If you live in the South in a hot climate, where you deal with heat and humidity on a regular basis, then you should have all sorts of safeguards in place to keep your backyard flock cool in the summertime.
You likely raise heat-tolerant breeds, and your coop is probably very well-ventilated and set in a shady area. You might have fans or even air conditioning running in your coop.
But what if you live in a place where it doesn't generally get much warmer than 80 degrees F. on a typical summer day?
What if your coop is better protected against the cold than the heat? What if it's positioned in full sun. All. Day. Long. like ours is?
And what if they're predicting a sudden heatwave?
Fortunately heatwaves typically only last a few days, so here are some quick tips that can help your chickens (and ducks) brave the sudden rise in temperature that you can put in place almost at a moments notice.
5 Tips for Handling a Heatwave
Chickens, like all animals, need plenty of water to drink.
And they won't drink warm water - they will dehydrate before drinking warm water.
So it's important to fill and refill their water containers many times throughout the day when the mercury rises to be sure they always hate cool water.
Adding ice cubes or an ice block to their water is helpful too.
So when a heatwave is predicted, I always make some extra ice cubes and will even freeze water in loaf pans that I can place in the chicken and ducks' water tubs to keep it cool.
Freezing chopped fruits, vegetables, herbs and berries into ice cube trays or muffins tins is another quick and easy way to provide your flock a cooling treat.
And of course give your ducks a kiddie pool to splash around in.
Electrolytes can help your flock replenish minerals and re-balance their body pH in times of extreme heat, so adding some electrolytes to their water is critical.
Plain pedialyte will work, or electrolytes specifically formulated for poultry, or you can easily mix up your own electrolyte powder.
I keep some on hand at all times in the summer months, ready to stir into their water at a moment's notice.
Cooling | Water-Laden Treats
Offering chilled watermelon, cucumber slices or frozen berries is another way to keep your chickens cool and give them something to eat other than their regular feed.
So when a heatwave is predicted, I be sure to stock up on melon and berries.
My flock also loves when I pour cold water over their regular layer crumble and turn it into a cool mash-like consistency.
And that way, they're getting nutrition while also getting some more fluids, which is important in the heat.
And that's something that's so easy to do as you refill waters - just pour some fresh, cold water over their feed.
Shade Shade and More Shade
Of course shade is really important.
If your coop and run are in full sun, then putting tarps or shade cloth over the top will provide them shade while still allowing for air flow through the enclosure.
An old shower curtain or sheet will work too.
Anything to provide as much shade for as much of the day as possible for your flock.
Filling a galvanized tub or kiddie pool with dirt and setting it in the shade will help your chickens stay cooler as well.
The love to wriggle down into the cool dirt on a hot day.
If you can, let them free range.
They're likely to find a cooler spot in your yard than you could create for them in their run.
And predators aren't likely to be out hunting at the peak of the heatwave anyway, so the risks are lessened.
Open Air Nesting Area
Since my coop sits in the full sun all day and gets terribly hot when the temperature rises, I like to close it up and not allow my chickens into it during a heatwave until dusk.
This allows me to open both large doors and all the windows and keep air flowing - and even spray the roof down periodically with a hose - to try and cool it down as much as possible before dark.
This way I don't have to worry about my girls sitting in the hot coop to lay their eggs - or even worse, risk a broody sitting in the coop all day.
The only problem is that then no one can get to the nesting boxes to lay their eggs.
But this is easily remedied by setting up an "open air" nesting area somewhere in the run in the shade.
It can be a box or crate or basket filled with nesting material.
Summer means salads.
Not only leafy green salads, but also mayonnaise-based cold salads.
Egg salad, potato salad, shrimp salad....
But what happens when you can't decide what you're in the mood for?
Can't decide between egg salad and potato salad?
Why not enjoy both.
This delicious recipe from Kate at Framed Cooks expertly combines hard-boiled eggs, baby potatoes and shrimp.
And as she says, "This easy recipe for shrimp and baby potato salad is an light, easy and elegant lunch, brunch or supper! So grab some baby potatoes and some shrimp and get ready for your new favorite shrimp salad!"
But wait? Is it shrimp salad? Or egg salad? Or potato salad? You be the judge.
Get the RecipeTreat your flock to all natural Fresh Eggs Daily® feed supplements!
The sad fact of the matter is that free ranging your chickens and ducks always carries risks with it and eventually is probably going to end badly (more than likely very badly) if you raise them long enough.
As an old farmer told me once, you only have to lose once... and the predator only has to win once.
The odds are definitely stacked against the chickens and ducks.
