Chicken Coop is Ready for Summer

Spring is saying it’s last goodbye here in Phoenix. Temperatures are reaching the 80’s during the day and that means only one thing… the real HEAT coming. I took advantage of the mild weather yesterday and prepared the chicken coop for the dreadful 115 degree days which inevitably are just around the corner.

Mist systems are in place and in working order, even the old fan has been replaced with an industrial grade high powered oscillating model specifically made for barns.  Sun screens are all new, and double layered on the east and west side of the coop. I dragged out the big drinkers to help keep the water cool, and replaced the covered nest boxes with the open tops. After a thorough cleaning and fresh shavings, we are ready for summer, bring it on! How do we look?

It’s definitely a challenge keeping chickens in extreme heat, this article will give you lots of tips on what you can do to keep your flock safe. Cold weather is not a problem, but heat is a whole different story… and it can be a deadly one.

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Chicken Keeping in Triple Digits

 

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Surviving Phoenix, Arizona

Shade is hard to come by in Phoenix,  but not impossible if you’re creative. If your chickens are in a small coop they are unlikely to survive triple digit temperatures, I know that sounds a bit harsh, but it’s true.  June will most likely exceed 110, that means 120+ in the coop, and that’s a death sentence.

TBN Ranch, Phoenix, AZ

Your birds will fair well in temperatures up to 105 if they are not confined, have shade, and a place to dig a hole in the dirt. Make sure they have cool water available, if the water is too hot they won’t drink enough to stay hydrated. Make it easy on yourself, use buckets instead of those chicken drinkers that are impossible to clean and a big hassle to fill.

When temperatures reach over 105 in the shade it’s time to introduce a fan to the chicken yard.  I don’t use anything fancy, a $15.00 box fan will do the trick. Hang it from a fence (wreath hangers work nicely) or anyplace where it won’t tip over. Your birds will stand in front that fan like they were watching a movie!

Gavin Flock, Summer 2011

June and July are the worst months for excessive heat, 110 -115+ and this is when you really have to stay on top of your chicken keeping responsibilities. Mist systems help cool the air, especially with a fan to keep the air moving. I like the standing misters ($10.)  that attach to a hose. Place it right in the chicken yard, dig up a small area near it so the moisture forms a little mud pool for the birds.

If you free feed your chickens, don’t in summer.  Feed produces heat, so feed early morning and just before they return to the coop at night.  Never offer scratch feed in summer, it’s a hot feed and completely unsuitable  for your feathered desert dwellers.

During the afternoons, offer your flock a watermelon, or a head of lettuce, this will help keep them hydrated.

Danger Signs of Heat Exhaustion

Pale comb and wattles is the first sign of trouble. As their condition worsens they will become unstable on their feet, lethargic, wobble, even fall over and lie lifeless. They will die quickly if you don’t act fast.

Note:
• Heavy or Meat Birds such as Orphingtons are the first to show signs of heat intolerance, watch them closely.
• Chickens will hold their wings out from their body,  pant, and lay in holes on their side  – all normal behavior when they’re hot.

What to Do

Submerge the chicken in a 5 gal. bucket of warm water and place the bird under a shade tree.  Don’t bring the bird indoors to air conditioning, this will only make matters worse when you return the chicken to the outdoors. A fan on low will help cool the bird quickly, they usually recover within 15 minutes.

Ideas for Providing  Shade

Shade Cloth
Mesh Tarps
Lattice
Palm Fronds
Shade Sails