Monday, January 31, 2011
This morning I made a sad, but not shocking discovery. Combs, my Buff Catalana rooster, had passed away in the night. He had suffered from frostbitten comb and wattles from a couple of weeks ago when the overnight temperatures here broke records at -30 celsius without any windchill. Normally he would have been warm enough in the coop, if he slept up on the roosts as usual with the others. That evening something must have happened between him and Sandy and Rodney (see previous post) and when I was locking up the barn, I found him huddled in the northwest corner of the coop, cold and with a big wound on the back of his head. I grabbed a dog crate and placed it close to the heat lamp and put two hens in it to keep him comfortable. By the next day, I could see that he was going to lose some of the tips from his beautiful comb, and possibly part of his wattles to frostbite. He still seemed to be huddling a lot and I worried about his survival, but over the next few days he seemed to improve. He enjoyed the cuddles and attention he got when I put ointment on his wounds and as horrible as frostbitten combs look, he seemed to be healing. Last night I noticed that he started huddling on the floor of the crate again, but he was still close enough to the heat lamp that I figured he would be fine. The temperatures dropped down again last night to -20 something. I'm not sure exactly what it was, the cold, maybe infection.
Frostbitten extremities are a risk that chickens in cold climates face, and a good reason for choosing breeds with smaller combs. Because they are a spanish breed, Buff Catalanas are a very poor choice for our climate, but this is the first winter we've had any problems with frostbite.
Combs was my absolute favourite bird in the coop. He was the classic rooster in looks, but his personality was very sweet. He was a favourite of the hens. He loved to be held by people.