A hen keeper for more than 20 years with a 300 strong flock on her Surrey / Hampshire smallholding, Suzie Baldwin offers her advice and June tips for keeping chickens:
With increased daylight, all our jobs around the smallholding are getting done. Unfortunately, however, the foxes are rather active so checks on the electric fencing and wire runs are being done regularly. Two of my Buff Orpington hens are sporting saddles to protect them from the cockerel's 'treading', as he's very amorous in June. Even though we trim his spurs, they can damage the girls' backs.
Providing shelter for chickens in summer is important because they can overheat and become dehydrated quickly. As a result, they may go into a moult and then lay badly for the rest of their lives – they can even die. Signs of dehydration include panting, pale combs or wattles, wings spread away from the body, diarrhoea and lethargy, move your run to a shaded part of the garden or provide protection with a parasol or a cloth awning. Keep a supply of fresh water available and place frozen water bottles for them to sit on. If they do show signs of dehydration, add rehydration salts (from the chemist) to drinkers for the first half of the day, then replace in the afternoon with fresh water. Chickens tend to eat less when the weather is hot, but adding one tea spoon of baking soda to 4-5 litres of water will aid absorption of calcium, helping to maintain the strength of eggshells.