Considering the heat of the recent week, here is a blog by Dorene Olson on how to get your chickens through hot days with as little stress as possible. Take care of those "chookies," as Olson calls them.
We have had the most merciful summer that I have ever experienced in my agonizing years in St. Louis, which would not be that way but for the heat and humidity (I have never learned to adjust) and the lack of mountains and oceans (I am a Pacific Northwest girl, who moved here from CO - ya, we lack oceans there, but at least we are not flat landers! It took me the LONGEST time to learn my North/South/East and West!).
But you lovely locals have been patient with me,
and I have learned to call St. Louis home, so here I am to accept (sigh....)
the St. Louis Summers.
This year, I am not allowed (self imposed) to complain until this week, and now I am worried about the outdoor creatures that share our lives. I'll briefly address the mammals (dogs, cats, farm animals,s etc) as I will address them in a separate post, but here I want to primarily address our poultry friends.
ALL animals, mammals and avians, need access to cool, fresh water and shade. The water should be kept out of the sunlight, and should be changed regularly to make sure that it is as cool as possible. It is contra-indicated to give them ice water, as it is reported that the cold water can constrict the passageways of the larynx and cause more complications than help aid in coolness.
What I do is freeze an average, plasitic soda bottle with water and stand it upright in the chookie's water bowl. This will (let's pretend "slowly" - but we are too practical for that) keep the water cool, but not icy-cold, and give them something to investigate and peck at, encouraging them to be drinking water, lest they be reticent to do so.
I offer my birds cold, refrigerated melons - watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, as well as cold cucumbers and tomatoes and corn, I give them throughout the day as treats, something that can cool them off and offer them entertainment on the lazy side of things that does not produce caloric heat from running and jumping and active foraging.
I freeze gallon sized milk jugs and provide them
in the daytime play areas and at the night time perches - my birds literally
curl around them and suck up the cool - they un-puff (is that a word?) their
feathers and stop panting and appear much more comfortable.
Foot pools are also very popular with many poultry - they will wade right in and shut their little eyes and look so relieved. My friend Camille, in North West Oregon, who is a moderator on my Rare Heritage Turkey List, speaks of her turkey hens wading in up to their wing pits, holding their wings in the air like prissy little Princesses and looking ridiculous, but taking great comfort from the cool waters.
If you have a bird in heat distress, you can try the following tactics:
First of all, know the emergency number to your nearest avian veterinarian, and the quickest emergency route to them.
The average temperature of a chicken is 109 degrees. Pouring cold water on that bird (or a dog or cat, by the way, the same problem can occur) can cause reverse hyperthermia and can throw the animal into hypothermia - a condition where the rising body temperature now crashes into a life threatening lowering body temperature. For this reason, only use luke-warm to luke-cool water on the animal, and monitor temperature constantly.
I keep a ration of PediaLight on hand, I get the 4 pack of little 6 ounce bottles so that I don't have to waste a larger bottle for no good reason. For a stressed bird who is over heated and may be dehydrated, replacing electrolyte function asap is imperative. Make sure that you have tuburculine and 3 cc syringes on hand for dosing, and practice syringe-feeding your birds in a non-invasive, non-traumatic/dramatic manner before the stress of an emergency situation occurs
Birds in distress display this by wings held towards the ground and away from their bodies and open beak panting, often posing their heads towards the sky with eyes half closed. I would get those birds into some cool (again, NOT cold) water and put a fan on it. Drafts are considered to be very detrimental to birds, but circulating hot air out of a coop area is very beneficial, one just needs to be careful to make sure that the air currents are moving out the hot air and not drafting detrimentally onto the poultry.
Here's me, happily hoping that summer "forgot" us and will come raging through with a vengeance this week and then go away next week as usual: "Welcome, Summer, good to see you, now B'Bye!"
Dorene, trying to be brave