Chickens Health Issues

Frostbite and Backyard Chickens

Tilly's Nest-chicken frostbitewp
Frostbitten wattles and comb

During the winter months, chickens can become prone to frostbite.  Frostbite can occur on combs, wattles and even their feet.  Chickens with larger combs and wattles often are the most susceptible.  Cold hardy breeds, such as Wyandottes, Orpingtons, Australorps, and Silkies tend to have smaller combs.  During colder weather, most chickens will poof out and poof up their head feathers and you will notice that their combs become almost entirely covered by their feathers.  Chickens will also naturally roost in the evening.  When roosting, the chicken’s body will cover their feet and toes, keeping them warm from the cold winter air.  These are two ways that chickens’ bodies help to prevent frostbite. Yet, sometimes breeds succumb to frostbite for other reasons.

Contributing Factors to Frostbite
  • Freezing Temperatures
  • No access to shelter
  • A coop allows water, rain and snow to leak inside
  • High humidity in coop from accumulations of droppings, not enough pine shavings
  • Inadequate ventilation
  • Large combs and wattles
  • Inadequate roosting space
  • Chickens sleeping on the floor instead of the roosts
  • Drafts


Frostbite Prevention
  • Apply any one of the following: Vaseline/Petroleum Jelly/Bag Balm/Waxelene/Coconut Oil, to their combs and wattles prior to roosting each evening.
  • Keep the coop dry and weatherproof.
  • Provide plenty of roosting space for evening use.
  • Do not let you hens sleep on the floor of the coop.
  • Clean the coop as necessary.  Keep the shavings dry and clean.
  • If using the deep little method, be sure to add plenty of pine shavings on a regular basis to the bedding.
  • Prevent chickens from spilling their drinking water inside the coop.
  • Some folks heat their coops, but again, it has do to with the humidity/moisture content of the air.  Plus this can be a fire hazard.


Frostbite Treatment
  • Depending on the severity of the frostbite, you may need to bring the chicken inside to assess the injury.
  • Frostbite can put a stress on the chicken’s body, add some vitamins and electrolytes to their drinking water or poultry drench. Some say, roosters can even become infertile at this time!
  • Watch for other chickens pecking at the frostbitten areas.  If this occurs, you may need to create a hospital area for your chicken. Blu-Kote might also deter other chickens from pecking.
  • If left alone, the frostbitten wattles/combs should turn black, dry up, harden and fall off; leaving behind new skin.
  • Do not remove the black areas yourself.
  • Do not pop any blisters. This risks infection.
  • Watch for any signs of infection at the areas of frostbite.  This includes any swelling, increased redness, discharge from the wound, odor, and so forth.  If this occurs, try treating the frostbitten area with some Neosporin or Vetericyn.  If the infection appears to be severe, please consult with a veterinarian.
  • Clean the coop and replace all the shavings.
  • Re-evaluate the coop’s ventilation.
  • Install spill proof waterers.
  • It can take up to 6 weeks for frostbitten areas to completely heal.


Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest

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