Last Saturday, we woke up to temperatures in the low 30s. We worried if our sour cherry trees and the early season plants in our garden would survive. We were relieved when the temperature rebounded the next day to the 70s and a brief survey of the farm proved that our plants were no worse for wear.
The hens spent their days outside in their shaded runs. We regularly watered the ground in order to provide them a little relief from the cool water. As the water dribbled from the end of the hose, they took turns walking over the moist ground like children playing in a sprinkler on a hot, sunny day.We also took full advantage of the cross ventilation we built into the design of our coop. The back vent was opened to the full position, the front window was opened wide, and the side door was secured in the open position to capture any fresh, cooling breeze that might pass by.
I learned this trick during a heat wave a few years ago. Since then, I always keep frozen berries, yogurt, and fruit popsicles on hand in the chest freezer in our barn. I know that in the heat of the day, I can provide cooling relief to the hens when the mercury climbs past their comfort level.
The raspberries were a welcome sight to our heritage breed hens. They began pecking at the frozen berries, each hen staking their claim to their fair share of the berries. I was happy to watch as they enjoyed their treat and reduced their body temperature at the same time.
- Monitor your animals closely during high temperatures. Heat can be stressful to the body, but a chicken keeper is an animal’s best resource during extreme weather. You can help your flock survive the temperatures and find relief from the heat.
- Provide adequate fresh water at all times. Animals, like humans, will require additional water in order to stay properly hydrated during hot weather. Replacing hot water with cool, refreshing water will go a long way towards keeping your flock cool. In very hot weather, placing water bottles containing frozen water inside the water container will help to keep your flock’s water cool.
- Use cross ventilation to help keep your coop cooler. Our coop features an adjustable vent door on the rear facade that is placed at roost level. By adjusting it to the fully open position, the rising hot air can easily escape from the coop and our hens can have a bit of fresh air while roosting during the night. A screen door and window will also provide cooling, fresh air while still allowing you to secure the coop at night by closing the main door and window as needed.
- Provide your coop or run with shade. Ideally, your coop might be situated in a location that enjoys natural shade from a nearby building or tree. If not, a tarp or shade cloth can be securely fashioned over the run to provide shade for your flock. Alternately, a coop can be designed with usable space below the main coop. This space will always provide your hens with a shady spot to rest during the heat of the day.
- Provide cooling snacks for your hens. Watermelon is a popular summer treat here at 1840 Farm in addition to frozen berries, frozen chopped bananas, and fruit popsicles. With each bite, the hens are reducing their body temperature and cooling down from the inside out.
Now you know my favorite methods for helping our hens survive the heat. I would love for you to share yours. I know that there are as many methods for tending a flock as there are people who tend them and there’s always something new to learn from a fellow chicken keeper.I’m hoping that you’ll share your favorite ways to bring relief to your hens during the heat of the summer by leaving a comment. I’m sure that I’ll be adding a few new tricks to my summer survival list!
Congratulations to Molly who was randomly selected as the winner of the Brinsea EcoGlow 20 Chick Brooder giveaway. There were over 6,700 entries by the time the giveaway closed. Thanks to all who entered. I’ll hope to be sharing another great giveaway with you in an upcoming post!