Chickens, Chores, and Blessings

Meet Dottie, she’s a LeghornX at almost 3 months and my little trooper in the desert heat. Smart and resourceful to say the least. Unlike the other members of the flock, she cools off in the little pool provided and takes full advantage of the mist system.

Dottie Leghornx 71216

Temperature 71216

Most of the flock is looking a little rough from temperatures ranging from 110 to 117. Not to mention me, definitely not feeling my best battling the heat while bringing them ice and fresh fruit during the day. But this is what chicken people do right? We love our birds no matter what. Ok, I’ll be honest, sometimes I do question myself on why I purposely add more chores to my life by keeping chickens!

Nest run eggs from the ranch

But isn’t it funny how the drudgery of chores are forgotten when they’re all done? Maybe it’s the fresh smell of pine shavings in the hen house, or the basket full of pretty eggs.
But one thing for sure, when I’m heading back to the house, that last glance behind makes it all worthwhile. I feel blessed seeing my happy feathered family busy scratching in the dirt looking for natures little chicken treasures.

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Moving Day, Brooder to Coop

What Fully Feathered Silkie Bantams Look Like
• Brooder to Coop, Suitable Outdoor Temperatures

The Silkies are 6 weeks old and ready to leave the brooder. They’ve been raised in an insulated shed with natural light, and their only source of heat was radiant heat provided from a Brinsea EcoGlow.

Night temperatures were between 48 and 55 degrees, and although I veered from the golden rule of keeping the brooder at 95 the first week and lowering the temperature by five degrees each week, my chicks showed no signs of discomfort.  I usually don’t move chicks from the brooder until 7 or 8 weeks, but  being kept in cooler conditions they  must have feathered quicker.

Here they are, Fanny, Jo, Pat, and Randi. Happy, healthy, thriving youngsters in their new coop. Which ones will stay or end up in the sale pen will be a question answered when they’re about 6 months old. This breed is nearly impossible to sex, so the only sure way is to wait for the eggs, or hear the crowing. I might just keep one rooster and give that No Crow rooster collar a try.

Community Flock 11-8-14

Community Flock 2 11-8-14

Note: Remember to acclimate your chicks to cooler weather if they are being raised inside your house. Chicks raised under a heat lamp and kept at a consistent temperature may take a week or two longer to fully feather.

Keeping Chickens in Excessive Heat

The Recipe for Survival, Explained in Detail

Once again it’s that time of year when soaring temperatures raise concern to chicken keepers. For those who can free roam their flock there is less worry. But if you have backyard chickens that are confined to a coop, your worries are quite valid. Here’s what you can do to make your flock more comfortable.

Air Flow

chickens aug 2011 011

There are steps to take that will help your chickens beat the heat, but it will take a little effort on your part.

If your coop is over crowded it’s time to expand, too many birds in small quarters is just asking for trouble.

Air flow is vital. Chicken droppings generate heat, so be sure to clean the coop and lay down fresh bedding. If at all possible provide a fan for ventilation,  if it isn’t… find a way. A fan could be the difference between life and death.

Keeping the Flock Hydrated

There is a pecking order among chickens, so provide extra water sources for those lower ranking birds who might not be allowed to use the drinker.

Chickens will drink more if the water is cool, provide cool water at the hottest time of the day. If you have broody hens, make it easy for them to access water, don’t assume they are leaving the nest… some don’t.
Tip: Full buckets of water will stay cold longer, put out a few. Shallow ground drinkers work nicely for bantams. See pics below.

Electrolites

It’s always a good idea to have electrolytes on hand for those really hot days. Simply add it to your flock’s water source.

Electrolytes for poultry can be found at your local feed store. It comes in many forms, choose one best suited for your needs and the size of your flock.

tbn chicks apr 2011 010

Chickens may or may not like a mist system, my birds hate them, however, I have heard positive feedback from other chicken keepers. So it may be something to consider useful in dry climates.

A more positive approach is to provide your birds with a small flooded area for them to play in. Even if it’s just a a hose allowed to drip, they are magically lured to this life saving man made oasis.

Triple Digit Temperatures …

Gavin Flock, Summer 2011

Here in Phoenix our temperatures can reach 115+ degrees, this is when it’s time to bring out watermelon, cantaloupe, lettuce, or anything that will help hydrate the flock. These foods will be better for them than layer pellets, which contain corn… which produces even more unwanted heat.

During these heat spells, I ration layer pellets, offering it morning and night only, for about an hour or so.

Providing Shade

Shade is essential to the survival of chickens in extreme temperatures, especially if they’re cooped.  Your coop is best placed under a shade tree, but remember the sun moves and may leave your birds exposed to direct sun during the course of a day.

Never use tarps. Shade cloth, mesh tarps, and shade sails are excellent for keeping the sun out, yet they don’t restrict air flow. Shade cloth is cheaper than mesh tarps and available in most garden centers. Mesh tarps might be pricey, but they’re a lot easier to hang. Both, are durable and offer long lasting wear.

Recipe for Successful Chicken Keeping in Excessive Heat

• Offer 1/2 a watermelon or cantaloupe and place it in a shady area.
• Find a way to hang a fan a foot or so feet from the ground.
• Provide an area where a hose is on a slow stream or drip.
• Keep drinkers filled with cool water. Tip: Buckets kept full will stay cool longer!
• Use shade cloth, mesh tarps, and shade sails.
• Electrolytes for Poultry

 

 

Chicken Keeping in Triple Digits

 

orphington & sliver laced polish

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