Frostbite in chickens can cause lots of nasty consequences, from mild pain to decrease of mobility and egg production. Keeping your flock safe during the cold months is crucial to avoid frostbite in your chickens. But how do you make sure they won’t develop frostbite? And if they have, how do you identify it and treat it?
Here’s everything you need to know about frostbite in chickens:
How to identify frostbite in chickens
Frostbite is damage of a body tissue because of exposure to extreme cold. It happens when cells get frozen, damaging the tissue and preventing blood flow.
Chickens conserve body heat by restricting blood flow to their feet, combs and wattles, which makes those areas extra susceptible to frostbite. The areas affected will appear in a different color, getting pale or grayish.
Depending on how much the chickens are affected, you’ll also see some loss of appetite, swelling and blisters, as well as the tissue feeling cold or hard to the touch.
How to treat chicken frostbite
Once you’ve identified the affected areas, move the chicken to a warmer and dry location. Do not massage the area nor apply direct heat to it as this will damage the adjacent tissues.
You should warm up the area slowly. If, for instance, you realize your chicken is developing frostbite on their feet, submerge the feet into lukewarm water instead of hot water.
Don’t trim the affected area, as it’s protecting the remaining tissue. Trimming the area will also open the rest of the tissue to infection.
Keep the area clean to prevent any infections. Have a veterinarian antiseptic spray handy, like this Broad Spectrum Chlorhexidine Spray and use it to clean the area affected by frostbite. Keep the chicken from pecking it as much as possible.
Healing from frostbite can take from four to six weeks. During that time keep an eye on the affected area to check if it develops an infection. If the area develops any blisters, don’t break them as it’ll expose the area to infection. Blisters are there to help cure the area.
Keep the affected chicken in a dry area by either modifying your coop with a heater like this one or assigning a different area for temporary recovery. Last thing you want is to make things worse.
Finally, if the area is large or affecting the chicken in any way, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian immediately and follow their instructions carefully.
How to prevent frostbite in chickens
Prevention is key when it comes to frostbite. The easiest way to prevent it is getting the right kind of chicken for cold weathers. The best type of chicken will be big have a small and dense plumage.
Next, check your chicken coop. Regardless of you deciding to get a heater or not, you should make sure the coop has proper ventilation. Get a hygrometer and thermometer like this one to keep an eye on the humidity levels at all times. We however advise against a heat lamp since it’s a huge fire hazard.
Make sure the bedding is dry and don’t give them water inside the coop. You can use sand inside the coop to keep the floor dry and naturally Instead keep the water outside (preferably with a heater bed to avoid freezing) and make sure to monitor how much water they drink to keep them hydrated.
Here are some tips on how to get your coop winter-ready.
To avoid frostbite on their feet, create snow-free zones where they can walk by removing the snow on a path and around the coop.
Chickens are hardy animals. As long as you monitor their health and keep them dry and warm, they’ll survive just fine!