When heat indices near or surpass triple digits – like it has this week – it becomes dangerous for many animals (including farm animals) and stressful for farmers committed to ensuring the health and welfare of their livestock.
Rabbits, in particular, have difficulty with high temperatures (hmm…maybe that fur coat of theirs?). We’ve noticed that the rabbits in our outdoor tractors do well even when it’s very hot because breezes blow right through their living quarters, and they’re on moisture-holding grass. Their houses and the tractor roofs also provide shade. We also check their water bottles to ensure they have water, especially important on hot days.
Until we build another outbuilding, does with kits stay in kindling cages in the garage. While the garage bay is only exposed to direct sun in the morning and has an insulated door, it can get stuffy when the temperatures climb. To increase air flow, we open the garage door and run a fan in there. If it still seems too stuffy or warm, we place 2-liter frozen bottles of water in the cages. The rabbits can cool off by cozying up to the bottles and also enjoy licking the frost and condensation off the bottles.
Refreshing the chicken and duck waterers during the day helps keep them cool, too. In an earlier post, we described measures we’ve already taken to make the chicken coop more comfortable (shade cloth, fan) and we leave a waterer in the coop at night. We recently replaced a small fan in the coop with a large one, too. The chickens have looked much more comfortable this summer, even with these temperatures.
The duck coop was built with ventilation in mind. The hardware cloth on three sides allows breezes in and hot air out. It’s stayed comfortable even on the recent hot days. In contrast, the shed we converted into the chicken coop required cutting, cutting, and more cutting. While sturdy and roomy, it didn’t come equipped for fowl, especially the ventilation needs; it is, after all, a storage shed. Circling back to the points: building a coop with a flock’s needs in mind is vastly superior to trying to modify a building to suit the occupants, and proper ventilation is critically important to keeping your flock healthy and happy.
The Muscovies do very well in the heat. The breed comes from South America, so are adapted to hot climates. They don’t mind a spray of cold mist, cool tubs of water, or frozen veggies, though. Frozen mixed vegetables are a popular cool treat with the ducks and chickens. Some people swear by just frozen peas, but our group will gladly eat frozen peas, green beans, corn…and, less enthusiastically, carrots.
We have frozen blocks of ice to put into waterers and also spray down the coops, runs, and rooster pen with water to provide some relief. In this weather, the ducks’ pools look inviting…but then we remember that they poop in their pools. We’ll have to settle for misting ourselves with the hose, instead!