Welcome to part #4 of our Raising Backyard Chickens series. Urban chicken raising is easier than you think! You can raise backyard chickens for eggs in a rural yard, suburb and even the city! Not to mention, it is a fun project for the whole family and a very rewarding one when you can enjoy farm fresh eggs – as fresh as possible! This is part of a series that will walk you through Raising Backyard Chickens step-by-step.
Caring for chickens during their first summer is not too challenging, really. Mainly you just need to keep them from overheating. This is extremely easy if your chickens roam free in your yard, a bit trickier if you have a coop and run setup.
As long as your chickens have plenty of fresh water(I recommend a large container such as a metal pot, like the kind you might cook pasta in, instead of the commercially made chicken waterers. There is less chance of ending up with a clog in the waterer and having dehydrated chickens before you notice.) and plenty of shade, they should be able to handle the summer on their own.
Chickens contained in an area are at more risk of overheating, because they can’t choose from as many places to be. Position your coop carefully, so there is always shade in some area of the coop. You may have to bring in tarps to make this happen, but it’s important to be sure that the chickens can get out of direct sunlight. Once again, make sure they always have water.
Cool water is great, but usually impractical so do what you can. Most chickens will drink water whether it’s cold or not, but be sure you don’t have some picky water connoisseur in your flock who will only drink cold water. Unfortunately this happens, then you are stuck putting frozen water bottles in your water to keep that chicken drinking.
If you notice your chickens seeming distressed from the heat(openmouthed panting and constantly stretched out on the ground in an attempt to cool off), you may need to bring in more help. Here are a few things you can do, along with a few warnings.
• NEVER, EVER dip your chicken in cold water to cool them off. The sudden temperature change could easily send them into shock and make your situation far worse. I cannot stress this enough, under NO circumstance should you do this. Even if the chicken is in imminent danger from heatstroke. I have seen people recommend this but in my opinion, there is too much danger in the procedure to be worth it.
• Watermelon is very good for cooling off hot chickens, and you don’t even have to waste the watermelon. Go ahead and cut it up for yourself, leaving just a little red behind on the rind for the chickens. Then throw the rinds out for the chickens, they absolutely love this. They will eat both the red part of the watermelon that we eat, along with the green, all the way down to the tough part of the rind. They don’t waste a bit.
• Fans are useful for circulating air through a hot, stuffy coop. Just be careful with running a cord in your coop, if you’re not comfortable leaving a fan running outdoors don’t do it.
Heat stress is an emergency with most animals, including chickens. If somehow one of your chickens got too hot without you noticing (it happens, don’t feel bad.), you will need to take immediate action. The signs of heat stress in a chicken are:
• Panting/labored breathing
• Pale comb and wattles
• Wings spread away from body
These signs indicate, especially when combined, that there may be a problem. Here are a few good ways to deal with this situation:
• A mister. They are usually pretty cheap and easy to find, or you can make your own, but I unfortunately can’t help you there.
• A DIY swamp cooler This can be accomplished by draping a wet towel over a portion of your fan. This will make a makeshift swamp cooler and you can blow the air on the chicken to safely cool it off.
• Cold water (DO NOT SUBMERGE, SEE ABOVE WARNING). Put cool water in a spray bottle and spray your chicken, especially around the comb and wattles.
Well, that’s about it! The next article will be on egg laying.
This article was written by Erin, a pro at raising her own chickens and eggs in her family’s backyard! She’s just a teen, but loves animals of all kinds and wants to be a veterinarian and is studying to do so. In addition to raising chickens, she raises ducks, geese and bunnies in her family’s urban backyard!
Be sure to check out the entire Egg Page with lots of tips on eggs (including raising the chickens for your own!)