When bad weather is on the horizon, it can feel like a major undertaking to prep your home, yard, and family. However, flock owners have the added responsibility of prepping their chickens–and this is often a bigger stressor because chicken storm prep is such a unique task. However, once you prepare for one storm, the task becomes a lot easier for subsequent storms. This article will give you a clear idea of how to protect your flock efficiently and effectively as bad weather approaches.
How to Prepare for Storms & Foul Weather
When it comes to prepping for the unexpected, it’s best to take a phased approach. This allows you to adjust your actions depending on how weather conditions develop and change.
Step 1: Don’t Wait for a Storm to Begin to Act
While storm prep isn’t on the forefront of most flock owners’ minds from day to day, it’s a good idea to create a chicken first aid kit and have your emergency contacts ready year-round. This will eliminate two tasks during the pre-storm chaos.
What to Have in Your Chicken First Aid Kit
- Epsom Salt for bumblefoot soaks
- A Typical First Aid Kit with gauze, bandages, cotton swabs, & bandage tape
- Corid for coccidia
- Blu-Kote for small wounds & feather pecking
- Styptic Powder to stop bleeding fast
- Gloves for handling injured chickens
- Vet wrap this self-sticking bandage is a lifesaver for wound care
- Super glue for broken nails and as emergency ‘stitches’
- Nail Clippers for broken nails
- Tweezers for nearly endless uses
- Grubblies to collect an injured chicken and keep them distracted during care
Create a List of Emergency Contacts
Having phone numbers written or printed on your fridge or within your first aid kit can come in handy should you lose power and/or your internet connection. On your list include:
- Your vet and an emergency 24/7 vet
- A chicken rescue or kennel where you can relocate your chickens post-storm if needed
- Friends, family, or neighbors that may be able to take your chickens in should you experience property damage
Step 2: Make a Plan in Response to Severity
When it comes to severe weather, a category 4 hurricane versus a tropical storm will require differing degrees of prep. The same is true of a heavy snowfall versus an ice storm. However, as a flock owner, you need to make a decision early on how you will go about protecting your flock. With this in mind, it’s always best to be over-prepared and plan for a more severe storm than anticipated. The last thing you want to do is go out in the midst of a hurricane to gather up and relocate your gals.
So, if bad weather is headed your way, be mindful of the forecast and give yourself plenty of time to prepare.
Step 3: Make the Most of Your Time Pre-Storm
Before a storm, the best you can often do is get ready and get organized. The first thing you want to do is check your feed levels and medicine (if applicable) supplies. Move the feed to a high and dry location.
Give yourself at least 24 hours to implement any precautionary measures regarding yard cleanup and coop prep. Get everything you need in place.
Keep a toolbox or storage box in an easy-to-access location with the supplies you may need to repair the coop or your home. This can include:
- Drill & screws (remember to charge your drill)
- A flashlight (with extra batteries if not solar-powered or battery-free)
- Zip ties
- Bungee cords
- A hammer & nails
- Duct tape
- Work gloves
Step 4: Preparing Where Your Flock Will Be Housed
Next, you want to survey your coop or the area where you’re planning to relocate your flock. If you’re moving your chickens into your house, garage, or basement, you will want to prep the floor first. You can lay down a tarp or paint drop cloth. Add a layer of bedding to minimize the mess of droppings (including having your girls track through poo).
Move or cover anything you do not want to get poo on.
Be sure that your chickens’ feed dish is big enough to get them through several days. The same goes for their water.
Check that if water intrusion occurs, that your girls have roosts and elevated areas where they can keep their feet dry. You also want to elevate their feed if there’s any chance it could get wet.
Assess the windows and doors. A garage is an ideal area to house chickens during a storm since most have an easy-to-clean floor and minimal-to-no-windows. The only exception to this is if the only way into the garage is by an electric-operated garage door. If the area where your chickens are being housed does have windows, be sure they’re boarded up. The last thing you want is for a window to break, spreading glass everywhere and giving your gals an escape route.
For Flocks Staying in Their Coops
Most coops are ideal for chickens during a storm. They’re often elevated and do not have glass windows. As for ventilation, you will want to cover any larger open areas with a board, but keep some ventilation so your girls have fresh air.
