We Texans may be babies when it comes to cold, but we know how to handle heat. Well, usually we do.
This year has been a brutal summer with little relief in sight. We are in extreme drought conditions. We already have had triple digit Fahrenheit temperatures for 26 days – and summer is just getting started. We may get some possible relief from La Niña, but that is not likely until late fall.
At least most Texans can escape the heat in air conditioning in their cars, in stores, or at home. But what about the chickens?
It’s been quite sad to see the recent surge in chicken obits posted on the backyard poultry forums in my area. It has been indiscriminating as to the forum poster – some seasoned chicken owners, others new.
I had been concerned about my flock and had already tried some serious measures. If I could have A/C, I thought, I wanted them to, as well. I started bringing my flock in and putting them in large dog crates in our sun room. Between the chickens, dogs, and cat, not to mention the turkey poults from babysitting, the room looked – and honestly, smelled – a bit like an indoor barnyard. Further, cleaning the crates regularly was a bit impractical for my schedule. I quickly realized this wasn’t going to be a practical longer-term solution, so I started thinking about what else I could do to keep my chickens cool.
My birds free-range, but they do go to their coop for laying eggs, eating, and roosting in the evening. Here are my steps for a cooler coop:
1) Secure the coop shade cloth but made sure it allowed air through the wire.
2) Remove any heat-retaining litter such as hay. Cool down soil with water to allow the chickens to dig down for relief.
3) Purchase and attach small clip-on fans to the inside of the coop. For $10, the fans have been quite handy and durable, with strong clips and adjustable heads. I can also point these fans toward the roost in the evening to give them an extra breeze.
4) Keep the water cool by keeping it out of direct sun and occasionally adding ice cubes.
In the daytime, the chickens are able to get under my house deck very easily. They prefer to hang out there during the peak heat hours, so I’ve set up a day camp to help out.
1) Prepare daily ice jugs from Ziploc quart cylinders and any recyclables around. I scatter these under the deck so that the chickens can stand by or lay on them.
2) Spray down the ground around mid-morning. With the full shade, the ground stays wet throughout the critical hours.
3) Turn on a large vortex fan. The chickens, and even the guineas, love to get in front of it to cool down.
4) Supply additional waterers with iced water under the deck. The birds love sipping on this throughout the day. It seems to pep them up.
The birds have looked better overall. They still pant at times, but they forage and seem to find relief in this setup.
For those of you who do have the room and inclination to bring your flock inside during the hottest time of the day, here is a creative solution. Again, this is a short-term setup to keep the birds cool for a few hours, not a permanent coop. Special thanks to Lori Bausman from Austin for the following idea that is lightweight, and offers easy cleanup and storage.
• 1 small 3 foot diameter dog/baby pool (Petsmart, $9)
• 10 feet of 24 inch high poultry wire (HomeDepot $7, you'll have a little extra)
• Zip ties and a hula hoop that we had on hand
1. Bend the poultry wire into a circle that fits inside the pool and zip tied together.
2. Wedge the hula hoop inside the wire circle for stability. The high sides of the pool provide a little extra protection for the bathroom floor - and the pool is easy to rinse out at the end of the day. So, the pool is the floor, the wire is the walls with a hula hoop for stability, and you can put the chickens in and out through the open top.
3. Place a plastic top that goes to a large bin on top in case the chickens decide to fly out. You could also use a 2nd pool as a lid.
Hope you and your birds stay cool this summer!