So, you found a frozen chicken on your homestead. What do you do? Set the microwave to defrost? Fire up the fryer? Just kidding. If the chicken is still alive, there are ways to help save her.
This happened to us recently. One of our Americuanas didn’t come into the coop at night and was caught outside in a freezing rain storm. We found her the next morning huddled beside a downed limb. Her feet were stuck to the grass and her feathers were crusted with a thin layer of ice. She was listless, lethargic, and her eyes were dropping – the tell-tale signs of a sick chicken.
I am no veterinarian, nor expert, but I have nursed a few sick chickens back to health, and this was the second time over ten years that I’d encountered this problem. So, please take this advice only as that of experience, not of formal education.
- Carefully remove the chicken from the ice if she is stuck. Break the ice around her feet rather than “peeling” her feet from the ice, as it may remove some of her skin. The ice will melt once she is in a warm space.
- Wrap the chicken in a towel and dry her as best as possible.
- Set up an warm, isolated area for the chicken. This is necessary any time a chicken is sick or injured, as the others will “hen-peck” the injured one. I recommend a nice large water trough or plastic tub. You can also use a small dog crate or other cage. Put in a small dish of feed and water as well as fresh pine shavings or straw.
- Above the trough or cage, set a heating lamp on half of the living space. Half of the space should be heated, while the other half is unheated so the chicken can move if she gets too hot. A heating lamp is best as it is a slow heat. Avoid using a blower or space heater as the chicken can not escape the heat.
- You may need to manually give the chicken water if she does not eat or drink within an hour.
- After one day, check her feet and skin for any injuries. Spray the injured area with wound-kote or other first aid spray.
- Wait one or two days until the chicken resumes normal movement and you can return her to the flock.
- The chicken may have frost-bitten toes. If so, talk to a veterinarian.
Again, this is based on experience and your remedies may differ. Feel free to share in the comments.
Ben North lives and writes from a homestead in Iowa.