Keep Chickens healthy in wet weather
Peppa Pig loves muddy puddles. Chickens do not. After wet weather, we always get a spike in chicken keepers with sick chooks – mostly coccidiosis, respiratory illnesses and botulism. Don’t let that be you. Find out how to keep your chooks healthy with answers to our five most common customer questions about keeping chooks in rainy weather.
1. Should chickens go out in the rain?
Chicken feathers are somewhat waterproof, so letting them out is fine. Letting your birds out prevents overcrowding, boredom and the diseases that go along with a wet chicken coop. Not all birds appreciate going out, but almost all will seek shelter and dry off before they get dangerously soaked.
However, chickens do become easily chilled, so don’t let them out if it is cold or windy. And don’t let chooks like silkies (their feathers aren’t waterproof), young birds or birds that are sick out in the rain.
2. Why do chickens get sick after rainy weather?
Chickens get sick after rain because it causes wet, muddy conditions. Add warmish temperatures, and you get these problems:
- Mould and fungi breed, producing illness through contaminated feed and irritating your chickens’ sensitive respiratory tract
- Illness-causing bacteria, intestinal worms and coccidiosis-causing coccidia also breed
- Lice, mites and other external parasites spread and multiply more quickly because chickens aren’t dustbathing, and birds are spending more time inside, close together
- Your chooks are exposed to a larger than normal parasite load because they’re indoors and everything is muddy and contaminated with droppings
- The coop and run aren’t being sanitised by sunlight, which in normal weather destroys many types of bacteria and parasite eggs
If you chicken coop/run is not designed properly it will end up with muddy puddles after each rain. Read our article on how to get rid of muddy puddles in the chicken coop.
3. Why is the chicken coop so smelly in the rain?
Wet chicken coop – a special, soupy combination of wet droppings, wet litter, and all the mould, fungi and bacteria that are taking advantage of the damp conditions. Not only is it gross, but a moist or wet coop also isn’t healthy for chickens either:
- Wet, dirty litter is one of the leading causes of bumblefoot.
- Chickens have a sensitive respiratory tract and the fumes produced by fermenting litter cause irritation and respiratory disease.
- Wet litter tends to grow moulds and fungi, which, if consumed or inhaled, can cause illness or death.
- The smell of the litter is an indication that it is full of bacteria and parasites as well as poop.
4. Are puddles and mud in the run bad for chickens?
A wet, muddy chicken coop can last for days after the rain has stopped. However, a muddy run is bad for chickens for three main reasons:
1. Chickens can’t dust bathe, meaning more external parasites.
2. A damp, wet chicken run means ideal conditions for parasites and their eggs.
3. Chickens love to drink from muddy puddles, no matter how much fresh water you provide, and muddy puddles are likely to contain coccidia, bacteria, worm eggs and even botulism. If the chickens are compromised, a little puddle water can be enough to push them over the edge.
There’s not too much you can do about a wet run except encourage sunlight, fill any significant puddles with dirt, gravel or mulch. Hopefully, you have positioned the coop somewhere high and dry.
5. How can I keep my chickens healthy in wet weather?
You can't change the weather but here are six things you can do to avoid the illness and disease in the chicken coop.
1. Let your birds out if possible, and especially if you don’t have enough coop space for your flock
2. Ensure the coop is well-ventilated but protected from cold wind and rain
3. Try to keep the chicken coop clean and dry. Regularly spot clean as well as top up with fresh, dry bedding.
4. Remove any soiled bedding or any with mould or fungal growth
5. Provide a dry dust bath if space permits
6. Clean the coop thoroughly as soon as it is dry, or earlier if the rain is ongoing
The final trick in wet weather is to be on the lookout for the first signs of illness, such as lethargy and diarrhea. Don’t just put the behaviours down to the rain. Act quickly to isolate sick birds, clean the coop, diagnose the problem and treat the illness.
Some bedding materials cope better with wet weather than others. Although straw, hay, cane mulch and grass clippings can be a great bedding in a cozy coop, they only have to be a little damp to begin growing mould and fungi. And inhaling the mould spores is as bad for people as it is for chickens!
Read also: How to stop disease in the chicken coop