Summer………. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”.