Sustainable Organic Gardening

Hot chooks – or cool chicks

It’s very rewarding keeping chickens – they help recycle nutrients, keep pests down and provide us with food and amusement. We, in turn have a responsibility to keep them healthy, safe and happy. In a warm climate, making sure your flock doesn’t get heat-stressed is crucial. I don’t think many creatures would survive summer days without some cool and shady nook to retreat into.

Chooks with shade

Make sure your chooks have shady places to hang out on a hot day

At this time of year, when we featherless ones sit with a cool drink and the fan on, it’s time to take a critical look at the chook house. Are there cool spots for the chooks? It might be worth considering some form of insulation. Is there shade in the hottest part of the day? If your birds can free-range, are there shade-giving plants and dust bathing areas in the garden? Is clean fresh water readily available?

Chook house

The chook house should be well vented for heat to escape

Can you recognise the signs of heat stress in chickens? They’ll walk around with their beaks open (chickens don’t have sweat glands, so regulate heat via their respiratory systems) and/or wings spread; appear slow and lethargic; they may stagger, collapse, have convulsions, and in extreme cases can die from heat stress.

So it’s very important to have some strategies to help avoid heat-stress. Plant some Queensland Arrowroot Canna edulis – a fast growing, perennial plant that can provide cool shade as well as forage for your poultry. Treating your birds to a cool shower with the hose can also help. If the flock is confined, ensure the pen’s not overcrowded. Some people place bottles of frozen water in the water dispenser or just around the pen to keep the temperature down on hot days.

Arrowroot clump

Arrowroot will form large clumps that are ‘air-conditioned’ – the air temperature inside the clump will be far cooler than the outside

So, keep an eye on your feathered friends in the summer and go for cool chicks, not hot chooks!

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Posted in Sustainability

2 Responses to “Hot chooks – or cool chicks”

  • Brooke says:

    I love the frozen bottle idea. We also give our chooks a cold watermelon or cantaloupe cut in half (so it doesn’t get knocked over). This really helps to cool them down.

  • farmer_liz says:

    We let all our chickens free-range on hot days, I don’t care if they lay somewhere strange, I just want them to find their own shade. Seems to work so far….

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