“When the weather is hot, keep a cool mind.” ~ Ajahn Brahm
We are in our fifth day of a scorching heatwave.
It’s pretty unpleasant for man, child, plant & chook.
Our Coop de Ville gets the full morning sun. The lovely ladies do get shade from the surrounding trees, but on such extreme hot days as this, the heat radiates up from the paving and just hangs in the air.
A hot chicken can quickly become a dead chicken, so to prevent a traumatic backyard mini-funeral, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to ensure our girls are comfortable.
Tip #1 Water!
Chickens will drink as much as a litre a day in hot weather, so make sure there is plenty of cool fresh water on offer. If their water is dirty with alge and gunge, they won’t touch it. A good rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t drink from your water dispenser don’t expect your chooks to either.
A chicken will also die from thirst before it drinks warm water. I freeze my small water dispenser so the water is icy cold. The larger water dispenser gets filled with ice before getting topped up with water. Alternatively, keep their water in the shade and even if the water container looks full, fill with fresh water every day, or even a few times a day if possible.
If your chickens tend get a bit bossy with each other, spread a few water dispensers throughout the coop. You don’t want the girls fighting at the water cooler!
I have rigged up a soaker hose through the coop that sprays a cooling mist into the chook run. The hose only needs to be on the smallest amount to create a spritz that the girls seem to enjoy on really hot days. You could also try hosing the chicken run with water to quickly cool it down.
Tip #2 Shade
Our coop gets full morning sun and thankfully enjoys some shade from surrounding trees. We added extra shade cloth to the front when we discovered the ladies all huddled in a small patch of shade. I had planned to grow a protective screen of sunflowers but the girls managed to dig them all up! Even a few large open cardboard boxes in the run can give the chooks a cool spot to retreat to.
Tip #3 Fresh & Frozen Fruit & Vegetables
My chickens don’t seem to eat much grain or laying pellets when the weather is too hot, but they go crazy for fresh fruit and vegetables. Especially frozen vegetables! Frozen watermelon and corn are firm favourites. When I can, I fill a bowl with the uneaten fruit from the kids lunch boxes, kitchen scraps and freeze with water. The resulting veggie-popsicle is very popular.
A lettuce “pinyata” hung from the lemon tree gets gobbled up in no time. You could also tie up bunches of rocket or silverbeet. Even the spent heads from my sunflowers are quickly devoured.
Tip #4 Dust baths
Chickens keep cool by having dust baths, so a spot in the dirt where they can scratch to create a cool furrow where they can spread their wings out and chill is a great idea. A friend of mine repurposed her kids broken plastic clamshell wading pool into the chicken run, filled with sand. It’s apparently their favourite spot!
Tip #5 Keep it Clean
When it hots up, I like to keep the coop extra clean and tidy. The smell of their poop can become overwhelming if left to bake all day, attracting ants and flies, so I make sure to empty it every evening and morning. It can also get pretty dusty in there, so a good hosing out every other morning keeps it from getting grotty. Our coop has excellent ventilation and dries quickly, which is an important consideration if you are looking to purchase or build a coop of your own. A musty, soggy coop will encourage disease.
I grow southernwood near the coop in an attempt to keep flies at bay. It doesn’t seem to make a huge difference against the legendary West Australian blow-fly but at least the chooks like to sample it occasionally.
Keeping our chooks cool has ment that they have also continued to lay throughout the summer and are in robust, rude good health. It is funny how, in a short time, our chickens have become an essential part of our household. They deliver nutritious eggs to our table, poo to the compost and soil, and make great pets for the kids. So I consider it enormously important to keep them as comfortable as I would wish to be.
Do you have any hot tips for cool chicks? I would love to hear from you!