So, I was up at 5:30 making elderflower syrup, but also thinking about how to keep the chickens cool.
Last night I went into town picked up some electrolyte/vitamin mix to add to their waterers, as they were starting to pant in yesterday’s heat. I also made giant ice cubes in yogourt containers so that I could try to keep the water cool for them.
Up until yesterday, the shade provided by the pasture shelter has been enough to keep them cool, but today I was worried it wouldn’t be enough, so I decided to let them out to free range in the late morning. (I figured the risk from daytime predators was less than the risk of overheating.) What I thought would be a fairly simple operation wound up taking about three hours:
Even when I took half their fence down, they had no interest in walking over to the apple tree (maybe 75 or 100 feet away) and in the end I wound up carrying them one by one after fishing them out of the corners of the shelter. Then, after all that, they rejected my apple tree idea and insisted that the eight feet of shade from the house (which was about to disappear) was more to their liking. In the end I left their feeder under the tree with one waterer and the other in the shade of the house. They also got some frozen raspberries as treats.
By late afternoon they figured out that the apple tree was the place to be and wandered around the back yard as well. As they moved around in groups I thought they bore quite the resemblance to cliques of teenagers walking around the mall.
Then of course, it was time to reverse the process. Some of the birds were happy to follow a bit of scratch (which I wasn’t keen on giving, as corn helps chickens warm themselves… not something they really need tonight!) but I wound up having to herd, and then catch & carry three of them. In the end getting them back in their house and the fence back took another two hours.
I’m thinking that tomorrow I might try wet blankets on the roof of the structure and an extra beach umbrella for shade. I’m not convinced that where they sat through the heat was any cooler than what the inside of the shelter provides. I’ve also made a batch of yogourt that I think I will put in the ice cream maker in the morning – they can have frozen yogourt in the afternoon. Tomorrow is also harvest day for CSA baskets, so it will be another early morning (good for the chickens as they can forage in the cool 26 feels like 32 degree morning).
Gallus gallus domesticus