In the areas surrounding the coop and within the run, secure or move any branches or other items that could take flight.
Move your girls’ feeder and waterer into the coop.
Step 5: As the Storm Approaches, Gather Your Flock
As the storm nears, gather and secure your flock in the area where they’ll ride out the storm. This is best done while the weather is still calm. If you wait too long, your girls may sense the storm’s arrival and take to hiding on their own. So, earlier is better.
For flocks staying in the coop, double-check that the latch will stay secure throughout the storm.
Most flock owners do not have the luxury of bringing their flocks with them should they be evacuated. However, if you can, you should. A dog crate or several large rubber totes with ventilation can do the trick. Just remember to bring feed, water, and your first aid kit along for the journey.
If you need to decide between evacuating or staying with your flock, opt to evacuate if a mandate is in place.
Step 6: During the Storm–Stay Put
Remember that your safety and the safety of your family are always the top priority. Do not go out during the storm to check on your chickens. This could result in an emergency on your part, including accidentally stumbling across a down power line.
Even if your flock is indoors, leave them be. The new environment and ruckus of the storm are likely stressful for them. Opening and closing their door will just add to this stress.
Step 7: Survey for Injuries and Coop Damages
Once the storm has passed, and you can safely exit your home, you will want to survey the coop or housing area from afar. Notice if there has been any damage to the exterior of the coop where your chickens could have gotten out or gotten wet.
If you have escapees, your first step should be trying to round up your gals through voluntary means. Try calling for them, shaking their snack bag or feed bag. Keep in mind that some chickens will return home days after escaping.
If your chickens don’t return, do not panic and proceed through your yard with caution. Keep in mind that limbs may be weak and there could be exposed power lines. You also do not want to wade through standing water and expose yourself to potential pathogens.
Refresh Food and Water
Water is vital for survival. If your gals are running low, it’s important to refill their waterer right away and then fill up their feed.
Checking for Injury
Your next step is to begin assessing your chickens for any injuries. If a few of your girls escaped and haven’t returned, just move on to surveying your other birds one at a time.
Begin with any chickens with obvious injuries, applying first aid as needed. Keep in mind that your response time and effort can save a chicken’s life. Even in severe cases, acting fast on your end will give your vet the upper hand in treating your chickens.
For chickens with severe injuries, quarantine them right away and try your best to limit their mobility to prevent further injury. If you have someone who can wrap and hold the injured chicken in a towel, great! Otherwise, a larger-sized tote with a lid (don’t forget ventilation) can come in handy for transport.
Dealing with Standing Water & Wet Chickens
If your girls’ run area or coop experienced water intrusion, it’s important to relocate them to a dry area as soon as possible. You do not want them sitting in water that could be a petri dish of bacteria.
You will want to dry them off. This can be done with towels and a heater (keeping them out of the direct line of heat). If you have a smaller backyard flock, you can also use a hairdryer on the lowest heat setting.
After your initial response, you can then take the time to fill in any puddles left and replace any wet bedding after the water recedes.
Repairing Your Coop and Run
Storms tend to shake things up, including wildlife. Your first priority when it comes to repairing your flock’s coop and run is to ensure it’s dry and predator-proof. Begin with recovering the roof if needed then use hardware cloth to repair vulnerable areas such as holes or gaps.
Always err on the side of caution when it comes to moving your girls back into their coop and run. It’s better to take your time than expose them to danger.
Other Post-Storm Chores
After your coop and run have been made safe and secure, you will want to remove any storm debris. Leaving broken branches, broken glass, sheet metal, or other refuse can lead to injury or issues such as bumblefoot.
Stay Prepared. Stay Calm. Stay Safe.
“Wherever you go, no matter the weather, always bring your own sunshine,” Anthony J. D'Angelo
With a bit of preparation and know-how, you and your flock should weather the storm without serious issues. However, if problems do arise, your first aid kit and emergency supplies could be a lifesaver. Just keep in mind that your safety is always the top priority–you can’t help your flock if you’re injured, after all. So, remember to act early pre-storm, stay put as the storm passes, and proceed with caution after the worst of the weather has passed.