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Chickens In Extreme Weather

Depending on where you live in Australia, the climate can pose a threat to your chooks. It can be roasting in some parts of Australia, and freezing in others – frequently, chooks can experience both of these extremes within a pretty short space of time.

Within this section of the guide, we’ve assembled information on chicken keeping in different regions of Australia, but you know your own climate best, so below is some information about what to do if it gets pretty cold or hot where you live.

The Eglu Cube has been specially designed to help keep your hens at a comfortable temperature

Keeping chickens cool in summer

Like us humans, chickens can suffer, or even die, in extreme heat. It can get pretty toasty in many different regions, so here are a few tips to help keep your chickens comfortable in the stifling heat of summer.

  1. Provide shade in the run
    Although they always have the option of going into their roosting area for shade, these enclosures can be sweltering in the midday sun. It’s therefore important to shade part of the run – this will allow your chickens to rest outdoors, rather than in a hot box.

  2. Ensure there’s plenty of drinking water
    As the heat increases, so will the amount of water your chooks drink. This may seem obvious, but making sure that your hens have plenty of cool, fresh water to drink at all times is really vital in the summer months. If you find that the water is getting used up too quickly, it might be time to invest in another, so that your hens have twice as much water available and you don’t need to keep topping it up quite so much.

  3. Chilling their food
    As well as their normal mix, you might want to freeze some of the fruits and vegetables that your hens usually enjoy. This will give them a nice, refreshing treat that will give them an opportunity to cool down a bit. Just be sure to remove these items in the evening, or they could attract unwanted visitors that night.

  4. Offering them a dip
    As we would relax in a cool shower or bath, the same might be enjoyable for your chickens. Get a bucket of cool, but not freezing water, and gently lower your chickens in one at a time. This will keep them nice and chilled for a while, as their feathers dry off.

  5. Knowing when to take action
    It’s important to be able to recognise when your chickens are too hot. They’ll stop moving around as much, keep their wings slightly away from their sides, and they’ll be panting. They might also stop sitting upright, and lurch to one side in a quite alarming manner. Their faces and combs may also look a different colour to usual. If this happens, and you’ve tried all of the above, you may need to provide fans, or move them into an air-conditioned area.

  6. A hot chicken will be an unhappy chicken, so it's best to take measures to ensure that even on hot days your chicken looks like this one - cool and content

    Keeping chickens warm in winter

    If it gets chilly where you live, then there are several methods you can use to keep your chickens warm in the winter.

    1. Provide a perch
      If your coop doesn’t already have one, it’s a good idea to provide some kind of perch that your chickens can sit on. This will mean that they’re not sitting on the freezing ground, which can lower their temperature. All our Eglus come with a slatted floor which the chicken perch on.

    2. Insulate the coop
      Whilst Eglus are good at keeping hens warm, if you need a bit of extra protection in the winter, then temperature jackets are also available. These slot into the sides of your unit and act as an insulating layer against the cold.

    3. Prevent a damp roosting area
      Whilst you’d think making coops almost airtight would help your chooks, they themselves produce a lot of moisture, which you could be sealing in. Instead, it’s best to allow a bit of ventilation, and to clean them out and provide fresh bedding very regularly.

    4. Prevent a damp run
      Whilst some chickens are pretty good at resisting chilly weather, very few enjoy being damp and cold. It’s a good idea to protect your chickens from the elements whilst they’re out enjoying their run. It’s not fair to restrict access to the run in winter – roosting areas are generally quite small and dark, and your chooks need space to run around and enjoy themselves! If you have an Eglu, specially-made weather protection sheets are available for your run. If you have a traditional, wooden unit, then you may need to invest some insulating, weather-resistant material to put over the top of the structure.

    5. Make a warm, cosy nesting area
      As we switch to our winter bedding, it might be an idea to do the same for your chickens. Adding more bedding material will help to keep them warm on those chilly winter nights.

    6. Increase the amount of food
      In order to stay warm, our bodies need to be more active, so we need more calories. The same goes for chickens, so don’t be surprised if your chooks are more peckish during the cold weather. You may want to start increasing their food rations slightly in chilly periods.

    7. Watch out for the comb
      A bird’s comb is really exposed, and can get pretty chilly. When the temperature drops, it has been known for birds to get frostbite on this skin, so watch out. Rubbing Vaseline on the comb is a method that many owners find effective.

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