completely. That should at least help their feet.
     
  6. janinepeters

    janinepeters Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yes, rocks are often said to be cold hardy, and that is true in terms of their relatively chunky bodies and full feathering. But they have single combs which are subject to frostbite, so overall, they are less cold tolerant than 4 breeds I mentioned above.

    I don't know about the vasoline thing. The massaging when you rub it on might temporarily help improve the circulation in the comb, but I doubt the vasoline itself has any affect. I kind of think that's farmer's lore more than anything else. I know I'd take a good pair of mittens over vasoline, to protect my fingers from frostbite.
     
  7. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    A dry chicken barn or coop is our first defense against frost bite. We have single combed birds, rocks included, but frostbite, in a dry, well vented barn, has been no big issue, right down below zero. However, to be very honest, we had a couple nights dip to -30F the winter before last. I didn't use vasoline and I seriously doubt it would have made any difference at that temp. I don't know because it wasn't applied.

    Was there a nip on the very tips of the birds with the spikey, uber large single combs? Yes. Just a nip. The weather broke and the birds were just fine. We don't show birds and no one inspects our birds with that fine a toothed comb. I seriously doubt even the well trained would have noticed. If I had show birds, I'd likely have been more concerned, I dunno.
     
  8. Fliese

    Fliese Out Of The Brooder

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    Well, the coop is clean and dry and is on the small side with straw bales against the outside on 3 sides, so that's in line. I guess we'll just see how they fare. I'm going to be putting salve on the rock' comb this week to keep it clean as it heals and I figure with just the four birds, I may as well vasoline them every few days since it takes all of 5 min and if nothing else, could protect against cracking/dry skin. I don't show and don't plan to ever, so as long as they are healthy and as happy as I can make them, I'm happy. Thanks for all of your help and advice. Hopefully we can get this winter thing figured out since it lasts half the year up here :)
     
  9. janinepeters

    janinepeters Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yeah, I wouldn't be concerned about the appearance either, but frostbite can be very painful. A lot of people who have had it, say that. It's known to cause reduced fertility in roos, so it must be pretty stressful for chickens, too.
     
  10. Fliese

    Fliese Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 5, 2012
    That's the precise reason I want to prevent it (that and any risk of infection that could result). The Rock's comb looks much better today and we have been lucky to have a warm 45 degree day, too.
     

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