Help them in the heat

Shady chook pen
Photo: Penny Woodward

During recent heat waves in southern Australia, we have all been seeking shade and water to protect us from discomfort and worse. Authorities are talking about Heatwave plans (similar to Bushfire plans) to keep us safe during extreme heat. While we are thinking about human discomfort we mustn’t forget our animals, both wild and domesticated, that live in our gardens. I’ve already got lots of shade in my garden, and two ponds and a couple of birdbaths. Over the last few weeks we have had many more small birds, like fly-catchers, wrens and thornbills, in the garden seeking water and shelter not currently available in the nearby very dry bushland. During extreme heat I also place extra bowls of water around the garden for both birds and wild animals.

Echidnas, lizards, ringtail possums and sugar gliders all appreciate the chance of an easy drink.

Chooks also need some extra attention on these very hot days. The ideal permanent solution for chooks is to position their pen under or near a big shady deciduous tree. The chook pen in the photo is positioned under a large mulberry. This not only provides dense shade during summer, but also dropped fruit is quickly devoured by the chooks, and when the leaves fall in autumn they get crucial sun on cold wet days. My chook pen, however, moves around the garden. So I can’t give them permanent shade. But I try to position them in summer so they get shade from the garden, and in winter so they get plenty of sun. Half of the pen is shaded with ply wood, rather than corrugated iron, as the ply doesn’t heat up as much as the iron would and so keeps them cooler. I also have a frame with shade cloth nailed over it, that I lean against the sunny side of the pen, to give them extra shade in extreme heat. Mostly I position the frame so that they are protected from the hot westerly afternoon sun. I used to just drape shade cloth over the pen but found on windy days that the flapping cloth spooked and upset the chooks. Nailed onto a frame this doesn’t happen.

Although my girls have a water feeder that I keep clean and constantly topped up, on very hot days I also give them a container of extra water so they have a chance to splash in it and flick it around. So over the coming heat waves, don’t forget the other creatures that live in your garden. It doesn’t take much effort to make their lives a little easier.

By: Penny Woodward

First published: February 2014

Related topics

Animals & Insects, Summer, chooks, heat wave, shade, water, Poultry & livestock
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