Just as we humans take extra steps when the heat hits so too do our pasture raised animals. We do aid the animals in their quest for coolness, but they are capable on their own. It is quite magnificent to watch each animal type use their natural surroundings to their cooling advantage. Though we would rather not have the misery of high temperatures, witnessing every act of animal intuition is some how peaceful and harmonious.
Pasture Raised Poultry
Layers – The laying hens cool themselves in the shade and by digging holes in which to lie. Their wings spread out and they wiggle their bodies into the holes while miniature dust clouds ascend into the air. Double bonus: the dirt from this process protects them naturally from mites and smaller pest. We play our part by making sure there is a nice shade tree for them and that water is readily available.
Meat Chickens – One of the best things we can do for meat chickens in the south is to not raise them in the summer. When it is necessary to do so, we stock less birds in each moveable shelter. We also plan our moves of the shelters to have them in the shade when they are the oldest and least able to cool themselves. Unlike the hens, they do not dig holes to lie in when they are at their largest. Water is more vital to these animals when it is hot than any others we have. When the heat is really on we journey to the land on which they are raised three times a day to make sure water is plentiful for them.
Turkeys – Our baby turkeys, poults, arrive in the heat of late July, but that is perfect for these not yet feathered little ones. They prefer temps in the 90’s and have plenty of room to spread out in their brooder room, which keeps them safe from drafts, predators, and rain. When the summer temps just start to wane the poults are feathered and old enough to head out on pasture to enjoy the first cooler nights of the looming fall. During the day we provide them with ample shade from tarps to help fight of that pesky North Carolina summer that often fails to give way until the second “ber” month.
Pasture Raised Pork
The pigs are without a doubt the easiest in the sweltering heat because we give them a silvopasture in which to reside. This wooded pastureland is their natural habitat and they love to sleep in the shade of the large trees. Late in the afternoon when the sun is kissing the horizon the pigs will come up to eat and we playfully spray them with water and create a mini wallow for them. They are fond of the shower and enamored with the resulting mud.
Our rabbits have a movable shelter that is almost completely covered by lightweight material to provide total shade when it gets hot. The heat of the day will find these guys spread out with their ears up to help them thermoregulate (read more about their amazing ears here). They are naturally the most active at predawn and dusk, thus, laying around during the heat of the day is just as nature planned. When the long hot days of summer arrive the rabbits move to a place they are in the shade of trees 100% of the time.
In the heat or in the cold, we seek to keep our pasture raised animals safe while also allowing them to use their natural abilities which makes them happy. To us, humanly raised animals are not kept in temperature -controlled buildings. They are kept in nature and given the opportunity to be the best hole digging chicken, mud wallowing pig, or taking it easy rabbit they can be.