BEATING THE HEAT
We are well into the hot weather now and our birds will be feeling the heat just like we humans do. Fortunately we can go and get a cool drink whenever we are thirsty or find a shady spot to get away from the heat. BUT. WHAT IF WE WERE LOCKED IN A PEN OR
If you choose to keep chooks it is your reponsibility as their caretakers, to ensure they are looked after properly. Listed below are some ideas to help you keep your special birds comfortable and cool for these hot months ahead.
1. Poultry do not like to drink warm water (do you?) and will sometimes refuse to drink the warm water. This can have devastating results for your birds. Freeze some of those plastic drink bottles of water and put them in the birds drink containers. This will keep the water cool for a few hours at least. On really hot days you may need to do this a couple of times or freeze some 1 ltre icecream containers of water. They last longer in the heat.
Remember to keep you drinkers and water containers in the shade.
2. During the hot months it is important to give poultry fresh water DAILY. Studies show that heat makes the water go stale and sour very quickly and bacteria starts to grow. Green slimey water should be thought of a “bacteria soup” and is a sure way to be asking for trouble with sickness and diseases. Bacteria in water can have a serious impact on your fowls. If the flock is a breeding flock, the disease can be passed to the eggs, resulting in diseased chicks.
3. In the evening, put a sprinkler on for half an hour or so under the trees or shrubs where the birds usually go to during the day. This makes the earth damp and cool and they will love to sit in this earth during the hot day to get cool. They love to scratch out little hollows in the earth and sit in them to cool down.
4. Hang some old sheets, hessian bags, shade cloth etc. on the external wire walls of their pens and hose the material down. The air that flows through the wet materials is cooled by the water.
5. Put a sprinkler on the roof. This works very well to cool the pen below.
6. Fill buckets and deep bowls with water. Placed strategically around the pens it can cool down the environment and provide refreshment for the birds.
7. In extreme heat you can lightly spray the birds directly with water. The combs and wattles especially. (I have done this on one very very hot day and the birds just stood there under the mist spray, fluffing their feathers and it certainly helped make them more comfortable ). Or fill a spray bottle with cool water and use that if water is a premium.
8. Freeze some large chunks of watermelon (if cheap at the grocers). They will love you for this cool treat.
NB. If you are short on water supply or don't want to run up a huge water bill, fill buckets of water in the eventings (they will keep fairly cool overnight) and use this water.
9. If you have an enclosed shed. Buy a fan!. Any form of air movement will help your poultry.
10. A supplementary vitamin pack mixed with the bird's water can do much to alleviate the bird's stress and keep up their vitality. Solvita is a good one.If you find a bird that has collapsed with heat stress, dip it in a bucket of cool water. Keep its feet in the cool water until it starts to recover a bit.
11. Your chicken coop litter can act as an insulator and may trap heat. During the hot months reduce the depth of the litter to around 5cm off the floor.
12. If you are able to, let your birds out and they will find themselves the coolest spot (usually under some shrubs or trees) but remember to put bowls of water here and there for them They will not walk too far for water in the heat.
FACTS ABOUT HEAT AND POULTRY
So it is vital you supply enough cool water for your birds.
How long can a fowl go without water?
Studies show that as a general rule of thumb -
24 hours - will be ok
48 hours - May survive (with physical damage) but youngsters will die.
72 hours - DEAD Unless you are incredibly lucky.
PREPARING BIRDS FOR SHOW - FEET AND LEGS
Presentation is an important part of showing poultry as it is in other animals such as horses, cattle, dogs, cats, sheep etc. When the judge looks at your bird he will notice the way it stands, its type and other important features and a clean, well presented bird will always catch his eye over a less well prepared bird. There is nothing worse than seeing a lovely bird standing before you but its feet and legs still have last week’s “dirt and diggings” between the scales. This preparation work should be done about two days before the show. Not the morning of the show.
To clean the scales on the legs and toes:-
2. Take a soft toothbrush or some soft brush and gently scrub the now softened dirt out of the scales. Be gentle with young bird’s scales as you may cause redness or even bleeding.
3. You can also run your thumb down the leg and gently squeeze the softened dirt out. Scrubbing with the toothbrush as you go
4. For really stubborn dirt a wooden toothpick run underneath the edge of the scale can also help – be careful you don’t lift the scale up though. Game birds have very close tight scale formation and it takes a bit of patience sometimes to get them clean.
The soles of the birds feet also need attention.
When you wash their legs and scrub the scales, also scrub the dirt out from between their toes taking particular notice of the dirt in their toenails. Using a toothpick or the end of a nail file, prize any stubborn dirt out of their nails.
5. Trim nails that have grown too long with nail clippers – being very careful not to cut too short or you may cause the nail to bleed. If you do have a bleed push your finger against the end of The nail for a few minutes or dip it in flour.
6. Trim (done easily with a nail file) the sides of the toenails if there is
Birds with feathered legs and feet are treated much the same way.
2. Do not scrub too hard on feathered leg birds as you may damage the beautiful foot and leg feathers which are a feature of these breeds.
3. Trim toenails the same as clean legged birds. Silkies toenails tend to grow quite long so may need regular attention.
4. If you use any enhancing products ( eg baby oil) on feathered leg breeds be very careful not to get it on their feathers as it ruins the look of them.
Feathered leg breeds take a bit more care and attention but when these breeds are beautifully presented they are real attention getters!