Vaseline For Chicken Comb Protection?

They could feel the storm approaching.

The storm was approaching.  They were uneasy.

Last week, I wrote about applying Vaseline to the combs of Lucy, Ethel and Rapunzel to protect them from the bitter sub-zero temperatures we were having.  I got enough responses that I thought I should share this experience with everyone.

To recap:  We had sub-zero night temperatures for a week, combined with mostly single digits during the day.  (For those of you who live in Alaska, I say to you DO NOT save me a place.  I will not be wanting one.)

During this nightmarish weather, I applied a liberal amount of Vaseline to the combs of Lucy, Ethel and Rapunzel every other day.  It seemed to be an idea generally agreed upon on the Internet – Vaseline equals protection from comb frostbite.

Well, either I should have done it every day or put more on, because we’ve got us an ugly situation in the barnyard.

To be clear about the conditions:

  • The coop and shed are properly ventilated and sparely heated.  Nighttime temps inside stayed around 10 degrees.
  • We do not have a humidity problem.
  • They all have multiple places to roost in peace.
  • I clean up after them every day.

What I don’t do is confine them inside.  I open the coop around 7:15am every morning and give the ladies a nice portion of scratch to start their day.  Then they’re free to do whatever chicken things they want to do – head to the barnyard, go into the shed, go back into the coop, see what’s happening in the run.  (In Lucy and Ethel’s case, it also means flying over the fence to scratch around in the yard.)  On the coldest days with no sun they mostly stayed inside but when the sun came out they headed to the south side of the shed for some nice dirt bathing.

Despite the Vaseline, the cold took its toll.  The fourth or fifth day was the worst.  No photos, (no way I was taking my fingers out of my gloves) but yuck, I wouldn’t have wanted to share it anyway.  Their entire combs were grayish/white and dead looking.  I was afraid they would be that way forever.   Amazingly, they’ve slowly been healing.  Not completely, but I’ve stopped contemplating putting them all in the spare bedroom during the next storm.

This was a Lucy a few days ago.  The white/gray area seems to be getting better.

This was a Lucy a few days ago.  Some red was beginning to return, but still, yuck.

This was Lucy two days ago.  Better, but still far from normal.

This was Lucy two days ago. Better, but still far from normal.

Lucy today.  Oh, my heart hurts!

Lucy today. Oh, my heart hurts!

Lucy’s was by far the worst.  Ethel looked bad at first, but has healed much better.

While not the beauty it once was, Ethel's comb looks pretty good now.

While not the beauty it once was, Ethel’s comb looks pretty good now.

Rapunzel (who doesn’t like to be photographed) had virtually no lasting effects.  Same for the other ladies.

I don’t know if the Vaseline was effective or not.  Could it have been worse if I had not used the Vaseline?  I don’t know.  I guess I felt better doing something rather than nothing.

All I know is that I would prefer for it not to get that cold again.  Ever.

(Shared at Homesteaders HopClever Chicks HopHomestead Barn Hop, Backyard Farming Connection HopTuesdays With A Twist, Down Home HopHomeAcre HopSimple Lives ThursdayFrom the Farm Hop and Farmgirl Friday!)

Comments

  1. Mine like to stay in their coop when it.s really cold. We have two heat lamps for them. The lowest we have gotten is 15 degrees.

  2. Ohhh, I’m so sorry this happened to you and your chickies. When I clicked on this post I was so hoping the vaseline had worked for you. Our leghorns got frostbite on their combs last year as well. Just on the very tips. I felt awful for them. The black parts fell off eventually and the rest healed over. I wish there was an easier solution. The coldest it’s gotten here so far this winter is 15, if it gets colder than that I don’t know what we’re going to do to protect them.
    Meredith recently posted…Christmas Wishes

    • You know, I’ll use it when it gets that cold again. It can’t hurt, and since the ladies don’t like staying inside (and I don’t knit so I can’t make them little caps) it makes me feel like I’m at least trying!

