Coop or Free Roam?

Every good chicken keeper knows the importance of protecting their birds from predators. Most of us will, or already have lost birds to a coyote, hawk, fox, bobcat, etc, etc. It’s devastating to see the after mass, I know, it’s happened here, I lost seven birds after a coyote attack in 2016. That changed everything I loved most about keeping chickens.

Since the attack, my birds have been completely safe after building them a 10×10 predator proof enclosure. Unfortunately, that means their happy life of free roaming our acreage came to a screeching halt. To me, it meant never enjoying my birds out and about, it was now just a chore for their well being. Chickens live for the opportunity to scratch in the dirt and look for bugs, sunbathe in the morning sun, or finding that perfect spot for a dust bath. Since confinement, I’ve noticed the overall health of my flock has not quite been what it was.

The heat plays havoc on confined chickens in the desert southwest, heat stroke is real, and it’s deadly.  Free roam flocks have a much higher rate of survival, and are quite resourceful in finding shade and cooler ground to burrow in.  So this brings me to a dilemma, coop for safety from a predator, or free roam for quality of life and comfort from the extreme heat?

Quality of Life
Today I opened the gate and gave my flock the opportunity to live a happy life. After considering the risk, I decided being cooped up in 110+ would have the same outcome as a predator attack… both could mean a death sentence. I will do my part to protect them every way I can. They will be confined from dusk to late morning, but during the hottest part of the day they will be free to find comfort.
Here’s some of the girls who found a comfy place in the feed room… where there’s a giant oscillating fan and mist system. 🙂

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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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Suitable Treat in Place of Chicken Scratch in Summer

Looking for a treat that’s little out of the ordinary for your flock? We all know scratch is probably a chicken’s all time favorite, but that should be your last treat choice in the summer months. Scratch produces heat, that’s why we feed it in the winter (especially at night) to help keep them warm. Layer feed already has corn in it, so lets not add fuel to the fire by giving them even more.

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Instead….

Try offering them rolled oats, they love it and it’s safe to feed as a treat! It’s super cheap and often sold by the pound in loose bulk feed bins. Hemp is another healthy supplement, but it’s high in protein and fattening, so just give a little. I add Hemp to the rolled oats, mix it all together and toss it to the flock mid day. Hemp is spendy too, another reason to just give them just enough to add that little diamond in the rough among the oats.

Mixture I Use:  Find a suitable container and fill it with 3 lbs Rolled Oats and 1/2 cup Hemp Seed.

Rolled Oats & Flock 81916

Tip: Here in Arizona our temps reach 115+ quite often. I find it best to only feed them early morning and again at dusk. Feed actually puts them even more at risk when they are already a candidate for heat stress.  A few handfuls of rolled oats keeps them happy during the day when corn is an absolute no-no.

More information on Chicken Keeping in Extreme Heat

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