But chickens (and ducks) so enjoy roaming freely in the yard, searching for bugs and worms, basking in the sun and stretching their legs chasing each other and butterflies.
And we so enjoy watching them.
But besides the very real predator danger from letting your chickens roam free, there are a whole host of other pitfalls including:
piles of poop everywhere
vegetable gardens decimated
mulch strewn across the lawn
huge craters in your yard
possible dangers from eating loose coins, nails, wire or other metal bits
hidden eggs laid by sneaky broodies
and even possibly far-roaming chickens being hit by cars, harassed by neighbors dogs or even making themselves at home on your neighbor's porch (and gasp! pooping)
But letting your chickens roam is good for them and good for you.
There's nothing quite as relaxing as watching a flock of pretty chickens wander, living in the moment, enjoying their freedom.
So what to do?
5 Tips for Safer Free Ranging Over the years, I've been pretty uptight about free ranging and erred very much on the side of caution.
I've listened to all of you who have suffered losses - and paid attention to the whens and wheres of those losses - and I've learned from others mistakes.
But it's paid off. In nearly ten years, I haven't lost a single chicken or duck to a predator (knock on wood), but really, it's more than just "luck".
It's the result of taking a couple of simple steps that I believe helps to mitigate the risks to my chickens.
1. Supervise, Supervise, Supervise Obviously one of the easiest things you can do is stay outside with your chickens and watch them while they free range.
Having a dog outside with you is a huge benefit also.
Not only is even a pet dog's scent a big deterrent to predators, dogs senses are so much more attuned to potential threats than ours are and even our corgi could be at the treeline chasing off a fox before I likely even realized it was there.
I admit sometimes I will let our dogs take point and go back inside the house as long as I know they're out with the chickens, but I actually really enjoy that part of the day and look forward to it.
I save outdoor chores for the afternoons when I let the chickens out - cleaning the coop, painting or repairing the coop or run, washing the car, gardening, trimming the bushes, picking flowers, etc.
That leads me to my second tip.
2. Be Conscious of the Time of Day It makes sense to limit free ranging to the afternoons.
Aerial predators such as hawks, eagles and the like start hunting each morning and will hunt until they have found their food for the day, at which point they go back to where ever it is that they hang out.
After years of raising chickens and being observant, I noticed that we rarely see hawks circling in the afternoon. Not saying it can't happen, but it's not as common.
So I generally don't let my chickens out until after 2pm, and sometimes later in the summer when it doesn't get dark until 9pm or later.
The other benefit to free ranging in the afternoon is that the chickens won't stray quite as far from the coop later in the day, and of course will put themselves to bed at dusk.
3. Don't Stick to a Strict Routine Believe it or not, predators are out there all the time, watching and listening.
I've had people tell me that they have gone into the house for just a second to answer the phone, get a glass of water or use the bathroom, and in that split second, a fox or other predator has attacked.
For that reason, I try and switch up my routine and not let my chickens out every day, not let them out at the same time each day and even herd them to a different part of our property some days.
I also move things around the yard - rakes, shovels, plants, chairs, benches etc. - to keep things looking different from day to day.
Those things also give the chickens something to hide under if necessary. And making a scarecrow can help too.
The one thing you don't want to be is predictable. Keep any predators trying to figure out your routine guessing.
4. Be Conscious of the Time of Year I tend to limit free ranging during the fall and spring.
Those times of year the predators are pretty desperate.
In the fall, the food sources are getting scarce heading into winter.
In the spring, everyone has babies to feed... and then later to train to hunt.
In the spring and fall, the raptors are also migrating and tend to be more mobile.
So spring and fall tends to see a lot more predator activity. And I tend to keep my chickens safe in their run more often than not.
It actually works out pretty well because in the spring I want to keep our small seedlings, flowers and garden plants safe from the chickens, so I would tend to pen the chickens up more then anyway.
5. Don't Rely on a Rooster, but Watch Him (and the Ducks) Too many times I have someone tell me that they feel comfortable free ranging because they have a rooster in their flock.
Yet time and time again, the rooster just ends up being the sacrificial lamb when a predator attacks.
No rooster is a match for any predator like a dog, fox, coyote, fisher cat or even a hawk.
But a rooster does provide a valuable warning - if you pay attention. As do our ducks.
And it's smart to listen to the wild birds and squirrels. If they all of a sudden go silent - or conversely start going nuts - you know something is amiss.
Safer Free Ranging Little story for you to illustrate my points:
The other day we were all out enjoying a sunny afternoon when all of a sudden our ducks all froze, with one eye to the sky.
