Tucson chicken owners say some birds dying in record breaking heat

Published: Jun. 20, 2017 at 11:14 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 11:20 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - As Tucson marks the hottest day for the Old Pueblo in 23 years and just missing the all-time high, local chicken owners are going the extra mile to keep their homes cool after some claim they've lost several of their chickens because of the record-breaking heat.

"This is my first summer with chickens and I don't want them to die," said Cerise Wilson, owner of three chickens and member of the Tucson CLUCKS, a Facebook group with more than 3,000 members created for Tucson and Pima County chicken keepers.

The National Weather Service confirmed the temperature measured at the Tucson International Airport hit 116 degrees Tuesday afternoon, June 20.

"Last year, I remember like early June it was pretty hot but I don't think it was this hot," said Gabriel Sleighter, a full-time student who owns several chickens along with quail and ducks. "This is like ... there's just no relief."

Sleighter said one of his chickens died Monday, June 19.

"I couldn't believe that she died because of a hot day," Sleighter said. "I thought a cat or a snake or a bird or anything else would've been it, but it's just the hot weather."

Both Sleighter and Wilson have invested in installing extra shade around their homes to protect their animals. Wilson installed a mister and keeps frozen jugs of water around, plus, she serves her animals frozen food as well.

"Just because they're livestock, it doesn't mean you can forget them," Wilson said. "They can die in the heat just like we can."

Meanwhile, Sarah Polzin, a Tucson resident who began looking after chickens with her first flock 5 years ago, said she's had quite the experience when it comes to dealing with chickens and the heat.

"It was a 103° feels like 108° day," said Polzin in an email. "Most days we would freeze water bottles and take them out to the chickens but on this day we were busy and didn't. Two chickens died in the afternoon and we were faced with the knowledge that their lives are in our hands and that we weren't willing to lose anymore to our negligence and ignorance."

Now, Polzin looks after "17 ladies"  and said with the recent extreme heat, she and her family had to step up their routine.

"First of all, we bought six blocks so that more girls can have turns at a time," said Polzin, who is also a member of the Real Food In Tucson group. "Then we set up a fan to oscillate across the top of the ice bath creating an evaporative cooling effect. We also provided them with multiple hydrating treats as well as hosing down the yard for them to cool themselves in the cool dirt."

Polzin said all her chickens are surviving the heat and is working to make sure other chicken keepers know what to do. Tucson is expected to see triple digit weather until Sunday, June 25.

For more ways to look after chickens in the heat, CLICK HERE.

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