  3. Oh poor babies! I’ve always heard the vaseline thing but never tried it myself before. I think in really cold weather there’s not much you can do about it unfortunately. I hope their combs heal up!
    Tammy/Our Neck of the Woods recently posted…Feathered Friend Friday: Getting Chickens Through Snowstorms

  4. Thx for sharing this on Homestead Barn Hop. It’s great to get your feedback, because I have seen this discussed so many times. The idea that vaseline can help doesn’t make much sense to me. It doesn’t help human tissue from suffering frostbite, so I see no reason it would help chicken combs. In my mind the best prevention is to keep birds with low, thick combs, which are much less susceptible to frostbite, given the low surface area to volume ratio. I have a couple of single comb hens still in my flock, and when they die, I’ll be replacing them with birds with rose, pea, or walnut combs.
    janet pesaturo recently posted…Wintergreen ice cream brownie torte

    • Janet, I totally agree that the sensible thing to do would pick chicken breeds with low combs. However, I have a massive soft spot in my heart for White Leghorns. They have so much personality! Ethel walked in the back door yesterday, strolled around the house and then practically waved goodbye with her wing on the way out! My seven other breeds are wonderful, but not nearly as fun :-)

  5. Oh no….. Poor girls and poor you. I know you worry about all your residences. I’m glad everyone is healing. I can’t imagine temps that cold…..NO thanks sounds awful! If this is your new norm for winter you might want to think about pea combs in the future, they are to be better for avoided frost…
    Jen recently posted…Our Weekend

  6. I am so sorry for your poor girls. If it’s any consolation, I went through the same thing with our girls. It got down to -19 here in MN. I had Vasolined the girls’ combs really well before the temp dipped and we still have frostbite damage. It looks very similar to what happened with your girls. I know exactly how you feel when you say your heart hurts. I feel awful for our girls, but I did what I could do and so did you. You’re a great chicken mom, the weather is just against us. Mean ol’ Mother Nature.

    Thank you for the great post and photos!
    Jen recently posted…What’s wrong now, Flora?

    • Well, at least we can share in each other’s misery! It’s so much fun with the chickens keeping us busy. Looks like you’ve got your hands full with Flora! And you’re right – we need to get a margarita to Mother Nature. She needs to be less wrathful, don’t ya think :-)

  7. awww, poor chickens!
    I am glad they weathered the cold as best they could.
    I am thinking it may have been worse if you hadn’t used the vaseline??
    Thanks for sharing at the HomeAcre Hop!
    Sandra recently posted…Happy Holidays From the HomeAcre Hop

  8. Sylvester017 says:

    Great birds, alert, intelligent, easy to train w/ simple voice and hand signals, won’t take a treat til their name is called, etc. Easily could fly out of the yard or over the 4′ garden fence but never did once they’re shoo-d from there. Won’t even fly to the coop roof after being removed just once. Superior intelligence for a chicken nobody thinks as “smart.”

    Unfortunately had to re-home our last White Leg who was a humane gentle alpha. After coming out of a severe moult in her 3rd year she developed aggressive behavior toward the flock. She is re-homed w/a friend’s hens and content now. We thought of taking her back but since the flock dynamics aren’t changed she’d be tempted to resume the same attitude and didn’t think it safe to place her w/ our bantam Silkies in the mix.

    As for her comb, we used vaseline for the freezing nights but didn’t seem to do much good as the points discolored anyway. Oily mess on the head feathers got stained from her dust-baths. It’s said to be dangerous to infection when the combs get frostbite. Her comb tips never looked bright and beautiful again. Currently have a Buff Leghorn but haven’t had a freezing spell to worry about her comb that’s slightly smaller than a White’s comb. Adore my super bright Legs but may stick w/ walnut or pea comb birds in future – hurts too much to see damage on a big floppy comb however slight. There are rosecomb Legs but never found a breeder. Thanks for posting pics of your hens’ combs.

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