Sunday 26 January 2014

Hot Weather Care for Chickens - Part 2

Hot Weather Care for Chickens

Another great way to care for your chickens in the hot weather, is to give them access to wet earth.  Chickens need to regularly dust bath (roll around  in the earth, covering their feathers in dirt to clean their skin, feathers and remove bugs).  Preening their feathers with their beak alone does not adequately clean their bodies and if you've had little chicks out in the garden, you'll see them dust bathing as a completely natural instinct, whether they've been entirely human or hen raised - they just know they need to do it.  

In the heat with the soil baking to sometimes unbearable temperatures, the chickens are less inclined to dust bath.  They're obviously very uncomfortable - panting, dehydrating and steaming under a thick coat of gorgeous feathers.  For the last couple of years I've helped alleviate this by combining their love of dust bathing with their need to keep cool.

The sand here is not clay based, it's coarse and fine and when it's wet, it does not become like paint (as can be the case with some clay based soils) but lovely and cool and easy for the hens to incorporate into their dust bathing routine.  So every day when the weather is hot (35C/ 95F +), I will empty out their water bottles into a designated, cleaned patch of sand (droppings removed, no hen wants to roll around in chicken poo) and later in the day, the hens will scratch, sit and roll in the wet sand.  Then I can also then give them fresh and clean water for the day ahead every morning, so I know they've got plenty for the day ahead.  

I know that people obtain coarse sand for their chickens if they do not naturally have it in the area they live in.  This is a great thing to do is possible.  Otherwise I strongly encourage creating wet areas in your chicken pen on a regular basis during the Summer months.  
Here are my girls from the previous Summer.  

Holly, singing the praises of the muddy earth. 

Saturday 11 January 2014

Hot Weather Care for Chickens - Part 1

Hot Weather Care for your Chickens

There are some quite simple things that can be done to protect and care for chickens during hot weather.  By hot weather I mean around 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) or above during the day.  Chickens cope well with temperatures in the late 20's (late 70's to low 80's in Fahrenheit) but when temperatures start to creep into the 30's, that's when troubles can begin.  Especially when night time temperatures are also very warm on top of those in the day time.  It gives the chickens no reprieve and starts to wear them down. 


Water Supply


Supply & Location

Have at least 2 containers of water located in different parts of the pen, so that at least one water source is in the shade throughout the day.  I have one container on the west boundary and one up against the laying coop on the south boundary.  This means that the hens have at least one source of cool water available to them at all times.  Keeping the water against the fence or against the walls of the coop, also helps prevent the hens knocking it over.  

Jewel & Farrah (left to right)

Avoid Knock-Overs

Use sturdy, heavy water containers that the hens can not easily knock over.  Half a clean brick in a clean, large, plastic container is a great, cheap option.   

A Plentiful Supply

Fill the containers up nice and high - the pen should have several litres or at least half a gallon of water available at minimum.  

Easily Accessible

The hens should be able to easily access the water - if the water container is very tall, shorter hens may not be able to reach it.  Some water containers provide such a small area of accessible water that the chickens have to try much, much harder to get a decent drink then they should have to.  The hen should be able to plunge her beak deeply into the water to easily get large mouthfuls as they need them.


Ice Blocks

Fill clean, small, ex drink bottles 3/4 full of water, put the lid tightly on and freeze them.  You can then put the frozen bottles into the water container to keep the water supply extra cold for a few extra hours.  The small soft drink and water bottles that everyone seems to throw away after one use are ideal.  Plus you can throw them out into recycling if they begin to get a little tired looking and easily get a new replacement bottle with almost no effort.  

Keep it Clean

Keep your containers and any objects you use to keep the containers in place eg. bricks etc, clean and free from slimy build up.  Water born bacteria can and will eventually make your chickens sick if left unattended.  
You can clean out containers by blasting them with the garden hose on high pressure, scrubbing them with a scrubbing brush or  old toothbrush for fine detailing or rubbing them all over with clean, coarse, wet sand - and giving them a good rinse with clean water afterwards. A bottle brush like the kind used for babies bottles are a good option for glass or expensive water bottles.  I'd recommend using the large size soft drink bottles which can be recycled and easily replaced once they become a bit green inside.  

See also my review on the best water container for chickens