Friday, June 1, 2018

Preparing your chickens for Summer!

Now that the days are longer and temperatures just keep going up, it's time to get the chickens ready for summer. Summer sounds like such a lovely, fun and easy time to be a chicken but in reality it can be deadly! Heat stress and dehydration are very real dangers but can easily be avoided by taking a few precautions. This is how we get ready for summer...

Chickens in summer, getting them ready for the heat

Check out these 14 brilliant ideas for keeping chickens cool in summer.

As usual, inspecting the coop is always first on my list. We are in the coop every single day, but how much do we really look around? Take this chance to stop and look carefully at everything. Pull on boards, try to reach through ventilation holes, yank on hardware cloth. I like to do this every season so I can catch small problems before they become big ones. 

Preparing your chickens for Summer

Check the coop: Give the coop a quick once over and check for holes or loose boards that may let predators in. Check the roof for new leaks and make sure windows and doors can open fully to let cool breezes in. Make sure ventilation holes are unblocked as it's essential that the hot summer air be able to escape at roof level. Check the ventilation holes for wild bird nests and spider webs that are blocking the air flow. Spider webs might not seem like a problem, but once they get thick with chicken dander and catch a few leaves or feathers, they can completely block air flow.

Provide shade: One of the best ways to cool off in the summer is by lounging in the shade, so make sure your chickens have plenty of it! Hang tarps across the run, or on the side of it to provide shade. Make sure there are shady spots all day long. As the sun moves across the sky morning shade areas can quickly become full sun.

Clean the nest boxes: All your hens should be laying by now so the nest boxes are getting quite the workout! As long as none of your chickens are sleeping in the nest boxes they should stay fairly clean, but change the bedding in the nest boxes just in case. No need for a deep clean just yet, a simple scoop out and refill will work.

Check your chickens for lice and mites. Wild birds are everywhere right now and they can easily spread parasites to your pet chickens! Take a few minutes to pick up each chicken and look for mites and lice between feathers and under wings. Also check around the vent area for lice eggs. Dust with DE or treat with your preferred treatment. I use Ivomec for severe infestations, but there are other options available.

Infographic, chickens in summer

Freeze some treats: A cool treat can help your chickens keep cool the same way an ice cream cone or frosty mug of soda cools you down on a hot day. Freeze pieces of fruit and veggies to add to water bowls to encourage drinking, keep water cool and to provide a yummy cold treat on a hot day. Or even freeze a block of fruit and veggie scraps as a chicken treat.

Predators: This is the time of year that predators have lots of babies to feed so they are especially hungry. When an animal has to leave its babies to find food it wants to be back as quickly as possible. Predators find it much easier to catch a chicken in a pen or yard than to try to find a rabbit and catch it. Later in summer, foxes and other predators will be teaching their babies to hunt, and a yard full of chickens is a perfect learning area! Walk the area around your coop, looking for signs of predators like scat or footprints.

Extra water bowls and drinkers: Get a second, third or even more water bowls and scatter them around the run and yard in shady areas. Refill often. You'll also need to clean the water containers more often this time of year. When the days are warmer bacteria builds up much faster inside a poultry drinkers water reservoir. This bacteria forms a slimy film that can contain salmonella and ecoli among other nasty stuff! I talk all about it in this post on cleaning chicken waterers. You should be scrubbing waterers out every few days, especially in the summer. 

Well that wasn't too bad, was it? Now that the flock is all ready for summer, let the long hot days begin! Oh, and if you plan on taking a vacation check out my post on Vacationing while you own chickens. It has a download for a chickens sitter checklist you can print out whenever you need it! Have a great summer!

~L

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