Keeping your chicken dry in severe rain events.
If you live just about anywhere down the east coast of Australia,you would have experienced extreme rainfall last week.
Here in the Southern Highlands we received over 600mm in 48 hrs, that is approximately 24 inches in the old scale. (I know it has been 40+ years since metric came in but I still think in inches.)
Anyway as a result of all the rain my chicken coop was completely saturated and the run a quagmire.
My chicken coop is made of corrugated iron on the roof and three sides and wire mesh in the front, to allow for plenty of ventilation. I have it orientated so the mesh section faces away from prevailing wind and rain, but last weekend the rain and wind was coming from all direction so inevitably the deep litter and nesting boxes were soaked.
Chickens love warm dry conditions in the colder months, the drier and cleaner the coop and run are the happier and healthier your chooks will be.
So If your deep litter gets wet change it as soon as possible, especially in winter as a wet cold coop can weaken your flock making them susceptible to pest and disease such as internal parasites and respiratory issues.
Also if the chooks are constantly turning cold wet deep litter they can develop foot problems such as bumble foot.
Here are some other issues which will result from a wet run and coop:
The extra humidity encourages fungal problems which is also not good for chicken health.
If you are in a cold climate the extra moisture can freezes creating extremely cold conditions for the flock.
A wet soggy run is difficult to walk in.
If the run is muddy your chooks feet get muddy and dirty the eggs in the nest. Dirty eggs need to be washed and washed eggs do no stay fresh for very long.
A wet run and coop will smell bad, which will not endear you to the neighbours.
So what to do:
I have removed all the wet deep litter out of the coop and nesting boxes and replaced it with dry material.
I use wood shavings but there are lots of alternatives. Some experts recommend sand though I have never tried this, as I love the composted wood shavings and chook poop for the garden.
I usually spread it over an area I am preparing for planting. Once spread across the ground I leave it for a few weeks just to make sure that the chook poop is not too fresh as it can burn any young plants planted straight into it. After a few weeks I then dig it into the soil and plant it up.
In the chooks run I put down lots of coarse organic matter. In the past I have used straw but it decomposes very quickly and seems to hold more moisture and creates muddier conditions next rainy period.
So I have started using woodchip as it breaks down slowly and it immediately makes the run easier to move in. I have a large stock pile of this which I use as mulch in the garden so it is easily accessible and cheap.
Some things I am going to do to avoid inundation in the future.
Although serve rain events, like last week, are unusual I am still going to look at a number of measures to try and avoid a repeat of the situation in the future.
How to avoid excess water in the run and to avoid getting the deep litter wet.
Check the coop and fix any leaks.
Install a solid cover over the meshed front that can be lifted to allow ventilation but closed when the weather is inclement.
Although I made sure the chook run was on the high side of the slope,to aid drainage, during this event there was so much water flow that the run had a lot of water running into it. To avoid this happening again I am going to put in a number of surface drains to ensure any run off is diverted around the chook pen rather than flowing through it.
Hopefully these few measures will help when the next serve rain occurs.
So if you want a happy healthy flock keep their run and coop dry and warm all though the winter months.
A little bit of effort now and you will be rewarded with lots of eggs and content chooks.