Posts Tagged ‘chickens’

Helping Your Chickens Survive the Dog Days of Summer


Help your chickens beat this crazy hot and humid weather!

As the temperatures and humidity soar, you’ll want to help your hens keep cool. A few tips for helping your hens beat the heat. When temperatures reach the mid-80s, your birds will probably start panting. In temperatures above 100, your birds may suffer heatstroke. Here are some tips, excerpted from my class on chickens and heat, to prevent that.

1) Provide fresh, clean water – and lots of it.

2) Freeze 2-liter bottles and put them in the coop to cool it down.

3) Remove excess bedding, which traps heat.

4) Feed a crumble feed, rather than a whole-grain food. Grains generate heat as they are metabolized.

5) Provide shade.

If you notice that the birds are listless and lethargic (signs of heat stress), consider bringing them into a cool basement or to an air-conditioned mudroom (in a dog crate or portable cage).

As always, keep an eye on your birds and know what’s normal for them. This will help you catch problems before they become life threatening.

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Chickens and Cold Temperatures


We’re due for some VERY cold temps here in Chicago (in the negative degrees F, and windchills even lower), and a number of questions have come up about chickens and cold temps.

Here’s a list of ideas I’ve compiled. If you have suggestions, feel free to post.

Bedding

  • Keep bedding loose and dry. Deep bedding helps trap heat.
  • Clear snow from bedding.

 Coop

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  • Cover the coop and wire-covered areas (such as the run) with a plastic tarp, greenhouse plastic, dropcloth, or plywood.
  • Fill in cracks and crevices in the coop with newspaper or cardboard.
  • The coop should not be completely airtight; allow some air circulation to prevent frostbite.
  • Stack strawbales around the sides, esp on the sides with northern/western exposure to act as insulation.

Roosts

  • Make sure roosts are in the least drafty place in the coop.
  • Use wide roosts for toe coverage (2-4 inches in width)

 Supplemental heat

  • If ceiling is higher than 2 feet above the chickens, you may want to install a heat lamp above the roost that will turn on when the temp is below 35 degrees.
  • Be sure that the lamp cannot be damaged by a flying bird and that it is not a fire hazard.
  • If you bring the birds indoors, make a gradual transition to warmer temps – e.g., from 0 degrees to 20 degrees to 45 degrees, NOT from 0 degrees directly to 45 degrees.
  • Note that overheating can lead to obese birds. If you supplement heat, set the thermostat to just above freezing.

Frostbite

  • Watch toes and combs/wattles for signs of frostbite. A little petroleum jelly on combs and wattles can prevent frostbite *however* be careful not to overapply – petroleum products can coat the feathers, reducing their insulating properties.
  • Do not allow them to be out in the snow for extended periods of time to avoid freezing their toes.
  • Clear snow out of sections of the run so they don’t have to walk in it.
  • If chickens do get frostbite, treat with aloe vera, can use aspirin solution for pain (three 325 mg tabs per 1 gal water), don’t massage, don’t heat up rapidly. Allow tissue to die/fall off naturally.

Food and Water

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  • Check water several times a day to be sure it’s not frozen.
  • Feed mash mixed with warm milk or water. Some folks feed warm oatmeal. Make sure it is not hot, so the birds don’t burn themselves.
  • Provide a few handfuls of scratch grains in the evening before the hens go to roost. Can also feed a handful or two of scratch in the AM.

Laying

  • Extreme temperatures can stress the birds and cause hens to go out of lay.
  • Collect eggs so they do not freeze and lead to egg eating.

Winterizing Your Chickens


If you got chicks this spring, you probably asked the question, “How do I take care of the hens over the winter?” Bringing them into the house is not a great idea, and unlike dogs, chickens generally aren’t given to wearing sweaters and booties. Nor are they given to fluid replacement.

Here are some tips for helping your chickens ride out the winter.

