Saturday, August 6, 2016

How to Keep Chickens Cool in Blistering Summers

The temperatures in Las Vegas blow in at over 115 during the middle of summer. Keeping a flock of chickens cool and comfortable during these heat spells is an important task. My A-Frame Coop is set up just right now. After the Cornish Rock disaster in May, I made my chicken shelter a top priority.

Interior of A-Frame Chicken Coop - M Burgess - All Rights Reserved
A-Frame Chicken Coop Interior - The Chickens are right at home in their Gypsy camp coop.
I know my coop looks a little ghetto, but it works and below I have shared a few tips and techniques that seem to keep these birds comfortable. A rigid schedule has to be maintained or the hens will not lay eggs out of discomfort.  In the summer time, the coop needs to be cool enough to help the birds keep their body temperatures down. It also needs to be roomy enough for their grazing and pecking needs.

Video: A Visit to the Coop

First: Chickens Need Lots of Shade

The best coops and chicken shelters cast a wide shadow across the space a chicken has to graze in. Combine this with adequate scratch room, the hens will stay where they belong and be cool and cozy during heat waves. 

The shade in our coop area is achieved with a plywood roof, a bamboo screen, and an old dust ruffle with a white center sheet placed over areas that would be sun exposed. In cooler weather, the sheet will be removed. The more shade the better. The coop I managed to build is a bit ghetto and a little gypsy, but it works for the girl's needs.
Ghetto Coop

Ideally, a coop should be entirely secure and invasion proof. Where I live there are no animals that would threaten my chickens so they are able to roam in and out as they like. If you have predatory animals secure hardware mesh down at least a foot surrounding your coop.

In the first image, you can see the roosting bar, the water containers, and a plastic box containing the chicken's feed. The shaded area is large enough to give them room to wander without being right on top of each other. The plaid flannel blocks sun from the west end while the odd white sheet with the dust ruffle reflects the sun off of the top of the coop. Ideally, I would have painted the roof white for the same effect. I am developing this coop as I go and as I see the need to alter it for the health of the birds. 

There is a chicken wire fence running around the exterior of the structure, but I leave it open as of late because the hens climb up to the top of the a-frame roof and leap off into the garden. The roof section is about four feet tall. I'd rather not have them testing their wing capabilities. They only float down so there is a possibility for them to get hurt. Chickens do not fly very well.

Second: Chickens Need a Lot of Water

Water is essential to any living creature's survival. This goes without saying. It is the best way to keep an animal cool during extreme heat. Looking around the internet for ideas on keeping chickens cool, I found a few forum threads that suggested large tubs of water be set around coop areas. They mentioned ice and even mud for allowing the hens a place to cool their feet. 

Houston International 6090
18-Inch by 16-Inch by 9-Inch
Galvanized Oval Tub
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I have all three conditions in the a-frame coop as you can see in the video. The large bins are dumped daily and the girls get a nice little mud puddle to scratch and wade in. They'll wander through it and cool their feet off and in turn cool their body temperatures. The purple tub is just a cool spot. They do not like it as much as they like their galvanized tub. 

Ice Therapy

I save half gallon milk jugs and rinse them as I use up the contents. They are then filled with water to about two inches from the lid area, sealed, and dropped in the deep freezer. They will be solid after about 5 hours. I rotate five or more of these in and out of the compartment as needed. I use four in the outdoor coop and two more large jugs in the small hutch I also keep. I use three five gallon buckets altogether. The ones in the A-Frame are kept with a lid on them so that I can reuse the water. It is usually cool and chills quickly when I change out the jugs. The idea here is to drop the interior temps by a few degrees and make the space more livable. The one in the hutch area is left open so the hens there can have an additional water source.  

Opt for An Air Cooler

I have been told that there are chicken folks that have a real shed for their birds complete with a swamp cooler or an A/C wall unit built right into the shed. I just love that idea, but at this time I cannot build something like that. That is one of those someday projects. I have looked around at different solutions and will invest in a unit such as this Honeywell Evaporative Air Cooler. This is an affordable piece of equipment and can be brought camping or to a beach area. It is something I am considering investing in. 

