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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chickens are not the Brightest of Creatures

Today in Melbourne we got a bit of the heat we expect during summer with a temperature of 40ºC.  This is the hottest weather the chicks have yet experienced and I was a worried mother hen.  I kept braving the outdoor elements to see what they were up to and making sure they weren't doing that heat-stressed thing where they sit panting with open wings.  They seemed pretty happy and had sat themselves in the dirt under the fig tree.  I thought the dust-bathing business was for grooming but I wonder is it a cooling thing as well?

I'd read that a little spray from a water mister is a good idea and Eldest Monkey Boy was very keen to try it out (on the chicks and his little brother).  So we did.  They didn't much like it, but didn't put up too much of a protest.  Then I thought I could probably make that fig tree spot a bit cooler with some shade cloth.  But I'd forgotten how freaked out these chicks get at new things in their environment.  When they saw me enter with a big green shadecloth monster they started flapping and squawking and running about - in the sun.  Well I was determined to finish what I'd started and sweated about with some pegs and erected a bit more shade.  By this time those chicks had retreated to their shed and were all hot and panting and giving me the evil eye.  Except for Goldie (see I've named two of them now - Wonky and Goldie.  Not very inventive names I know but I don't want to put thought into naming them and get all attached and then have to give one away because she is a he. Actually, maybe I should re-name Goldie to Naughty.  She's always under my feet and up to mischief and the last to do what I want.)

Anyway, Goldie/Naughty was running back and forth along the front of the wire shed trying to find her way to her mates inside.  But the door was RIGHT THERE!  Two more steps you stupid bird!  I could name her Dopey but the truth is I've seen all these chicks do the same thing.  Running in a desperate frenzy trying to get back in but not remembering where the door is and not seeing that it's two chook steps past the post they're stopping at.
See the door - it's right there!
So when Goldie/Naughty finally found her way back in she was stressed out and had probably reached boiling point. I irritated them all a bit more by giving them one last squirt and let them be.

They've survived.  Does anyone else have any tips for chickens on a hot day?

15 comments:

  1. Yeh I do we just had our own fair share of problems and nearly lost 2 birds. They were on the way out when I found them, even with checking them regularly. I dunked them in cool water and left them under a shady tree, their little bodies were boiling hot, even with cooling down like that. Mixed a little sugar in water and squirted water into their becks with a suringe, keeping them awake by propping them up and talking to them. About 3hrs later they started woobling on their own two feet again. My egg chooks were a bit stressed with the heat, but it's the meat birds that just cope with the heat. They are not very active birds at all. Never in summer again will I have meat chooks.

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  2. I forgot to mention spraying the floor/grass with cold water cools the temperature down. Add more shade cloth to cover the sides of the run.

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  3. Thanks Rina. We're expecting another stinker of a day again tomorrow. Will try some of these cos I realised a couple were really suffering in late afternoon.

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  4. Shade, they need shade...I also spray the ground where they have their dust bath, the cool soil under their feathers cools them down...we spray the area/run, several times a day with a very very fine mist on the hose....they dont like getting sprayed wet.
    and lots of fresh water available....

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  5. I put ice in their drinking water and give them chilled vegetables but they can be pretty dim I agree. Mine are more stupid when it rains I've found.

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  6. Can't help on anything chicken-related, I'm afraid, since I have no experience of that sort of thing. I suppose it would not be justifiable to install a fountain for them, would it??? Like in North Africa and places like that they always have a water feature in a garden, because evaporation of water produces a temperature reduction. Maybe even just putting a big bowl / bucket of water in the chicken-shed would help?

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  7. We put plastic milk bottles of frozen water around their run to act a evaporative coolers. If we have young chicks they come inside into the laundry into a large box lined with straw and one of those plastic milk bottle air conditioners. We keep a few extras in the freezer to rotate them as they thaw.

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  8. I am having a giggle at you with your huge brain out there in 40 degrees fussing over them :)

    I did the same thing when we had all that rain, saving the chickens only to have themselves run back out through the water and into the driving rain.

    You are right that they have teeny tiny brains. Lucky they have us to look out for them!

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  9. no idea for chickens but am trying to think up a way to keep my worms in the worm farm cool, I think some have died. I put damp newspaper over them and hung matchstick blinds and wet towels over their very hot plastic bin. Hope it will do the trick, it was 42 here yesterday and another 42 today yuk. Hope your gorgeous chicks forgive you

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  10. I admire anyone who tends to their chickens in the rain, sleet, mud, and snow. And your chickens are really perfectly coiffed lovely ladies.

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  11. Thanks for all of your suggestions. I put up more shadecloth this morning and hosed down their run before we went out. Luckily a cool change seems to have arrived so I don't need to do anything more today but will keep the iced water and iced milk bottle ideas for another hot day. Ali, I'm not sure but I think you're suggesting I'm not too bright myself!!! Ha! Jeanetteann I'd completely forgotten about my worms! Oh no, new babies come along and I forget my other responsibilities. Must go and check on them now. Two years ago when we had a terrible run of over 45º days all of mine died. I hope yours survive your heat.

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  12. I usually wet down the areas my chickens hang out, they like to dig down to the cooler layer of soil underneath. Also if they appear stressed adding some electrolytes to their water can be a good idea.

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  13. Some are more stupid than others but all chicken are pretty stupid. They do like to dig a hole in the shade and lie in it in hot weather though, which is smart (for them).
    Summer is pretty hot here. I find the most important thing is lots of water to drink. We have the commercially made water containers plus a big deep dish with a brick in it that they can really get their beaks into. The brick is so they don't tip it over. They sometimes get into it and have a "bird bath".

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  14. They are a bit dim...but at least yours look pretty.

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