20 December 2019

Chook Chat with Cheryl Nelson - chilled chooks ready to face a heatwave

| Cheryl Nelson
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Watermelon, a cool treat on a hot day. Photo: Shutterstock.

Watermelon, a cool treat on a hot day. Photo: Shutterstock.

When the temperature creeps into the high 30’s and 40’s, our chooks really start to feel the heat. You notice they start to pant and hold their wings out from their body.

They may stretch out on the ground to cool down and huddle in shaded areas. Chooks don’t sweat so this is a normal way for them to cool themselves down, but there are lots of things we can do to help our flock manage on those sizzling days.

Shade –

Put up a shade cloth. Enclose an area under a tree and put your chooks into that area. Add a heavy cover of straw ‘biscuits’ over the coop roof, and tie that down with shade cloth or ventilated material. Chooks need solid shade with good airflow – an electric fan may be helpful on peak days.

Cool water –

Change their water regularly to keep it fresh and cool – this is critical!

Chickens may drink twice as much water on hot days, so add extra waterers – buckets and big tubs are great.

Keep waterers in shaded places. Have frozen water in your freezer ready to pop into waterers. You could mix up an electrolyte solution, freeze it in ice cube trays and add the cubes to your flock’s drinking water through the day.

Electrolytes will help to rehydrate and replace minerals which cells and organs need to function healthily.

Early feeding –

Chooks stop eating when it’s hot. Get up early to feed them at daybreak rather than in the heat of the day, because birds produce heat while they digest. As a cooling treat offer them cold watermelon, grapes or frozen fruit throughout the day.

To help keep your chooks healthy and well keep up their Super Mash regime through Summer.

Sprinklers –

A soaker hose near your shaded area is your friend if you are not on water restrictions.

Otherwise, bucket shower water regularly into shaded areas to help keep the ground cool. Chooks can stand on, lie down or dust bathe in the damp soil.

Some chooks even like to hop into a small toddler swimming pool to cool off.

Recovery spot –

Do you have an area in the house where you can put a chook that is struggling with the heat?

Watch out for broodies and laying hens. Be ready to run cool water over your chooks’ comb, wattles, legs/feet.

Have cool electrolyte water available, and also be ready to perform an emergency wet down if they are not coping.

Be prepared –

Keep a check on the weather forecast and know what you and your chooks will be dealing with in the days ahead.

On the day prior to a hot one, it’s a good idea to add some electrolytes to their drinking water. If you are at home check your gang regularly.

If you are out or at work for the day make sure your flock have access to lots of cool water in shady, well-ventilated areas. Under the house might suit or on extreme days they might need the coolness of indoors.

Happy healthy chooks to you over this Summer.

Fresh water, vital on a hot day. Photo: Geoffrey Grigg.

Freshwater with an ice brick, vital on a hot day. Photo: Geoffrey Grigg.

Cheryl Nelson is the brains and heart behind Natural Chicken Health.

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