The cooler will have to be placed in a box of some kind so that it does not collect bird droppings. It will be just the thing we need to deliver a cool area to these precious birds. The more comfortable a hen is the more likely they will produce eggs, even in the wretched months of summer.

Chicken Popsicles 

There was a meme going around Facebook that showed a confetti of fruits and veggies frozen in ice. It looks like a nice snack for keeping chickens cool and entertained. The mix looked like about two cups of goodies to about four cups of water then frozen in a large bowl and removed for pecking. I have not made one of those, yet, but I do offer the hens watermelon occasionally. They are skeptical at first but once they taste it - it disappears fairly quickly.

Keeping Chickens Cool During Summer Heat Waves - Image: M Burgess - All Rights Reserved
Coolest chickie at the bar...

In Conclusion

All in all these measures to keep the hens at a lower temperature seem to have worked well. They are not complaining and they are not stressing. You can tell a chicken is stressed by their heavy panting. If they are overly heated they will spread their wings slightly. This is not a sight I want to see. 

Check your birds twice daily and change out their water at least once during that interval. The fresher the supply, the more they will consume thus keeping their interior hydrated and their body temps down. The one layer I have is continually offering eggs, so I know that I am doing something right here. 

Tell me about your cool tips for keeping chickens comfortable. 

Thank you for visiting!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Product Review: Portable Rain Barrel

Collapsible Storage Container for Water

Portable Rain Barrel

Water is vital to human survival. We may last only a week without this valuable moisture. To ensure your family has a proper allotment of H2O, stash at least a gallon per person for the emergency storage plan. If you are planning on two weeks of backup water and you have four family members, you will need at least 56 gallons. Increase that by the amount of water needed for washing and that number doubles.
(See H2O - A few dozen healthy reasons to love water!)

Water storage is a high priority with a preparedness plan. While on the search for options on large capacity water storage containers, I ran across this lovely idea and immediately had it shipped. Imagine a portable rain barrel!  The price was affordable and I had to check it out. It was soon put to good use as we had storms moving through the area within the week that it had arrived.

The Portable Rain Barrel holds around 35 gallons of rainwater and it was simple to set up. The zippered top was smooth to close and the only issue I had was the water spigot assembly on the bottom of the unit. That issue was user error. It seems I had forgotten to close the gadget and all the rainwater that would have been held in the barrel freely ran out of the spout. Turn this to off when you assemble the hose attachment. 

The box size surprised me when it arrived. It was no more than a large poster box. I looked at it suspiciously when the postal worker dropped it off to me. No way will this thing hold 35 gallons. I did wait to put it together for about three days. Once I broke it out of the box I realized what a treasure I had found. The container was put to work under the crease on my roof since there are no rain gutters.

The first set up proved to be a little flimsy, but once it held water, the container sat on its own and has ever since. In time, I will empty it for fresh water addition, but for now, I am curious how long it will take to fill up. It has been about six weeks and the barrel is over half full. I am optimistic that the capacity would be overflowing had I thought to make sure the spigot valve was closed.  I can assure you, I will be buying another one in the near future

Read more about the Portable Rain Barrel on Amazon

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Preparedness and the Reality of a Home Invasion and Burglary

There are certain thoughts and realities that come to light when one experiences a burglary like I did this week. The what if's pop up every other minute counting down the possibilities. 

Door damaged during home invasion
Door damaged during home invasion
What if I were home when this happened? What if they come back? What if they had harmed my pets? What if -- what if -- what if!?! The ricochet of these thoughts are what causes the worry and anxiety to surface until the mind can settle. It takes time. Just like the effects of a bad flu or a virus, a violation of our space is an effect on the nervous system and thought processes. In time, these flickering questions will fade, but the possibility of the next event keeps a person on alert for better home security and certain practices.

