Try these simple tips to protect your chickens from getting frostbite in the dead of winter…
While most chickens can do with a fair amount of cold weather (after all, they are wearing heavy feather coats), if you live in a very cold climate, you may need to take some precautions to prevent your chickens from getting frostbite. While frostbite usually isn’t fatal, it can cause pain, potential infection, and sometimes the loss of appendages such as the comb or wattles.
Some chicken breeds are more cold-hardy than others, so if you live in a cold climate, you may want to choose larger breeds with smaller combs and wattles like Orpingtons or Rhode Island Reds, or breeds with feathered feet such as Marans or Cochins. Hens are also less prone to frostbite than roosters, as they have smaller combs and wattles, so keep this in mind when starting or adding to your flock.
Besides choosing the right type of chickens, if you live in an area where temperatures dip into the single digits you may want to try these methods for preventing frostbite in your flock:
1.) Spice It Up
Adding some spices with known benefits to the circulatory system can help increase blood flow to your chickens’ extremities and may prevent frostbite. Some of the best are cayenne pepper, cinnamon, ginger, and garlic. Just a sprinkle added to your chickens’ daily feed can’t hurt and just may help.
2. Keep Feed and Water Outside
Moisture in the frigid air is what ultimately causes frostbite. So keeping your chickens’ water outside, not in the coop, will go a long way towards preventing frostbite. Chickens don’t see well in the dark, so they’re not eating or drinking overnight anyway. Leave the water outside.
3. Ensure Dry Bedding
In the winter, it’s really important to make sure your coop bedding is dry and not adding any additional moisture. There’s enough moisture in chickens’ manure and the air they expel as they breathe. Leaving the water outside is the first step, but be sure to remove any damp or wet bedding regularly. And don’t let your chickens sleep on the floor. They belong on the roosts. Sleeping on damp bedding can contribute to frostbite.
Put down straw paths outside to allow your chickens to get up off the snow and cold frozen ground.
4. Provide Wide Roosts
Speaking of roosts, your roosts need to be wide enough that your chickens are sleeping flatfooted. This ensures that their bodies cover their feet completely when they’re sleeping. A 2×4 with the wide side up makes a perfect roost.
5. Allow Adequate Ventilation
Last, but certainly not least, be sure your coop has adequate ventilation. There should be vents up high above your flock’s heads when they’re roosting that stay open year-round to provide good cross airflow and allow the moisture (and ammonia fumes) to escape.
If you see condensation inside your coop, you need more ventilation. If you’re in doubt, add more ventilation. It’s the moisture even more than the cold that ultimately will cause frostbite.