It was 106 today and the animals on the homestead are feeling it. Let me tell you how to help your chickens or rabbits through this heat wave.
SHADE, the deeper the better! You need it. If you do not have a shady place for your animals they will not make it through the summers down south. If you don’t have natural shade you need to create it in the form of a large hoop house or structure of some kind. Please link in the comments if you have overcome this obstacle. We would love to see how you have solved this problem. I am blessed with a huge oak tree in my backyard so I have this covered.
WATER: I have a sad little story to tell about this. When I had my first flock of chickens I locked them up in the coop for night time protection and let them out in the morning where there is water and food available. When I went to the hospital in the middle of the night to have blessing #5 I am thankful that my kids were well cared for by their wonderful Aunt and Uncle. However no one remembered to let out the chickens. Needless to say, while I had a wonderful healthy baby boy, the chicken end of things did NOT end well. Now I have automatic water sources on all my animals just in case something goes wrong and I am not there to care for them. I will do a tutorial on making your own automatic water stations soon. These are a safe guard but not fool proof. They can get plugged up or run out. Because of this we ALWAYS have a back up of water in the form of water dishes in each cage for rabbits and water trough for chickens. This has to be maintained constantly in the summer months. There is no day off for a homesteader!
ICE BOTTLES: We fill old soda bottles with water and keep them in our freezer. Every afternoon we take them out and give one to each rabbit on the homestead. They press against them to cool off. One interesting point, that not everybody knows, is that a rabbit’s air conditioning is through it’s ears. You can see clearly how raising a large New Zealand rabbit with huge upright ears is different than raising a Holland Lop with cute flopped down ears! One other interesting note is that it is too hot for babies of any kind. No one breeds their animals in the summer months unless they have an air conditioned barn. In fact the buck goes sterile in the summer months and it takes several weeks of cool weather to get his fertility back. My son is doing an experiment with under ground dens to see if he can successfully breed rabbits during the summer. Check back for the results of his experiment.
SPRINKLER RELIEF: In the hottest part of the day you can bring the temperature down a notch by running the sprinkler in the animal’s area. I had a friend from Africa tell me that they soaked burlap bags in water and placed over all the rabbit hutches to keep the animals cool. If you set the sprinkler to cascade over the roofs of the hutches it will help immensely. Imagine wearing a thick fur coat in this weather!
DIET: Animals will naturally eat less during the stress of the summer months. This is not the time to load up on chicken scratch for your hens, save that treat for the Spring and Fall. Chicken scratch is a mixture of grains which helps give chickens extra nutrients or fat. They love it! It is a treat for your chickens ,that you scatter on the ground, unlike the laying crumble that you feed them each day.
I hope this helps you keep your animals well cared for during this heat wave. I for one am looking forward to the cool breezes of Fall and I know our animals are too!
I would love to hear from you! If you have any tricks to help your animals through the summer months please shout them out in the comments so we can all learn from each other.