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
[Amazon Affiliate Link]

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.  
Honeywell CO30XE 63 Pt.
Indoor/Outdoor Portable Evaporative
Air Cooler with Remote Control, Grey
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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 Reservedposted from Bloggeroid