It's hot. There's a heatwave and my dog has melted into a puddle. I'm freaking out worrying that the chickens will die of heatstroke. (How did they survive in the wild?!) Last summer Raspberry collapsed from heatstroke after 7 days straight of 100 degree F weather. I had a shallow bucket filled with ice and frozen treats but it was still too much for her. I found her collapsed inside the coop and her best friend Lady Olgaberry was pecking at her back and trying to EAT HER. There was blood. It was nasty. Chickens are assholes. Raspberry was put into chicken hospital in the guest house where we have A/C and stayed there for 2-3 weeks to recover. She made it and reclaimed her throne as top chicken a few months later. It was rough though. Taking care of a sick chicken in a small guest house was not pleasant. The poop. So much poop and so stinky. Better to prevent than to treat heatstroke.
A great way to keep your chickens, dogs, kids and yourself cool is with frozen treats! The frozen snacks help keep their body temp down and cool off when it's just too damn hot. Be careful with the amount of treats you give your chickens. They should only have about 1 tablespoon worth of treats in a day per chicken to maintain a healthy diet. Here are a few of my favorite frozen snacks that are chicken and dog friendly. Some snacks are also human-friendly!
Frozen Yogurt Bark
Yogurt bark is a great snack for humans, dogs and chickens! I started freezing yogurt because it was easier for the chickens to eat. When I'd give them the liquid yogurt it would end up smeared all over their beaks and face feathers. The probiotics in yogurt is also good when your chickens are suffering from diarrhea. The yogurt will help those poops go back to solid.
RECIPE: Buy any yogurt, I prefer the European style yogurt or Greek yogurt. Spread it on a baking sheet lined with non-stick baking mats or parchment paper until it's about 1/2-inch thick. Sprinkle with sliced berries, bananas, fruit, chia seeds and a light drizzle of honey or agave syrup. Freeze until hard. Break it up into shards and store in an airtight container in the freezer.
Pumpkin, Peanut Butter, Banana Ice Cream
Everyone screams for ice cream! This is edible for humans but probably doesn't taste as great as regular ice cream. The dogs and chickens love it though!
RECIPE: Mix 1 can of pumpkin puree, 2 mashed ripe bananas, and 1/2 cup of peanut butter. Optional add 1/2 cup of yogurt. Mix together and freeze in ice cub trays, popsicle molds, in a container, or spread like the yogurt bark. It will be hard to scoop because there is no sugar. I will freeze in small containers and just give the whole thing for the dog to lick or chickens to peck at.
Chickens go crazy for watermelon. This is the easiest recipe. Ready for it? Slice watermelon, freeze. Serve to chickens, doggos and people. Don't throw away the rinds, freeze them and give them to the chickens! They'll decimate it in no time. Fruits and veg with high water content are good for chickens when it's hot because it will help them consume more water. Eggs are mostly water so they'll need lots of it to produce eggs and stay healthy.
For a more people-friendly version, blend watermelon with a tablespoon of honey, agave or sugar and pour into popsicle molds. Can also be shared sparingly with dogs and chickens, but only a little because the sugar isn't good for them.
Chicken Punch Bowl with Ice Wreath
Imagine you're having a bunch of your chicken gal pals over for drinks and you're making a party punch bowl. It's like that, but without the booze. Or like jungle juice from college minus the jungle, blacking out, and shady frat boys. PSA: jungle juice is never a good idea. Add a frozen wreath and it's like a decoration for a fancy punch bowl. The chickens are ready to throw a house party.
RECIPE: Pull out the bundt pan that you never use, fill it with water and toss in berries, chopped chunks of fruit and/or veg scraps. I like to use frozen peas and carrots. I like to layer a little water and treats at a time so there is full dispersal in the wreath. If you just put all the water and treats in at the same time they will sink to the bottom.
Get a big, shallow bowl/tub, dump it out the frozen wreath into a pan of shallow water for them to peck at an keep their toes cool in. Fill with a little water, frozen fruit, veg, mint leaves, etc. Watch the chickens go bobbing for treats.
Chicken "Gatorade" Electrolyte Water
When Raspberry had heat stroke this was essential in bringing her health back. It's like a homemade DIY Gatorade for chickens. It helps prevent dehydration. Also good when your chicken has diarrhea. Give only to chickens who need it along with regular plain water available for four to six hours per day, for no longer than a week. Too much salt and sugar is not good for their system. I will also make this for humans when it's hot and we're dehydrated. I'll add a squeeze of lemon or lime, or a splash of juice to make it more palatable. But it tastes just like one of those sports drinks.
RECIPE: Dissolve in 1 gallon of water, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt.
We also installed misters and made a DIY swamp cooler using PVC pipes, a bucket and a box fan to help cool down the air temp around the chicken coop. Other tips and tricks for keeping your chicken coop cool during the summer:
Frozen Water Bottles
A shallow pool filled with water and ice cubes is nice but spending $$$ on bags of ice every day for my chickens is not sustainable. Got this tip from a friend and it's GENIUS! Fill empty 2-quart plastic juice/beverage containers with water 2/3 full and freeze. Preferably the kind that has flat sides and not round cylinders like soda bottles. Put those in a tub of shallow water for the chickens to stand in. Or put them inside the coop on roosting/standing areas with a damp towel over the bottles so the chickens can stand on top of the frozen bottles to keep cool. After they melt, rinse them off, refreeze and reuse. No more spending a small fortune buying bags of ice!
Stringing up a handful of misters around the run and outdoor area lower air temp up to 30 degrees in the right conditions. This works best in dry, hot climates but not when it's humid. Misters cool the air by evaporative cooling. As the fine mist shoots out from the misters some of it evaporates. Since this transformation requires heat, the molecules pull the heat they need from the air around them, leaving the air cooler. Hang the misters high in the air so it mostly evaporates before hitting the ground an your coop, otherwise you'll end up with a wet, soggy mess.
Patio Umbrellas, Plants and Natural Shade
When it starts to scorch here in Los Angeles and it's in the 90s and 100s we put up patio umbrellas around the coop area where there is no natural shade. We pick up patio umbrellas from Costco, Smart and Final or at Home Depot for $40-70. The umbrellas make a huge difference and also provide protection from hawks.
Putting chicken-friendly plants around the coop also help keep temperatures down because plants will absorb the heat and also provide shade. Beneficial plants that also help keep flies and mosquitoes away include mint, lavender, citronella, lemon balm, basil, rosemary and sage. I recommended putting them in pots and keeping them high and away from chicken snacking height.
Stay cool my friends!
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