Keeping a small flock happy in the heat is pretty easy. Though they can be fussy eaters, chickens are a pretty tough lot.
They do some weird things though, like cramming everyone, on top of each other in one nesting box on a 40°C day.
The two most important things are shade and cool water. Chooks won’t drink warm water even on the hottest day.
We add bottle of frozen water to the water container so that it chills the drinking water. These are changed up to three times a day if the temperature is over 42°C (which looks like it’s going happen more often).
I use aromatic herbs a lot in the coop. Wormwood is the key herb, it deters a lot of harmful bugs. I rub a handful of fresh leaves over the perch and on the walls, especially near where they roost.
Adding to this I throw handfuls of fresh Lavender, Rosemary and Sage into the straw of their nesting box and under their roost to deter practically everything bad.
We grow Azolla to feed the girls, it is high in protein and full of moisture, making it the perfect Summer afternoon snack on a hot day.
Fermented grain is a winner too. It is soft, full of moisture and literally dripping with probiotic goodness from the fermentation.
Dust baths are essential to chicken health. They let the girls stretch and scratch, they dig into the moist ground to get cool and the dust helps them control parasites. Our coop doesn’t have much of a bath so on really hot days I let them free range in the garden. The loss of a few green leaves is a small price to pay for seeing the girls digging down in their favourite spots and just loving life.
In the same vein, I’ll grab the girls every month or so, flip them onto their backs and rub diatomaceous earth into their feathers under their wings, by their bums and right into their neck feathers, making sure it gets down to the skin. Diatomaceous earth suffocate parasites and kills them off.
Shell grit, spread around the run and in their food gives the girls grit in their gizzard to help digest food. It gives them the calcium they need for general health and egg shell formation.
Shade and good airflow are essential too. A chicken’s natural home is in the jungle where there is dappled sunlight and plenty of cool spots. If things are too hot (and I remember to protect the seedlings) we let the girls out to roam the garden and find the best spots.
Being jungle creatures originally, chickens like to get up off of the ground from time to time. This is why they like to perch at night, up out of the range of predators. If you see one in a tree during the day, don’t panic, they’re just doing what their genes are telling them to do.
That’s some of the simple things that we do in Ligaya Garden to keep our girls happy in the heat.