I’m an extremely inactive member of a lot of homesteading related forums & social media groups. I lurk, some might say, rarely posting anything more then comments offering bits of my limited wisdoms.
One thing I see people posting a lot of is heat related ills and woes. Especially this last summer with record breaking temps, humidity and oddball weather for much of the entire world. In this vein I offer you my tips for keeping cool chicks.
1. Cold clean fresh water – as many times a day as necessary, replace your chickens water with cold fresh water to encourage them to keep drinking
2. Electrolytes – When we’ve had a heat wave, I always make sure to dose my flock with homemade Electrolytes in their water. Heat is more stressful on chickens then cold, and they lose a lot of vitamins and minerals thru the course of a several day heat wave. A good way to help them replenish those is sugar, salt and baking soda. Feel free to buy the store made mixes, but these work just as well, and are already handy in your kitchen. There are many recipes available online but for extreme heat I use 2 tbsp white sugar, 1 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp salt for every gallon of water. I keep it on the sweet side to encourage extra drinking. I also make the mixture with some warm water before diluting it in the cold water to make sure it all mixes in well.
3. Mud holes– whenever I dump out old water, I put it into this depression in the ground that the chickens have dug up in between some tree roots. This creates a wonderful little mud hole that the chickens IMMEDIATELY run for and go crazy splashing and digging in. They love their mud hole. I, in turn, love watching them in their mud hole, silly chickens.
4. Lots of shade areas– our pasture is divided into two areas, one that is for the most part always sunny and the other half is almost always in the shade from all the trees surrounding it. Also we have our chicken house up on blocks, and they have dug in underneath the alpaca house as well. Plenty of places to get out of the sun.
5. Quality dust bath area – this is a must for any flock because not only does dusting create layers of cooling air in between all those feathers, but its fantastic bug control as the dust suffocates the little buggers.
6. Ice bottles– I have about a dozen half gallon and gallon jugs that I fill with water, freeze and then put out for everyone to cuddle against. I don’t put them all out at once, I rotate them so that there are always fresh frozen bottles ready to go after the ones we’ve been using have melted. I also give one to our bunny and he loves it.
7. Cold/frozen treats– our flock LOVES frozen blueberries, but other good stuff are melons including the seeds and rinds, strawberry tops, old freezer veggies, ice burg lettuce. Some people really spoil their flocks by actually making them smoothies and such, but I find the chickens eat what I put on the ground quite happily, so I save my time.
8. Staying away from “hot” treats– things like corn & scratch are “hot” treats because they take a while to metabolize. These foods are useful on cold days to help keep your flock warm from the inside out. They are slow burn foods that help fuel your chickens thru cold weather, NOT hot weather.
9. Fans– our fans are hooked up in our alpaca house, but many a time I have walked in to find the chickens sprawled out in front of them as well. The circulated air is a serious treat in the high humidity we sometimes get. I know I like it.
10. Watching for signs of heat stress – Early signs of heat stress are labored breathing and panting. Lifting wings away from body, pale combs/wattles are the next signs to watch for…. Serious signs of heat stress are lethargy, diarrhea and then the most serious – Seizures/convulsions. Do all that you can to prevent the serious signs because when it gets that far, its usually too late.
If anyone has anything to add, feel free to write in the comment section!
Until next time, have a wicked good day!