Preventing heat exhaustion in your flock

A hot chicken pants and holds its wings away from its body2010 is currently on track to be the hottest
summer on record, with July already beating out the scorching Dust Bowl
summer of 1936.  We’ve felt the heat on our farm, and are keeping
a careful eye on our flock.  Heat exhaustion is nothing to mess
with, as we discovered during our first year of chicken-keeping when
two of our birds succumbed to the heat.

How do you know if your
birds are too hot?  In an effort to cool down, they will pull in
their feathers, stick out their “elbows”, and start to pant. 
That’s your cue to make sure your flock has access to shade and water
at all times.  If you’re worried, throw some ice cubes in your
homemade chicken waterer — your chickens will adore
the cool treat, and the ice water will help lower their body

can be
dangerous at this time of year since chickens are confined in a small
space.  Turn the tractor the wrong way, and your hens will have no
shade to retreat to during the blazing afternoons.  We are careful
to situate our chicken tractors so that the protected side is aimed
toward the sun on summer days, and when temperatures soar into the mid
90s, we add a tarp to provide extra shade.

I have to admit that
this year I counted the days until the
dog days officially ended on August
11.  It’s all cooler from here!

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