"Dog Days" of Summer Affecting Chickens
The "dog days of summer" are affecting *all* Arizona animals - including chickens - and "Extension Experts" are stepping up with ideas to keep them healthy in record temperatures hitting Arizona this week.
"This year’s extreme summer heat event is taking its toll on even experienced chicken owners. With temperatures over 110 for several days in a row and nighttime highs in the 80’s, keeping birds cool is not just a matter of comfort, it’s a matter of survival," says Ashley Wright, Livestock Area Assistant Agent, with University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.
"I lost two of my own hens to heat yesterday when my mister system unexpectedly quit working in the middle of the day. Stories of favorite hens succumbing to heat exhaustion are flooding social media feeds, with other members offering both condolences and advice on how they are working to keep their own birds cool," says Wright.
Wright, who works with owners of all different types of livestock, answers calls and emails, and even does home visits with animal owners throughout southern Arizona. She says she works quite a bit with chicken owners.
In Tucson, the City Council approved an urban agriculture amendment to its development code in December 2015. It expanded some of the rules for raising backyard chickens.
Several Arizona cities and municipalities have similar zoning laws, allowing residents to keep chickens within city limits, so more and more people are raising chickens at their homes.
But what's an owner to do this time of year to cool the birds?
"Make sure there's shade, and cool water available. You can give 'frozen treats' to chickens. Some people like to freeze fruit, like watermelon," says Wright.
She has other food tips, as well.
"Avoid too many starchy treats. Animals, like chickens would be eating less, when it's hot, so food should have high nutritional value. So you want to make sure they're not filling up on 'scratch grains' - that's like candy for chickens. It's not high in nutritional value, and it's not a cold treat."
"Misters are really effective. You can get an inexpensive one for around $12, that you just hook up to your hose. You can lightly spray down the floor of their coop, as long as you have something like sand down, so as not to make a mess," says Wright.