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MM 30

Frostbite

by | Nov 10, 2020 | Meyer Moment

Let’s take a Meyer Moment to talk about frostbite in your flock! If you live in an area with extreme winter temperatures, your flock may be at risk. Chickens are susceptible to frostbite on their combs, wattles, and toes. It’s important to choose breeds that are hardy in cold climates and take preventative measures. But rest assured, even the most prepared flock owner can get caught off guard when temperatures dip. Here are a few tips to help you deal with frostbite this season.

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Hey everyone! Welcome back to The Coop with Meyer Hatchery – where we talk all things poultry in hopes of inspiring crazy chicken keepers and educating future flock owners. Each week we like to take a Meyer Moment to cover relevant happenings. 

Let’s take a Meyer Moment to talk about frostbite in your flock! If you live in an area with extreme winter temperatures, your flock may be at risk. Chickens are susceptible to frostbite on their combs, wattles, and toes. It’s important to choose breeds that are hardy in cold climates and take preventative measures. But rest assured, even the most prepared flock owner can get caught off guard when temperatures dip. Here are a few tips to help you deal with frostbite this season. 

When choosing new flock members, look for breeds best for cold climates, which tend to have smaller combs and wattles. You’ll also find larger-bodied, or heavy breeds do better than light, flighty breeds. For example, Orpingtons do great in cold climates weighing in at 7-8.5lbs with a short single comb vs the Blue Andalusian which averages about 5.5lbs and has an extremely large comb. 

You’ll also want to look at female vs male differences. As an example, the Cream Legbar female has a very short single comb, however, the Cream Legbar male has a dramatically large comb and wattles making the male more susceptible to frostbite.

Like most issues in the coop, prevention is better than treatment. The most common cause of frostbite is poor ventilation, which traps in moisture. When temperatures dip below freezing, that excess moisture in the coop’s air condenses as frost on your bird’s combs, wattles, and toes causing damage. 

If frigid overnight temperatures are expected, you can also slather a protective ointment on your birds with the largest combs and wattles. We recommend Udder Butter Skin Protectant or Coconut Oil. You can also use your preferred salve, but be sure to stay away from any products that contain water. 

Lastly, we don’t recommend any supplemental heat. Generally, it’s wasted energy as heat rises to the ceiling of your coop and away from your birds. It also encourages moisture build-up and therefore a greater risk of frostbite. 

If frostbite does occur, you’ll typically notice yellow or white spots on combs and wattles that appear swollen. This is quite painful for your bird and you may notice them shaking their head. Soon these areas will turn black. Do not pick off damaged skin as this could cause unnecessary bleeding. 

These black areas will soon fall off on their own. You can also apply Green Goo Salve as desired to help support the healing process. It can often take up to 6 weeks for badly damaged combs and wattles to completely heal. 

When it comes to experiencing frostbite damage to your chicken’s toes, it’s often due to their roosts being too small in diameter. We recommend roosts that are at least 4 inches wide allowing your chickens to sit flat-footed.

When your flock hunkers down for the night their feet stay tucked under their body, providing warmth to their lower extremities. If the roost is too small, forcing their toes to stick out or curl under, they are more likely to suffer frostbite damage. 

We hope this information helps you prevent frostbite in your flock, knowing if frostbite damage does occur your flock can heal. 

Enjoy the rest of your week and as always, thank you for listening to The Coop!

Hosts & Guests

Kendra + Jeff
From Meyer Hatchery

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