It is the strangest thing to me that all winter long I see reminders on the news and social media to shelter your pets and other animals from the cold - yet when summer comes there is basically silence. Personally, I find it a lot easier to warm up than cool down... And my experience has taught me that a lot of my fur-covered or feathery companions have much the same problem.
Aside from breaking up ice in stock tanks and hauling around buckets when our hoses are frozen, winter is fairly easy around here. I am probably only able to type that out at the moment because it happens to be July, but I am going to go with it. Check back with me in December and see if I have changed my mind. We have never lost an animal to cold weather. As long as they have shelters with some deep (and actively composting) bedding, full bellies, and a few companions to snuggle with - they do just fine. I have heard otherwise. So much so that I was pretty shocked as a novice chicken owner to find my first Buff Orpington hens dust-bathing in the snow for the first time on a particularly frigid January morning.
It should not have been so surprising, I suppose, as Buff Orpingtons are a cold-hardy breed. Which is great! In winter. Summer, however, poses quite a few challenges for our extra fluffy and often broody hens.
Just two evenings ago, after our first near 100°F day of this summer, Dave discovered one of our hens dead in the coop. She had been determined to be broody no matter how many times we swiped her eggs. It was impossible to cool her down enough to break the broody symptoms in our summer heat. She spent just a little too much time in the hot coop on such a hot day. Shade areas, water stations, acres and acres of underbrush where a chicken could escape from the Oklahoma sun if she wanted to -- none of these are enough for at least a couple of chickens each summer.
It's frustrating, but there is nothing to be done for a chicken who does not make use of the resources available to them -- short of bringing them into the air-conditioned living room... Which, I admit, has been something of a temptation in the past.
The guinea fowl are another story. Now, it is usual practice - at least around here - for folks to keep a few guinea fowl on their property and allow them to free-range for tick management. Ironically, given that we are advocates of free-ranging, our guinea fowl do not free-range here. Our original free-range flock was quickly picked-off by predators and the ones who remained refused to stay anywhere near our property. I am sure the neighbors appreciated the tick-control -- but the incessant and terrible guinea noise... not so much.
Our current flock is kept in an enclosure for its safety and for my sanity. We plan to expand their numbers through breeding and hatching with the goal of producing enough numbers on a regular basis to be able to afford to have at least a few free-ranging from time to time... being hopeful that they will be motivated to stay close to the established guinea habitat where they were born and raised. That's the plan... but I know full-well how plans go around here.
The point of all of that is to say that I have to pay particularly close attention to the needs of our enclosed guineas. They are completely dependent on me for the resources they need. And I have been taking that responsibility seriously in this heat: providing a constant supply of fresh, cool water and checking on them every hour or so throughout the day. However, on the second extremely hot day of this summer I discovered an incredibly dehydrated guinea during my evening water rounds.
The water was right there. And also right there. There was even a shallow pan for bathing full of fresh water right over there. But, for whatever reason, this particular guinea did not make use of it. Maybe he was low on the guinea totem pole and never managed to get much of a drink before the others ran him off. Maybe he did not bother to move out of the sunny parts of the enclosure for shade in the heat of the day. I cannot understand the mind of a guinea... All I know is that within ten minutes of finding him in his pale and weakened state, he was dead.
And so here we are at what I know is the beginning of our extreme summer heat and we already have a body count. I will be going out again in a few minutes to top off the water stations, throw some ice chips and frozen shredded vegetables, and try to shoo stubborn broody chickens from the sweltering coop. It is all I can do until the sun becomes less angry again.
In the meantime, I hope this serves as a reminder to you to keep your own animals AND yourself protected from the heat and well-hydrated. It's hot out there.
Posted by Anita
Lover of air-conditioning. Prefers sweater weather. Stays well-hydrated.