This is a rerun of January 2017 newsletter.
It’s the rainy season here in California, and our beautiful hills are green again. While the chickens love the fresh new growths, how much do they enjoy the rain? Is it okay to let them out in the rain? Can they get wet, cold, and sick if let out? Each chicken has their own preference. Some love being out in the rain while some prefer staying under the hen house. Some, like young chicks or ex-battery hens, don’t even know what rain is, and have no idea of what to do when they get showered. But all enjoy the wet ground and the earthworm feast coming after the rain. Chicken feathers are somewhat waterproof and delay the birds from getting wet to the skin. But fluffy, loose-feathered chickens tend to get wet faster. Once a chicken’s feathers are soaking wet, she is at risk of hypothermia. They cannot keep her body heat, and her temperature drops. This goes even faster when there is wind. Add some sort of shelter from the rain and the wind in addition to the hen house. It could be a simple tarp on top of the run, a plywood or acrylic sheet on the side of it. It should provide enough shelter for everyone to get out of the rain if they want to. Bring the feeders and waterers in the sheltered area, so the food doesn’t spoil and everybody has access to the water without getting wet. Make sure there is no puddle forming in the run. Chickens love to drink from stagnant water, but puddles may harbor harmful bacteria. By keeping a dry area, you are also allowing them to continue dust bathing. If there is no sheltered access to dirt, add a small tub filled with soil. Dust bathing is important to keep them clean and parasite free. And it keeps them busy too! Rainy weather may be quite boring for chickens. Hang a cabbage, dandelions or other greens from the garden for them to eat. Fill a small plastic bottle with scratch, make a few holes in it, and let them roll it around to get the treats out. PS: It’s time to seed some forage for the chickens to enjoy later. Rain means free irrigation!