It is unmistakably summer and the toast temperatures are a bit more than we’re used to this time of year. We normally get a brief hot stretch in August, but we are into the third week with temperatures in the eighties and nineties with the promise of possibly hitting 100 later this week. That’s a lot of sunshine for us Pacific Northwesterners!
For us, it means extra attention to the critters and the garden. While there are those plants (like tomatoes, squash and beans) that love the hot stretches of heat, there are others (like lettuces, broccoli and chard) that don’t take too keenly to the hot, hot days. We pay especially close attention to the chickens, and take some precautions and steps to make sure they stay as comfortable as possible and survive those 85+ days!
Chickens adjust easier to the frosty colds of winters than they do to very warm weather. With all those feathers, there are some breeds (the wirier, Mediterranean ones) that manage warmer weather better than others (the big, fluffy, heritage English and American ones.) Chickens with larger combs and wattles are better able to cool themselves down because that is the purpose of the comb, to circulate cooled blood away from and back into the body.
Here’s some other ways we keep the chickens as cool as possible:
- Lots of fresh water: we have 3 big water founts for 9 chickens in the run (the two nuggets have their own) and on hot days, we’ll empty and refill these with cold water a couple times a day.
- Spraying the henhouses and coop: When the temps are in the high 80’s and 90’s, we spray the roofs and sides of the henhouses with cold water during the hottest part of the day and give the coop ground a light spritzing. Even though the run is shaded by fruit trees, this helps to bring the ambient temperature in the run down.
- Plenty of shade: Our coop/run is located in a shady corner of the yard–there is lots of shade and protection from the afternoon sun.
- Cool treats: Instead of giving the chickens scratch grains this time of year as a treat, they only get a little of this in the morning. The rest of the day, we give them plenty of greens, melon rinds, frozen berries, and other cooling treats.
- We also arrange the water and feed stations to the chickens don’t have to travel far to get what they need. When the temperatures are very warm, chickens move as little as possible and we try to arrange their space to accommodate this.
- Straw mulch=cool ground: We keep fresh straw mulch over the run as this helps to keep the ground underneath cool. When the chickens dig their little holes for dustbathing, they actually get to roll around in cooler dirt.
Of course, we still keep a close eye on the birds to make sure they are not overheating and, alas, laying does tend to go down when the temperatures get really warm and stay warm. Many of the heritage breeds don’t lay quite as well when the temperatures get up over 85 or so and we just have to adjust. As long as the hens stay healthy, active, and happy, we figure we can tolerate a little dip in egg laying!