Coop Environment

  • Move your coop to an area out of the wind.
  • Cover the run with tarps or heavy-duty plastic to prevent drafts.
  • Ensure that the coop is well ventilated but not drafty. Moisture buildup leads to frostbite.
  • Clean poop from the coop often. Chicken feces add to the moisture content of the air in the coop.
  • Stack strawbales around the run to hold in the heat and prevent snow from blowing in.
  • Minimize moisture in the coop. Moisture leads to frostbite. It’s more important to have a dry coop than a warm coop.
  • Provide lots of bedding or straw. Bedding should be dry and fluffy so that it traps the heat.
  • A heat lamp is optional. Beware of fire hazards, especially with the dry bedding, and use a red, rather than white, bulb. A reptile heat emitter can also help.
  • If you want your hens to continue laying during the winter, supplement white light in the morning (not evening) so that the hens get 14 hours of light. You can also let their bodies rest and give them the winter off from laying.
  • Provide wide roosts that allow the down feathers on their bellies to cover their feet.

Food and Water

  • Provide fresh, unfrozen water and be sure they have continuous access to food – their bodies need it to stay warm. You can keep two waterers – one in the house and one outside – and swap them out as the outside one freezes.
  • Provide extra protein for the birds during the winter months. A handful of dry cat (not dog) food will give an extra protein boost.
  • You can provide a handful of scratch grain in the evening, before they head to the roost for the night. This will help keep their metabolism going during the night.
  • Provide a head of cabbage, hung from a string or chain to keep them engaged and prevent pecking.
  • Use a bird suet basket as a treat box.

Frostbite

  • Use Vaseline on combs and wattles to keep them from freezing.
  • Watch feet, combs, and wattles signs of frostbite – they will look swollen and puffy at first. They will eventually turn black and fall off. Infection is a possible risk of a bad case of frostbite.

Contact Home to Roost if you’d like an in-home winterizing consultation.

Chicago Tonight Covers Urban Agriculture


Chicago Tonight covered urban ag in this fun piece. They focused on goats and touched on bees and (of course!) chickens!

Kids, Dirt, and Allergies


I grew up in a rural, agrarian community, and my mom has stories to tell about not being able to keep me clean: I was always in the dirt. We have a picture of my one-year-old self sitting at the base of the washline pole in my diaper, with dirt all over me! My next-door neighbor and I used to slide under the electric fence and go play in the cow pasture. I’d dig around in streambeds, looking for tadpoles, hellgrammites, planaria, and anything else of interest; rescue toads from window wells; go visit my grandfather’s steers and hogs… and then there was the night when my cousin and I got up at midnight to run around in the chicken coop in our bare feet…

Yeah, there were a lot of germs, parasites, creepy-crawlies, and other stuff involved in my childhood. I didn’t get ragingly ill or die of any bacterial infections — just the ordinary childhood stuff: chicken pox, colds, and the like.

Many parents today are afraid that their kids will get sick from contact with animals, and I think this is the child’s loss, from a life-experience perspective and from an overall health perspective. A little healthy inoculation of our bodies with germs every now and then serves to strengthen our immune systems, making our bodies more resistant to disease.

A 2012 study on Amish children raised on farms shows a much lower incidence of asthma and allergies, strengthening the idea that a little dirt won’t kill you; in fact, it’s a good thing! NBC covered the story and the original article in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology can be found here.

So let your kids run around in the chicken coop and handle the birds! It’s good for body and soul!

Chickens and Hot, Humid Weather


As the temperatures and humidity soar, you’ll want to help your hens keep cool. A few tips for helping your hens beat the heat!

As the temperatures hit the mid-80s, your birds will probably start panting. If temperatures hit above 100, your birds may suffer heatstroke. Here are some tips, excerpted from my class on chickens and heat, to prevent that.

1) Provide fresh, clean water – and lots of it.

2) Freeze 2-liter bottles and put them in the coop to cool it down.

3) Remove excess bedding, which traps heat.

4) Feed a crumble feed, rather than a whole-grain food. Grains generate heat as they are metabolized.

5) Provide shade.

6) Mist their favorite dustbath areas so that the soil is damp (but not muddy).

7) Provide shallow pans of cool water that they can stand in.

8) Create air movement.

If you notice that the birds are listless and lethargic (signs of heat stress), consider bringing them into a cool basement or to an airconditioned mudroom (in a dog crate or portable cage). Make the transition gradually (don’t bring them directly in to a room that is 20 degrees cooler). Help cool birds down by applying cool (not cold) compresses to comb, wattles, and feet.

As always, keep an eye on your birds and know what’s normal for them. This will help you catch problems before they become life threatening.

Canton, NY, considers chickens


A legal clause prohibits people in Canton, NY, from raising chickens. But the townspeople are interested in changing that. For more on this story, check out this article.

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