My Experience with a Burglary

I came home from work like I always do, unlocking the door and stepping in to greet my animals. I was tired, but happy that I had a good night. This time, I stopped in shock as my door crept open too easy and the frame fell in upon the unlocking of the deadbolt. I thought to myself the cats must have really wanted to get wait! Oh, dear God, no! I've been broken into. The robber had set the frame back in place slightly to mimic a complete closure. My animals were all staring at me, puzzled. Two cat faces and one canine told the story of something that had gone down within the past couple of hours - or was it minutes? They knew who it was. If only they could talk. 

I paced the home carefully knowing I needed to be cautious. I surveyed my rooms and cleared my home then assessed the missing objects and rooms violated. I called the police as soon as I made the round complete. "311 Operator, Hello! I've been robbed." She asked for my street address and told me that this was a report call so it might be awhile before I saw an officer.

I took an inventory and noticed my tv missing and the handful of change gone from my desk. The jewelry box that held sentimental items was taken. It held a few mementos of the past, but nothing of value. What a disappointment that is going to be when it is rifled. Too bad they had to take that. It had a ring my grandmother gave me that was Sarah Coventry. It was worthless to all but me.

I had to get the animals fed so I did the smart thing and put gloves on. The metro dispatcher had asked me not to touch anything until the investigators arrived. I obediently went about my business - dishing out cat and dog food then went to wait outside in  my car. Thanks, dear dirt bag, I thought. A twelve-hour shift in a busy, congested city and I get to come home to this. Ah, such is life in the world we have been given.

The premises had to be looked over and fingerprinted. The door to the tv cabinet may give a clue and so might the door itself. Black dust was carefully feathered over surfaces and my fingerprints were taken to rule out my set.

My conclusion is this. Mind your area. Check your doors before you leave and when you come back again. A checklist below will help cover the areas in the home that need attention before and after vacating the premises.

  • Doors Locked
  • Windows Locked and barred
  • Lights on somewhere in the home
  • Security lights in order
  • Security System Armed
  • Valuables: Serial numbers recorded, item photographed, and an itemized list kept in safe place (safe deposit box or cloud file)
  • Do not leave valuables in plain sight
  • Scan area and see that nothing is out of place when you get home.
  • Make a visual inspection of home to make sure there is no intruder

If you have had a break in the ability to itemize the situation quickly helps the information relay to the officers who will be handling the report.

What to do if your home has been burglarized 

  • Call police dispatch immediately. Use the non-emergency line Generally, 311
  • Do Not Touch ANYTHING!
  • Make a visual inspection of home to make sure there is no intruder
  • Get you and your pets in a safe area until the investigators can finish their reports
  • Make a quick survey and a list of things that are missing / damaged 
  • Let officers do their job so that the situation is handled efficiency.

After the report is made:
  • Assess what can be done at the moment and clean up / straighten up areas that need attention
  • Remove fingerprint dusting with a paper towel and cleaning agent.
  • Call your insurance company / landlord and report the break-in
  • Relax. Chances are the robbers may not be back.

Extra precautions:

  • Install metal frame doors
  • Security film on windows
  • Install lighting everywhere
  • Install peephole
  • Video camera surveillance recording off property
  • Flood lights activated by motion sensors
  • Heavy duty locks and extra secure interior chains and slider locks
  • Guard dog
  • Firearm

Police Department Video on Home Burglary Prevention 

The harder it is to get into your home, the more likely it will be to discourage a perpetrator from breaking in. They want a quick grab and go job. The longer it takes to get in the higher the likelihood of being caught.


While the temperature of those who do deeds of this sort are heating up, we need to be extremely cautious everywhere we go, not just home. We need to be alert everywhere. I'm going to be a jumpy mess for a few days, but I am determined to enjoy my home, go about my life, and put this invasion behind me. I will be placing in motion additional precautions to keep me and my fur family safe. This is just a rocky moment in a daily grind and this too shall pass into moments I look back on. It will be a space in time I am grateful that none of my family members or myself were harmed.

If you have anything to add to this list, please mention the tips below in comments. Thank you for visiting!

More on preventing home invasion and burglary: