Hey y'all! How goes? Want to come hang out in the AC with me at the Artisan's Asylum tonight? I'm teaching my Urban Poultry 101 class from 7:30-9:30 in the classroom (and I hear there may be some cocktails in the social area if you get there a bit early). There are plenty of spots left, so come on out and learn everything you need to know about keeping your own chickens!
In other news, it's hot! I spent 10 years in the great state of Texas, and down there this lovely combination of heat and humidity is standard fare from about late March through September, but here in the Northeast it's not something we, or our birds, are used to at all! And while we can go inside, maybe turn on an air conditioner, drink something with ice in it, take a nice cold shower, or go swimming to deal with it, our darling little down-coat-covered fluffballs only have whatever options we give them.
So what can we do to ensure they don't overheat?
FIRST - WATER! Make sure they have PLENTY of water. This is crucial.
SECOND - Make sure they have shade! If your coop is in an exposed area, and especially if it doesn't have a roof or something they can get underneath, I strongly recommend creating some form of shelter for them that will provide shade. They will likely not go inside the coop to get out of the sun, and it's probably hotter in there anyway!
THIRD - Inside. Make sure you have the maximum possible ventilation going on in your coop. Open all the ventilation holes and whatever other doors you can safely leave open for them. If you have electricity to your coop, set up an exhaust fan to pull hot air out of the top of the coop somewhere and increase circulation.
FOURTH - Nighttime is a tricky one, because they all pile into the coop and THEY WON'T GO OUTSIDE, even if they are overheating because they're all in there building up body heat. So, if it's safe from predators to do so, I recommend leaving the "chicken door" between the coop and run open to allow for even more ventilation at night. If you have a light inside the coop, leave it off. Also see #5 for keeping the coop cooler overnight.
FIFTH - ICE CUBES! Put ice cubes in their water before you leave in the morning. Better yet, freeze water in a water/soda bottle, then put the giant ice cube in their waterer (I wouldn't freeze the whole thing b/c you want to be sure they have plenty of water). You can also freeze a gallon jug of water and place it inside the coop to cool off the temp in there (it will condense and drip a lot of water, so put it on a tray or bag or something to keep your bedding dry).
SIXTH - Frozen fruit. As an extra treat, my girls got frozen watermelon rinds yesterday and today, and you can do the same with any melon and many other fruits and veggies. I don't recommend small things they can swallow whole (blueberries, etc), but rather larger things that they need to bite off smaller chunks over time.
SEVENTH - Either early in the morning or later in the afternoon (to reduce evaporation and thus water waste), I also water my plants that are around the coop and hose down some larger areas of dirt/fence that the girls can get to. This cools down the whole area a bit, creating little microclimates of cooler temps they can use.
So there are a few ideas for how to give your girls plenty of help dealing with heat this summer. If you have other ideas, experiences, or questions, please share them in the comments!
Stay cool, kids. :D
Here's a nice, cold picture of my coop in winter to chill you out.