Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The casualties of winter

I had hoped to be introducing you to new hens this week; alas, the organic chicken ranch is out of inventory. The nerve. I may have to wait a few months unless I can find another source. Meanwhile, I've moved the chicken tractor from its winter home in the barn back to the garden, and Clara and Peach are happily devouring every sprout in sight.

In mid-February, just after our freakishly bitter cold spell, I noticed that the tips of Clara's and Peach's combs had turned gray. I didn't think too much of it at the time, but several weeks later, I saw that the gray tips were falling off. How odd. So of course I delved deep into the internet for the answers to this chicken mystery.

I had no idea chickens could get frostbite.

The irregular spikes on Clara's wild and crazy comb are now softly rounded contours.


And Peach's points are a little less pointy.

I've assured Clara and Peach that they will be allowed in the house should the temperatures ever dare to drop into the minuses again.

UPDATE:
Astute and helpful reader clairz (a very accomplished knitter, by the way) may have identified the be-all end-all answer to chicken frostbite prevention. Yeah, I could just put a light bulb in the coop or wheel the chicken tractor into the garage on those frigid nights, but think of how much fun this could be!

22 comments:

  1. We know all about chicken frostbite here in never-warm-up-land. A simple bulb in their coop should keep them less frosty. And the longer "daylight" will encourage them to lay.

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  2. Who knew? Is the organic chicken ranch that you mentioned in the north valley? I saw a place on Craig's List that looked pretty good.

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  3. Carson you'll have to knit some winter chicken coats for next season. I didn't know chickens could suffer frost bite. Any ideas for pumping more heat into the little chicken barn. Keep us informed.
    Best always, Sandra

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  4. Growing up I lived in Montana on a two acre "ranch". We have chickens. One rooster had to come in our utility room with a frost bitten comb. He kept crowing (in the house) waking us all up very, very early in the mornings. He recovered and returned to his job in the hen house, but I'll always remember the newly hatched chicks in the bathtub with a warming light,(in a box, of course) and then the rooster in the laundry room. :)

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  5. Poor Clara and Peach. I'm sure the cats would enjoy their company in the house. ;)
    Suzanne

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  6. I knew that the internet would never let me down! Here is exactly what you need!

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  7. Did I miss something? I thought you had three hens. Was there a casualty and I didn't see the post?
    I sure hope not. :( Your girls are so cute. Love the knit cap!!

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  8. I feel like I missed something - what happened to your 3rd chicken?

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  9. Anonymous, Lorena died in her sleep of natural causes, though I have no idea what they were, in late December. She was happy and healthy when I tucked her in the night before, the next morning she was gone.

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  10. I like the full knit coat with a face mask. what a hoot! Rest in peace Lorena. :-(

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  11. What a hoot! A knit cap for your hens!

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  12. I had read to use Vaseline on their combs and wattles to help prevent frostbite, so that's what I did this winter. It was messy and attracted dirt like crazy, but I think it spared them too much damage. The comb tips on two of them were rather grayish for a bit, but non broke off. Nutmeg, my Golden Laced Wyandotte, has what's called a rose comb that sits close to the head and she suffered no ill effects.

    What breed(s) of chickens are you thinking of adding to your flock, Linda?

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  13. Geez. So sorry about Lorena. I too have had chickens seem healthy one day and pass the next. Strange little creatures. I sure hope you can find some more beauties.

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  14. I love the little chicken hat! How about some booties, too? :)

    Nancy in Iowa

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  15. After you get the caps knitted, you'll need a photographer assistant, 'cause we wanna see you catchin' 'n dressin' the girls for bedtime ;~)

    We have a light on a timer for our girls...gotta have happy girls ya know.

    Our neighbors had a chicken that lost a toe to frostbite...ouch!

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  16. The girls still look adorable-even with their re-arranged combs. My grammy always used a light in her henhouse in winter. A woman named Terry Golson has a blog called the hencam. She has some good tips on her website and will answer any questions you have.

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  17. Whew...when I saw the "casualties" and saw chickie pictures I thought "NO"! Not the chickens. So, I guess I am just a little glad it was only tippy points on combs...although it must have hurt like the dickens.

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  18. Like anonymous I somehow missed Lorena's passing :( I still miss Deets.

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  19. Now that's a hat! I imagine it's a challenge to keep on.

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  20. okay, yea... I wanna watch you putting that hat on the chickens!!


    I'm sorry about Lorena.....

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  21. In the winter, I tarp up the windows of my chicken coop to keep out the cold winds and turn on a heat lamp. Never had a problem with frost bite, then again, I have never had minus degree temps either :)

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  22. Oh no. Poor things. That must have hurt like the dickens. I do like the toque idea very much though. Although, I notice it isn't actually covering the comb part....maybe it's only meant for special occasions.

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