(Side note: they do that - their left eye is dialed in for distance, while their right eye is focused for close-up work, like finding bugs. So they constantly scan the sky with their left eye for predators. *See footnote below.)
Our little rooster Sherman immediately let out a piercing alarm call and herded all 15 chickens under the stairs leading up to our deck.
Looking up, I saw a dreaded red tail hawk circling.
I ran over to Sherman and tossed him under the steps with the chickens, confident he would keep them there until the danger was passed.
Then I headed over to stand with the ducks who were still sitting in the middle of the lawn like marble statues (ever hear the saying "sitting duck"?).
Ducks know they can't hope to outrun a predator so they stay perfectly still - also knowing that many predators hunt by looking for movement - so they figure if they don't move the predator can't see them.
Winston, our corgi, jumped up from where he was under the picnic table snoozing and started barking at the sky.
As soon as the hawk moved on, Sherman gave the all clear, the ducks "unfroze" and went back about their business, and Winston went back to sleep.
That was a classic example of a multi-pronged predator defense system that worked. This time.
As I pointed out earlier, free ranging always carries a risk to your flock, but taking these simple steps to keep your chickens safe(r) during free range time can return far more successful results.
Footnote: *Just before a chick or duckling hatches, it gets into "hatch position" which means it turns in the shell so that the right eye is next to the shell and their body, or more accurately wing, covers the left eye.
Once they hatch, their right eye develops near-sighted vision which they use to search for food, while the left eye develops far-sightedness to help them predators from afar.
Therefore, when a hawk or eagle flies overhead, a chicken or duck will tilt their head with their left eye up to the sky.
Summer is in full swing as we experienced temperatures into the mid-80s this past week, which is about as hot as it usually gets here in Maine. But without central air, and having to rely mostly on just ceiling fans, shaded areas outside and cold beverages, that kind of heat to more than enough for me! But despite the heat, it was kind of nice this week to have a respite from traveling, working on my book, filming and a couple of other things that generally take up the majority of my time. I could have kicked back and just relaxed, but instead...I built new roosts for our coop.I made gnocchi for the first time ever (so easy and delicious!) I harvested our first radish crop and did some half-hearted weeding in the garden (I absolutely HATE weeding which brings me to my next bit of news....)And ... [drum roll, please] we welcomed a trio of goslings - or baby geese - to our farm!
I'm so excited. I've wanted geese for awhile now and finally convinced my husband that we needed them. So having read a couple of books on raising geese and having talked to several friends who raise geese, I had already settled on the French Toulouse breed for their larger size, calm demeanor, friendliness and appearance.I was lucky enough to be able to get them delivered to our post office from Metzer Farms in California on Wednesday morning and we love them already! That was also the absolute end of getting anything productive done around here, as we became immediately enamored watching the goslings, teaching them which weeds to eat and getting them to imprint on us as they follow us around the yard. So please welcome Henri, Sophie and Claudette to our farm. And be sure to join me on Instagram for more adorable baby photos and cute stories/videos! Lots to celebrate this summer.
Treat your flock to all natural Fresh Eggs Daily® feed supplements!
"If you love pancakes, you are going to love this recipe for these cute mini pancake muffins with chocolate chips. Perfect for breakfast or a sweet snack!" swears Kate from Framed Cooks, talking about her genius recipe!
And is it just me, but are you swooning over the maple syrup dipping sauce! Also...melted butter dipping sauce. Drooling... Brilliant! The latest recipe from Kate of course features fresh eggs... and I can't wait to try it.
Baby ducklings are like any other babies and need lots of nutrients, vitamins and minerals to help them grow up to be strong and healthy. This simple chart gives you the guidelines you need to ensure you're feeding your babies correctly. Ducklings can eat and thrive on chick feed, with a few simple caveats: they need more niacin than chicken feed provides, so you'll have to add brewers yeast to their daily feed during all stages of life (in a 2% ratio to feed). They also grow really fast which can put undue strain on their legs and lead to angel wing in ducklings, so I like to mix in some rolled oats into their fed (up to 25% ratio to the feed is okay).Starter FeedHatch to 2 Weeks Old Your ducklings will see their biggest growth spurt during this critical time. Chick starter feed has the highest levels of protein of any feed (other than meat bird feed!) to help support this rapid growth. The calcium levels in starter feed are relatively low because the ducklings only need it to grow strong bones, not to produce eggshells.... yet. Starter feed is available in both medicated or non-medicated formulations. Take care to only feed NON-medicated to ducklings. They don't need the medication, so it's counterproductive to feed it to them. Feed should be offered 24/7 to your ducklings while they're in the brooder along with fresh room temperature water. Starter/Grower Feed2 Weeks to 18-22 Weeks Old Although your ducks' growth will slow down quite a bit during this next period, they still need a balanced feed to continue to fill out and mature properly. The protein level in the grower feed will drop from the level in the starter feed, while the calcium levels remain constant. I continue to mix in the brewers yeast and oats into the feed during this stage. Layer Feed18-22 Weeks Old+ As your ducklings begin to approach laying age, they will need to start stockpiling extra calcium in their bodies that will be use to create strong eggshells. Anytime within this age range, it's alright to switch them to layer feed when your last bag of grower feed runs out. Layer feed contains far greater amounts of calcium than either starter or grower feed. Feeding layer feed to young-ish ducks before they are approaching laying age can lead to an excess of calcium in their bodies and kidney issues later in life.
