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I just went out to check on my chickens and noticed that only 1 chicken was on the roosting bar. I found that incredibly odd since they've always all been on the bar at night. I grabbed a flashlight to look around and found the 2nd hen in a nesting box and a 3rd on another pole I have in the coop (I've never seen one roost there before). The 4th hen was on the ground, dead!
I usually let them out of the coop to run around the yard when I get home from work. The dead hen (a dominicker) was always the most friendly. She ran up to me like she always does when I opened the door at 5:30pm today. She was fine then. Could the heat have killed her in such a short amount of time? That's the only thing I can think of. Yet she was fine only a few hours ago. Can you think of any other causes? Also, why would a hen be spending the night in a nesting box? Heat stress?
I'm so upset right now. I didn't have any problems last year. I always make sure they have a lot of fresh water and their coop is in the shade. I'm going to put a kiddie pool filled with shallow water in their coop tomorrow morning as I see many of you advise having some shallow water for them to stand in. I had the kiddie pool set up for the dog last year and they did like to hang around that.
Thanks for any advice.
Sorry for your loss too. The intensity of the heat these last two days could have been the problem. The kiddie pool will help prevent problems in the future. Others may have more info for you. Bird's feet are the visible relationship of their ancestors - lizzards - they have trouble controlling their body temperatures in extreme weather, particularly heat. Since they don't have ears like mammals to act as evap coolers standing in water is one of the best ways for them to cool off.
Regarding the shade, if you read the other recent post on losing a chicken, you may have seen the reference to the 'type' of shade. Natural shade from trees, shrubs and vines is best - coverings can hold heat in, so you may want to access what you have set up.
It is really hard to lose any pets.
This is my biggest fear is to find one of my chickens dead. Our coop is about 15 feet tall. It is between a west wall and the garage. I have shade cloths, one snake misters (turned on around noon) and water. The mister leaks where the hose connects to, so I placed a livestock bowl (4 inches tall) and it fills up with water. The run off goes to the ground and they lay in the mud. Then I have a ceramic container (per Rachels suggestion) and put frozen water bottle around noon so they can cool their feet. This morning a placed another green shade cloth on the south side of the coop near the roof (which is reflective metal). Unfortunately the trees near the coop are not growing fast enough. I have moringa in pots and waiting for them to get a little taller. So far so good. I am assuming the signs of heat exhaustion in a chicken is the same as a dog. If they start panting, the next step is to put a fan.
Summer just started, can they tolerate this heat for two more months?
We have had a lot of birds die in the past few days, I think the very sudden onset of heat might have something to do with it-- the birds just aren't getting the few weeks to acclimate a little. However the fact that she was normal appearing at 5:30 strikes me as odd.
The bird sleeping in the nesting box may be broody, or that may be a cool spot in your coop...?
Adding 2 or 3 inches of water for them to stand in can make a huge difference. A kiddie pool may be a little large (tall). I'm sure once they figure out that they feel cooler in there, they'll go, but it might make it more difficult to convince them than if you were using something with shorter walls like a large pot saucer (I recommend the terra cotta ones because they are heavy enough the birds don't tip them over, and they also absorb a little water, making them stay cooler even once they're empty) or a new litter box.