Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Frostbitten Chickens?

Groundhog, shmoundhog, I expected too much from that lousy rodent. Phil may have promised a short winter, but here in Maine we are experiencing the frosty freezing grip of winter, with below zero nights and daytime temps in the single digits. Brrrr.

I've been concerned about the chickens in this cold snap. They don't like the snow, but seem happy enough with the snow dome and the area near Henbogle Coop we've shoveled, and despite the cold, they want to be outside. Yesterday the girls were so eager to be outside they bolted from the coop through the side door as I was refreshing their water. With the forecast calling for single digit temps and wind, I tried to get them back inside Henbogle Coop for the day, but to no avail. I left the Coop door open, so they could go back in and get out of the wind, but don't really know how they choose to spend their days while I'm at work.

With this bitter cold, though, I'm worried their combs are getting frostbitten. Notice the brown patches on Poppy's comb in the above photo. I read in our chicken owners manual, Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow, that rubbing vaseline on their combs would help prevent frostbite, so we've been dutifully massaging on the vaseline, but I'm afraid they've experienced some frostbite. Poppy, with her luxurious comb, appears to be the worst affected. I recently read that Icy Hot increases the circulation to the combs, so I might try that, although I'm a bit dubious, and I don't want to try anything that will cause them discomfort.

We are doing our best to make sure they are comfy. We've got a couple of lamps set up in Henbogle Coop to give some heat and the needed 15 hours of daylight for optimal egg production. We put a sensor from our digital thermometer in the Coop the other day; yesterday morning at 5:30 it was a frosty 14 F, even with the lights. After a few days of the cold we broke down and bought a water fount heater from Knight's Farm Supply, which made life a lot easier for us and provides the girls with warm water, saving them from having to expend energy to warm it up.

Despite the cold weather and frostbite, the girls seem very happy, although a little bored. We've been throwing a flake of hay in the snowdome every once in a while to give the girls something to do. They will scratch through the hay and eat the seeds, and I'll throw any treats and their scratch in the hay to add to the hunt and peck factor. We are still getting 4-5 big, beautiful, delicious eggs a day, and we love every egg. Thanks, girls!


Tracy said...

Ali: Do you guys really have no snow? I hope with the cold weather that your plants do okay. We only have about 4-5 inches on the ground, and with a week of -15 to -20 at night, I'm worried about my new perennials and the garlic. I'll just have to wait and see.

Also - you posted on my site that you ordered Rose Finn Apple. I just wanted to let you know that I am in enough doubt as to which variety really did the best that I'm going to be planting both Rose Finn and French Fingerling again this year. I was positive I had it correct when I first posted my potato review, but was completely thrown for a loop when I got out my 2006 garden plan. Long story short - you may have the more productive variety in Rose Finn Apple - I'll know for sure after 2007!

gtr said...

Hey! Nice hen pictures. We've had some frostbite on our rooster's combs up here in freezing northern MN. One rooster got it last year, too, and he seemed to recover fine; by the late summer, his comb looked totally normal. But he did get it worse this year; maybe more prone to it now?

I recently frostbit my earlobes and feel more empathy for them now, but not sure vaseline would really help? Good luck! Nice blog! I should be posting more about our chickens coping with cold weather, too, I think..

Ali said...

Tracy, I didn't mean to give the impression that we don't have snow. The photo of the snowdome is from December, when we did not, but since then, we've had 2 little snowstorms, and have about 6 inches of snow on the ground here. A far cry from normal, but we do have some snow.

I hope the Rose Finn potatoes are good. We did get to eat a few of them last year and from what I recall, they were yummy. We had such a wet spring, though, that my potatoes were not very successful, and I decided I can't make judgements based on last year.