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feather footed breeds and winter weather challenges

 
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Location: Central Indiana, zone 6a, clay loam
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Temperatures are starting to get pretty cold here and I'm finding myself a bit concerned about my Salmon Faverolles. I read before I got them that keeping their beards and foot feathers dry in winter was important. We got them a horizontal nipple waterer to avoid wet faces. Their run is a cattle panel high tunnel with plastic over top to keep snow, rain and wind out. I was thinking this would be enough to keep their feet dry. Yet, I still find that their little faces and feet get quite damp because they love to dig in the mulch. I've read all kinds of horror stories of frostbite due to wet foot feathers and am wondering what I can do to help protect them from any such issues. Or if that is actually even likely. Most of the suggestions seem to focus on making sure they've got a dry run with lots of layers of straw, leaves, etc. As I mentioned, the run is covered, but the ground in there is still damp. I will continue to add leaves and mulch. Though it seems to me that chickens being chickens, no matter how much dry material I put in there, they'd dig down to the soil and still get wet. I suppose I could confine them to the coop for winter, but would strongly prefer not to.

For what it's worth, this is a composting run, inspired by Edible Acres and also this super cool setup by Mike Haasl: https://permies.com/t/102341/Chicken-winter-greenhouse. So far, it's just leaves and mulch, no food scraps and nowhere near the scale Sean is at. I really don't want the ground totally dry (nor do I think that's even possible). I love that any feed they knock on the ground sprouts and provides them green food and entertainment.

Does anyone have experience with feather footed breeds in damp winter conditions? Did the foot feathers prove an issue? If so, what did you do to make sure their feet and faces stayed safe from frostbite?
 
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I do not have experience with that breed. I went for Whiting true blue because of their ability to tolerate hot summers & cold winters plus excellent foragers. Oh and they lay blue eggs. haha blue eggs always makes me laugh, reminds me of green eggs and ham
 
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I have a 6-month old Salmon Faverolle and live in MN. Mine is a small backyard urban flock. The coop is elevated off the ground and the run is partially under the coop, the rest of the run is roofed. The whole thing is surrounded with plastic sheeting to keep wind and snow out so the run stays really dry. I've got straw on the ground in the run and add more each week, and yeah, they dig through the straw. I don't have trouble with the ground being damp, the soil beneath the straw is really sandy. So far both her beard and feet seem to be staying dry. Not sure if any of this information will help. Good luck!
 
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I've kept a variety of poultry over the decades, in zone 4b/5a for the last decade. I currently have Salmon Faverolles, Silkies, Cochin crosses with feathered legs/feet, and a few breeds with clean legs but muffs/beards. Plus geese, ducks and turkeys. My coops are open every morning, regardless of weather. runs are only partly covered, so there are some dry areas and wet/snow covered areas. Keeping them dry isn't always easy, especially one Faverolle and 2 Silkies that seem to love to hang out in pouring rain.  I have had to towel dry a few times, and I also sometimes trim the Silkes' faces/heads to keep them from getting soaked, but I haven't had any sick. I don't trim feet unless they're impeding their mobility. Deep dry bedding inside a draft free coop is very important, as is proper nutrition and pest prevention/treatment. And although they're not the brightest creatures (especially Silkies) mostly they do know go in when it's miserable out. Frostbite is usually a result of too little ventilation in the coop, because birds produce quite a bit of moisture. Keeping a water source inside can also increase moisture, though auto waterers are much less likely to. Breeds with small combs and wattles are less prone to frostbite on their faces, but if you're concerned a light coating of vaseline or another similar product helps. And perches that are wide enough for them to have most of their foot flat under them are better at protecting their toes. My old Bielefelder rooster got a frostbitten comb a few years ago and lost the points, but he had a huge comb. He healed well, just looks different.

It was -32C here yesterday, and very few were out long. Today it's 0 with the odd bit of rain/snow and they are all out scratching for grains I've scattered in the straw I've spread out, to prevent boredom.

When I first started into poultry I read and followed all the books I could. My first coops were Fort Knox and probably better insulated than my house. After a while I'd met enough farmers/poultry breeders to gather info from, and relaxed. They're a lot tougher than the books tell you. Though when my kids and I showed our birds we did have to make sure they never got any frostbite severe enough to cause damage to comb, wattles or toes. We also had to keep white birds out of the sun to prevent yellowing, the show rules have nothing to do with health.
 
Heather Sharpe
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Stefanie Hollmichel wrote:I have a 6-month old Salmon Faverolle and live in MN. Mine is a small backyard urban flock. The coop is elevated off the ground and the run is partially under the coop, the rest of the run is roofed. The whole thing is surrounded with plastic sheeting to keep wind and snow out so the run stays really dry. I've got straw on the ground in the run and add more each week, and yeah, they dig through the straw. I don't have trouble with the ground being damp, the soil beneath the straw is really sandy. So far both her beard and feet seem to be staying dry. Not sure if any of this information will help. Good luck!

Sounds like a fairly similar set up to mine, with the exception of the soil underneath. The soil under my run is clay-heavy but has had some years worth of leaves dumped on it prior to us putting the run there. It's not usually mucky, but it does hold water. This is making me wonder if there might be opportunity to improve the drainage in the soil surrounding the run as a way to improve the situation long term. There was basically nothing but honeysuckle in this spot for a long time, so nothing else could grow. I wonder if getting lots of plants growing around the run could help the soil drain better. Maybe particularly some deep rooted plants to break up that clay. I was going to plant the area now that it's opened up anyway, but this might shift my choices a bit. It'll be interesting to see what changes! That did help, as I hadn't thought about what I might be able to do in the coming seasons to possibly make this better in the future. Thanks for sharing!

 
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Heather Sharpe wrote:

Stefanie Hollmichel wrote:I have a 6-month old Salmon Faverolle and live in MN. Mine is a small backyard urban flock. The coop is elevated off the ground and the run is partially under the coop, the rest of the run is roofed. The whole thing is surrounded with plastic sheeting to keep wind and snow out so the run stays really dry. I've got straw on the ground in the run and add more each week, and yeah, they dig through the straw. I don't have trouble with the ground being damp, the soil beneath the straw is really sandy. So far both her beard and feet seem to be staying dry. Not sure if any of this information will help. Good luck!

Sounds like a fairly similar set up to mine, with the exception of the soil underneath. The soil under my run is clay-heavy but has had some years worth of leaves dumped on it prior to us putting the run there. It's not usually mucky, but it does hold water. This is making me wonder if there might be opportunity to improve the drainage in the soil surrounding the run as a way to improve the situation long term. There was basically nothing but honeysuckle in this spot for a long time, so nothing else could grow. I wonder if getting lots of plants growing around the run could help the soil drain better. Maybe particularly some deep rooted plants to break up that clay. I was going to plant the area now that it's opened up anyway, but this might shift my choices a bit. It'll be interesting to see what changes! That did help, as I hadn't thought about what I might be able to do in the coming seasons to possibly make this better in the future. Thanks for sharing!



I've read that daikon radishes are a great, cheap way to break up difficult soil. Then you can pull them to get better drainage. I did look up just to check, and it said both the leaves and radishes are healthy for chickens. Not sure if they would let them grow much if they could get to them? I'm not sure if this would be an option, but you could move the chickens to another spot while you increase the drainage of where they normally are, then move them back.
 
Good night. Drive safely. Here's a tiny ad for the road:
6 Ways to Keep Chickens, ebook - now FREE for a while
https://permies.com/t/138684/Ways-Chickens-ebook-FREE
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