Friday, May 16, 2008

Trying to keep chickens cool

Statement from the National Weather Service, 5/15/08:
...UNSEASONABLY HOT WEATHER IN SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON AND NORTHWEST OREGON THROUGH MUCH OF THE WEEKEND..AFTER A VERY PROLONGED PERIOD OF ABNORMALLY COOL SPRING WEATHER... THE HOTTEST WEATHER OF THE YEAR... MORE LIKE MID SUMMER... WAS BURSTING INTO SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON AND NORTHWEST OREGON TODAY.. AND WILL CONTINUE OVER THE REGION INTO THE WEEKEND. THIS WILL BE THE HOTTEST WEATHER SINCE LATE LAST SUMMER.

I had a bit of a scare yesterday. My chickens got way too hot. It would appear that our new chicken coop provides only minimal protection from the sun.

I was just about to leave for my son's track meet and wanted to check the chickens one more time. When I went into the coop, it was so stuffy and hot...I looked at their thermometer: 90 degrees! The outside temp was hovering between 93 and 96 degrees. I looked at the birds...they looked listless and a bit stunned. There was virtually no air movement in the coop. Not good.

I spent the next 2 1/2 hours trying to cool the girls down.

Chickens are able to acclimate to heat - as long as it doesn't go from 55ish to 90 degrees in 24 hours. They also need to have good ventilation and consistent airflow (as well as lots of water).

Physically, they have certain techniques for trying to keep themselves cool...

They hold their wings down and away from their bodies. All those feathers tend to be excellent for keeping the heat in, but not so helpful for staying cool:

They pant. This allows them to draw lots of air into their bodies to cool off from the inside out:

They stretch out to get as much air as possible on exposed surfaces of their bodies:

They position themselves in the shade with specific body parts elevated to better cool them:

And, in the case of Dot, they dance:

While they were busy doing all this, I propped open the front doors (fortunately on the shady side) and hung a small fan so some airflow could begin to circulate. I also tacked up a dark towel across the window on the sunny side:

Then I pulled the hose down from the house and sprayed off the top of the coop to try to cool it a bit:


Because it has been unusually cold around here this season, Jim and I had not gotten around to installing predator-proof screens on the windows, meaning I have not been opening the windows -at all- unless I was right there to guard and ward off any bad guys.

So....guess what Jim did when he got home last night:

Look at all those screws he used to keep my girls (and guys) safe:

We got the second secure window screen in place just as the sun was going down:

Funny thing, even though it was still over 80 degrees in the coop at dusk, the girls still insisted on huddling together on their roosts:

The difference was, now there was a nice breeze blowing through.

The forecast says it's supposed to hit 96 degrees today and break temperature records. I'm ready.

13 comments:

  1. That had to be quite a scary time. You seemed to know just what to do. Thats cool. Sounds like you are gonna be more prepared this time around.

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  2. Wow Danni,
    You can keep that heat this time. Usually I like you to send it this way but nope...not this time! We are heading into a cooldown so I'm not real happy. Sometimes it's just hard to have it perfect all the time!!
    You did a good job for the girls (and guys)! So who turned out to be guys anyway????
    Woof to Roxy and bounce to Spalding!!! hahahaha!

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  3. You are such a good chicken mama. Last summer we had a stretch of heat, in the summer when it is supposed to be, I had shredded zucchini in the freezer gave it to the girls and they loved it. Zucchini popsicles anyone?

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  4. Rural Writer TishMay 16, 2008 at 5:09 PM

    Good grief, what a drastic change of temperatures! It's a lot cooler here in the "sunny south" than what you've got in YOUR part of the world! Glad you were able to get your girls taken care of.

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  5. Good job chicken mom! You did all the right things. If it continues to be hot and the girls don't seem to be getting any relief, you can give them a dunk in a bucket of water. Ticks 'em off royally, but will cool them quickly. Then you'll know what "madder than a wet hen" means.
    L.O.V.E. the pic of Dot doing a little dance.

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  6. Great photos! And good that you found ways to keep the girls cool.

    You can also install a simple homemade water misting system made out of drip system black plastic tubing and a few misting spray heads. Just connect it to a garden hose or spigot, maybe add an inexpensive mechanical water timer if you wish. Hang the mist heads from overhead and the chickens will have a nice cool mist to keep the heat down. Doesn't cost much and is easy to build. I use mine to keep my hens cool on the hottest days. Now I need to make one for my porch to keep me cool too!

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  7. Did you say guys???
    I picked up my Light Brahmas and Speckled Sussex chicks tonight. They are about 4 weeks. The Light Brahmas are very cute. They have a kind eye.

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  8. Good thing you checked on them! I love my chickens!
    Christina

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  9. HOLY COW, 96?!?! We're at 52 degrees today!!!!! WOW!

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  10. Yikes! What a heat spell you've got. I just spoke with my family in Covina, CA and they told me that it was 103 degrees there!!!

    So far, our weather is still on the cool side, about 50-60 degrees....and no winds! Love it!

    Your pictures were so cute with all your chickies doing what they need to do to stay cool.

    I was surprised seeing all the screws going into the windows. What alot of dedicated work! I think we took the easy way and just used extra long staples to secure the mesh on our window.

    Dot totally cracks me up!
    Between you and Sugar Creek Farm with your Polish chickens, you've got me wanting my own fluffy heads. So today I am picking up some buff and golden polish chicks at the Goat Show in ABQ!!

    I know, I'm a nut! hehe
    But hey! It's your fault! (wink)

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  11. Daniella (Danni) NEVER misses any of her boys' events. But the chickies had to be rescued from the heat, and I (Omi (German for 'grandma') went to Aidan's track meet. Extremely hot there, too. Sometimes it's hard to choose between sons or chickens......

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  12. Poor hot girls. Thank goodness they have good humans like you. And Dot continues to crack me up: she's fantastic!

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  13. Wow Danni that is hotter than here! Poor chickens. Good thing you checked before you left!

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