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Choosing a good-quality feed for your flock is one of the most important things you can do for them. Feeding them the correct feed during each stage of their life is the second most important. If you're not sure which type of feed you should be feeding, check the bag tag or label for the protein and calcium levels. My ducks are Blue Seal ducks and live long, happy lives while laying us delicious, fresh eggs eating all stages of Blue Seal Home Fresh Feeds. Visit their website for more information about their entire poultry feed line - both organic and conventional.
Baby chicks are like any other babies and need lots of nutrients, vitamins and minerals to help them grow up to be strong and healthy. This simple chart gives you the guidelines you need to ensure you're feeding your babies correctly. Starter FeedHatch to 8 Weeks Old Your chicks will see their biggest growth spurt during this critical time. Chick starter feed has the highest levels of protein of any feed (other than meat bird feed!) to help support this rapid growth. The calcium levels in starter feed are relatively low because the chicks only need it to grow strong bones, not to produce eggshells.... yet. Starter feed is available in both medicated or non-medicated formulations and should be offered 24/7 to your chicks while they're in the brooder along with fresh room temperature water. Starter/Grower Feed8 Weeks to 18-22 Weeks Old Although your chicks' growth will slow down quite a bit during this next period, they still need a balanced feed to continue to fill out and mature properly. The protein level in the grower feed will drop from the level in the chick feed, while the calcium levels remain constant. Layer Feed18-22 Weeks Old+ As your chicks, now considered pullets, begin to approach laying age, they will need to start stockpiling extra calcium in their bodies that will be use to create strong eggshells. Anytime within this age range, it's alright to switch them to layer feed when your last bag of grower feed runs out. Layer feed contains far greater amounts of calcium than either starter or grower feed for laying hens. Feeding layer feed to young-ish hens before they are approaching laying age can lead to an excess of calcium in their bodies and kidney issues later in life.
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Choosing a good-quality chicken feed for your flock is one of the most important things you can do for them. Feeding them the correct feed during each stage of their life is the second most important. If you're not sure which type of feed you should be feeding, check the bag tag or label for the protein and calcium levels. My girls are Blue Seal girls and live long, happy lives while laying us delicious, fresh eggs eating all stages of Blue Seal Home Fresh Feeds. Visit their website for more information about their entire poultry feed line - both organic and conventional.
It's hard to believe that a mere few weeks ago, there was snow on the ground. I kid you not... we often get snow in May here in our part of Maine. Yet as we heralded in July, we also saw temperatures reach the mid-90s. With fairly significant humidity levels - at least by Maine standards! So this week was all about celebrating our independence and country's rich history with hot dogs on the grill and homemade ice cream, but also about keeping everyone cool. That meant lots of ice water and shade, porch sitting and midday naps. Fortunately, next week we'll go back to a "normal" Maine summer, meaning the daytime highs will only be in the high 70s and nights will be perfect for sleeping, hovering around 50 degrees or so. Enjoy this peek at our week! And be sure to keep following along because next week, we'll be welcoming some new animals to our farm! You're not going to want to miss this! We're SO excited!
Join me on Instagram so you don't miss a thing all week! Treat your flock to all natural Fresh Eggs Daily® feed supplements!
I thought this uniquely sweet recipe with it's fun little name and pops of vibrant blue color - verging on red in spots - throughout was the perfect fit for the 4th of July holiday! It combines fresh blueberries with brown sugar and cinnamon for a sweet little treat, that in Kate from Framed Cooks words will "entice admirers into your kitchen and bring them running"!
You'll need fresh blueberries for this recipe.
Maine blueberries are the best of course, but any fresh, ripe blueberry will do...in fact, I bet any berry would do just fine.
Click the link below to learn the story of the name "Boy Bait" came to be and grab the quick, easy recipe!