Keeping Your Chickens Cool In The Summer

069Summer……….  A time to hopefully slow down, take a vacation and BEAT THE HEAT!  As I say to most people, I like the summer when there is no humidity.  Unfortunately, many summer days are accompanied by high humidity in Southern Ontario.  On those days, it’s hard to want to do much more than stay in the house where the air conditioner keeps us cool.

For the chickens…….it’s a whole other story.  Imagine someone telling you to go outside in 90 degree heat, continue your daily routine AND WEAR A DOWN COAT that must cover you from head to toe.  Oh…I forgot to mention…lay an egg while you’re at it!  Whew… I’m getting hot just thinking about it.

So….here’s a few tell-tale signs to let you know that your chickens are getting over-heated.   When you see them walking or resting with their wings spread out, you know they are hot.   When you see them this way, they are trying to expel some body heat from  underneath their wings.  This is definitely a place where heat collects on a chicken. If you don’t believe me, stick you hand under the wing next winter and feel how toasty that spot is on a chicken.

Secondly, they will continue to keep their mouth open as another way to dispel heat.  It’s kind of like the way a dog  pants when he/she becomes too hot.  Below is a picture of Swiffer who is definitely hot.  She has found a spot on the deck where she is attempting to cool off underneath a deck chair.

Holy @$#! It's HOT

Holy @$#! it’s HOT

So here’s a few things you can do to make your chickens more comfortable during the dog days of summer.

1)  Make sure that they remain hydrated by providing lots of fresh water.  You may be surprised at how much water they will drink on a very warm day.  The volume can almost double on such days.001

2)  Make sure they have somewhere to go in order to get out of the sun.  Our backyard has plenty of shade from large trees and the hens spend a lot of their free ranging time in this location on those days.001

3)  Substitute daily vegetable treats with some watermelon.   But, remember….the treat is only a supplement to the daily feed.  Too many treats and the egg count could go down.  As well, too much watermelon and you may have a chicken that gets the trots.  In the picture below, my hens breezed through the watermelon wedge in a few minutes.015

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4)  Withhold from giving any scratch on hot days.  On most mornings, I like to throw some scratch into the run because the hens do not have the opportunity to free range.  This thing called work  gets in the way. Anyways,   the scratch allows the chickens to do some foraging throughout the day.   But, scratch is high in calories and has the effect of increasing internal body temperature.  Hence, it is great to use on winter mornings and evenings to help your hens stay warm, but it is not a good option for hot days.

5)  Head up to the cottage for some R&R.  You’ll continue to get fresh eggs and the hens will get the chance to hit the beach.  What????  What else am I suppose to do with them?   Leave them behind????  For more on taking your chickens on vacation, click HERE.050

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6)  Finally, when the wife isn’t home……..let the girls in for a little free ranging in the comfort of your air-conditioned home!  Before you know it, they’ll be up on the couch consoling you as you watch  The Blue Jays blow another attempt at The Division Championship..  Ok……I was just joking about the chickens in the house.   ” I promise Hun, the chickens have never been in the house! I was just writing this for dramatic effect.  You know…..A great way to keep your reader interested…………………….  I know there was that time when Stanley (our dog) managed to open the screen door by himself …but I’m working on training him to close it!”.001

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Don’t You Take Your Chickens On VACATION?

“Ok, lets load ’em up.  Honda And Swiffer….You know the routine.   Help Rosie along and make sure that she doesn’t get the spot beside Stanley.002  OK….everyone , stop fighting over the window seat.  Everyone strapped in?   Okay……lets head NORTH!”

The chickens are coming up to the cottage with us for the first time this season.  For Rosie, it will be a brand new experience because she wasn’t a member of City Boy Hens last summer.  Maybe it’s a brand new experience for the veterans as well.  I’m not sure what level of memory retention can be had when you only have a brain the size of a cashew nut.

So into the van we all went.  Wife, son, son’s friend, daughter, dog, 3 chickens and myself.027

The upside to bringing the chickens to the cottage is that I’ll have something to write about for  the blog and we will continue to enjoy farm fresh eggs at the cottage.  The down side is that 5 people and one dog, crammed into tight quarters with 3 chickens who are known for frequent defecation, may not be the best recipe for a pleasant 3 hour  drive on a humid evening.  It’s not too bad for my wife and myself because the chickens will be positioned behind our seats and our windows will be WIDE OPEN.  For the kids…it’s another matter.

Those rear windows in a mini van are not designed to roll down.  All that you can get in terms of ventilation is a slightly cracked window that only opens up an inch from the side.  I’m sure it’s a safety feature, but the person who designed this van was definitely not thinking of the possibility that MAYBE someone some day might want to transport a few chickens to the cottage in this vehicle!

In order to help with the poop volume, I tried something different this year.  I intentionally withheld feed for 3 hours prior to  our cottage departure.  I read in a post by a chicken vet that it takes 3 hours for food to move from beak to butt in a chicken.  My girls must be Olympic gold medal contenders because, when we  stopped halfway through our journey for refreshments, I was met with numerous demands from the “rear passengers”  to pick out the chicken turds in the bottom of the cage.  Okay…we’re not talking a dozen or so…..just 3-4 turds.   Boy…those city kids!

Are We Almost There?

Are We Almost There?

Are We.......Almost....There.....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Are We…….Almost….There…..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Anyways, transportation was successful and the chickens hunkered down in their cottage ark for the night.004

The following morning, I was up bright and early to let the girls out of the Ark into their pen.  There was no way I was letting anyone out for some free ranging until there were 3 eggs in the nest box.  If you’ve followed me before, you may remember  that Swiffer has taken  to sometimes laying her eggs in the backyard.   Here at the cottage, there is almost an acre of land for the chickens to roam and there’s no way that I’m looking over the entire property for an egg!  But, much to my surprise, nestled tightly together,  were 3 warm eggs in the nest box.044  The chickens just looked at me as if to say “Well…..what else did you expect?”. I’m not sure, but I think I heard someone say “Ok…..now can we finally get out and head down to the beach and explore????????????”072

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Winter’s End

034Well…….we made it! Maybe I’m counting my chicks before they hatch since Spring does not officially arrive until next Wednesday, but I’m confident that we have broken the back on Old Man Winter.

Compared to last year, we had a fairly snowy winter in Southern Ontario and it was accompanied by a few really cold nights (-20C).  All said, everything worked out well for the hens.  They continued to lay each morning and accepted confinement to the run.   The use of a 100 watt light bulb during the day kept the drinker and eggs from freezing and humidity in the coop never rose above 68%.  I’ll attribute the latter to cleaning out the poop in the coop on a daily basis and the supplemental heat from the light during the day.

There were a few times when the hens got out in the backyard to roam and it was funny to watch them become accustom to the snow.   As always, Honda had to lead by example, though she too, was also “chicken”. 

"You go first!"

“You go first!”

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The hens turn 1-year-old next week.  They have now officially moved from pullets to hens!  I’ve learnt a lot over the last year about raising chickens and I hope that the worry, information searching and solutions will be of use to you.  I look forward to the Spring when the grass will begin to grow again and Stanley will resume his job as protector of the hens while they are free ranging.  Until then, the hens will have to settle for what they can find on the bare patches in the backyard, continue eating spinach and carrot peelings, and mostly stay in the run where those two red-tailed hawks can’t get to them.

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Goodbye Old Man Winter.  Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!  We’ve shared enough of your company and it’s time to move on.  Please make room for the new starting pitcher named SPRING!

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