Heat stress is one of the top causes of death in poultry. Dehydrated chickens and chicks will go downhill very fast so it is vital that on hot days that they are kept as cool and hydrated as much as possible.
There are a few things you can do before you rush off to work in the morning, although having a friend or neighbour pop around during the middle of the day as a precautionary check-up is a good idea on days of extreme temperatures.
Do not give any Apple Cider Vinegar in the drinking water during hot days. Just replace their water sources daily.
Signs of heat stress
We know when our dogs and cats are feeling hot by their panting, extra thirst and need to stretch out on a cool floor. It is just as important to keep a vigilant eye on your poultry for signs of heat stress and keep them as cool as possible. Watch for signs such as:
Top 10 ways to keep chickens cool
ICE BLOCKS IN WATER
Always ensure that the chickens have clean, fresh water daily.
Pop a refreezable ice block into their water container to keep the water refreshingly chilled. Replace daily.
Alternatively you can use regular ice blocks, however, using jumbo sized one such as ice frozen in yoghurt containers last longer than the standard small cubes.
EXTRA WATER LOCATIONS
Put out extra containers of water throughout the garden under shady bushes or in an area that will stay shady for longer.
As a little extra treat, freeze some strawberries and mint leaves in a small ice cubes and pop them into a water bowl. This is a good idea if you suspect that your hens' appetite and thirst has significantly decreased.
Set up the sprinkler in shady spots to water the ground for added cool comfort. The chickens may not go under the sprinkler while it is on, but as soon as it is turned off they will discover what a lovely cool spot to hang out in.
Take advantage of areas such as under large trees and bushes where they like to go the most often, as well as under the trampoline.
Move the sprinkler throughout the day to different shady spots.
Chickens love to keep their feet cool to moderate their body temperature.
Open all the vents in the coop to allow for maximum air flow.
COOP SHADE & EVAPORATIVE AIR CONDITIONING
Use mini trapaulins to help shield the hens from the sun on the sunniest side of the coop. Do not encase the entire coop as the air flow is essential for cooling.
To create evaporative air conditioning in the coop, cut open a hessian sack (eg. Laukie Mills), wire the top of the bag to the coop side and wet thoroughly with the hose until dripping. Hose down throughout the day whenever the bag looks too dry.
The evaporate cooling is most effective on breezy/windy days.
Offer coolingl treats such as chilled rockmelon, watermelon and berries.
Since melons and berries have a higher water content it will certainly help to keep your flock's hydration levels up.
Their droppings may be a little more looser after a big feast of melon, so keep that in mind, rather than jump to the conculsion of a bacterial infection.
Frozen fruit in large ice cubes will also keep them interested for hours.
Installing a fan in your coop and run will help the air flow and cooling.
Ensure that you have a safe power supply that is not exposed to the elements and will not cause you or the chickens any harm in its location.
Ideal for the non-free range flock.
Misters are usually used by commercial farmers on a large scale, but kits are easily able to be modified for smaller chicken sheds.
Misters will not suit every coop as it may be a little too much water and weight for the small coops, wetting the coop's timber a little too much to the point of rotting.
The most effective misters are placed high in galvanised shedding and allow the air flow to assist with the cooling.
Chickens may not like sprinklers but they LOVE misters.
Believe it or not, chickens don't mind a little water to paddling about in. Many backyard pool owners who have chickens have often reported that their hens like to float around like a duck.
Choose a sturdy hard plastic rather than a soft blow-up plastic as their claws could puncture the softer material. Hard plastic paddling pools are easily cleanable and very cheap.
FROZEN BOTTLES OF WATER
Place near nesting area for added cooling comfort.
Use various sizes and as many as you need so long as they do not hinder the hens from accessing and sitting comfortably to lay.
How to buy chickens for the first time
When you buy your chickens for the first time it is advisable to buy direct from a stock store or breeder rather than from auction to ensure the healthiest stock and best advice. Knowing the age and history of your hens will help if and when they fall ill, begin or finish their laying and whether they will be appropriate to breed from, if you ever choose to go down that track.
Fodder/Stock stores generally only sell hybrid/sexlink birds such as ISA Brown, Hy-Line and Australorps. Sexing is usually done on day old chicks and therefore less likely to purchase a rooster.
Breeders can range vastly in what stock they can offer. Most breeders will usually sell purebred hens which are slower to mature to point of lay and are a little harder to sex correctly when young. Breeders can be found through poultry magazines, online, by referral, poultry clubs or through poultry show judging.
Olivers Pet & Plants
88 Morphett Rd
Glengowrie SA 5044
Ph: (08) 8377 0223
Located across the road from the Morphettville race course.
This is not an exhaustive list, so if you know of any other stock/fodder stores throughout Adelaide that stock ISA Brown, HyLine or Australorp chickens for sale, please let me know and I shall add it to the list.
This list is simply for the hybrid or heritage breeds, rather than the purebreds.
Please phone ahead to see if hens are currently in stock.
Southern Stock Foods - (2 locations)
151 Old South Road
Old Reynella SA 5161
Ph: (08) 8381 1332
Located across the road from the bus interchange. Next door to National Storage.
Open 7 days
31 Chapman Road
Hackham SA 5163
Ph: (08) 8384 1363
Open 7 days
Sandersons Grain & Fodder Store
432 Main Road
Coromandel Valley SA 5051
Ph: (08) 8270 2173
Located at the bend in the road close to Rowlands Hill Rd.
Goble & Son Pet and Grain Supplies
242 Richmond Road
Marleston SA 5033
Ph: (08) 8351 7177
Located on the corner of Aldridge Terrace.
Walkers McLaren Vale Stockfeeds, Saddlery & Pet Supplies
256 Main Road
McLaren Vale, SA 5171
Ph: (08) 8323 9144
Located on the left-hand side of the road coming from the Victor Harbor Rd into McLaren Vale.
Near the Chalk Hill Rd turn off.
You can take the girl out of the country but you can't take the country out of the girl. As an ex-Barossa gal now living in suburban Adelaide, South Australia, Janine Zschech is not only a serious chicken lady but a genuine advocate for self-sufficiency and education of children to the knowledge of gardening and animal rearing. Skills for life!