Will your chickens be safe when the next big disaster hits? Natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, blackouts, wildfires and heat waves are happening all around you and as a pet owner it is your responsibility to ensure their safety.
This article will cover 6 natural disasters and how to prepare your chickens and their chicken coop before the next big one hits.
For all disasters or emergencies, it is important to keep a first aid kit in a “grab and go” 5 gallon waterproof bucket. Your “Grab and Go Bucket” should contain the following supplies:
“GRAB & GO BUCKET”
|Apple Cider Vinegar||SOUR CROP, CUTS|
|Vaseline||FROST BITE, EGG|
|Nail Clippers||NAIL TRIMMING|
|Wing Clippers||CLIP WINGS|
|Vetrap Bandage||INJURIES, CUTS|
|Gauze Pads||INJURIES, CUTS|
|Dish Tub||SOAKING, STORE|
FIRST AID KIT IN
|Liquid Calcium||EGG BINDING|
|Poultry Vet Rx||INJURIES|
|Chicken Feed Bowl||EATING|
Know what disasters are likely to occur where you live and prepare ahead of time for them. By following these disaster guidelines you will be protecting your pet and most definitely increasing their chance of surviving the next big disaster!
How to Keep Chickens Safe During a Disaster
1. MAKE A PLAN
Know ahead of time what you will do in case a disaster strikes. Depending upon what type of disaster, you may have to evacuate. Have a plan in place to take your flock to a distant friend or family members house in case of an emergency.
Check with surrounding shelters to see if they will take chickens. Depending upon what type of disaster you are experiencing, you may have to check out of the disaster area.
Many times there are volunteer organizations and rescue groups that will help out in the event of a disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, tornado, flood or wildfire. Keep these telephone numbers handy and place it in your “grab and go” bucket.
Have enough chicken feed stored in water tight containers to last for a few weeks. When large disasters strike, many grocery and pet stores are wiped out very quickly. Place both a chicken feeder and waterer in your chicken “grab and go” bag or bucket.
Store a large container of water for your chickens. The average adult chicken drinks about 1 pint of water per day, more in hot weather.
If you know ahead of time that a disaster may strike, fill your bathtubs up with water. During large disasters, water is often contaminated with sewer water and cannot be used. Other sources of clean water in your home are your hot water heater, toilet tank (not bowl) and a swimming pool, if you have one.
5. FIRST AID KIT
Have your chickens first aid kit ready in case a hurricane strikes, or any emergency for that matter. Replace any supplies that you use so it is always fully stocked in case of an emergency. Put this in your “grab and go” emergency bucket.
For more information on what you should pack in your chicken first aid kit, read my article What Do I Need in My Chicken First Aid Kit?
6. STORAGE OF SURVIVAL SUPPLIES
Store all of your food, water, bedding as well as your “grab and go” bucket in 5 gallon waterproof buckets. They should be stored at least 2 feet above ground level, just in case of flooding. 5 gallon buckets with handles are perfect so you can “grab and go” with them if necessary.
Have tags or some sort of ID on your chickens, such as leg bands, especially your more valuable birds. Take photos of each of your birds so people can help you find them if you are separated from them.
Many times people are separated from their pets during a disaster. Local stores may have bulletin boards that you can post photos of your lost pets.
In case you have to evacuate, have enough crates to contain and transport your flock. Have a vehicle or trailer that you will be able to transport them in.
Keep a bag of pine shavings in a watertight container. Chickens poop a lot and having pine shavings handy is a good way to absorb the smell and keep things sanitary.
In times of need, you can also use diapers for your chickens.
Keep apple cider vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, triple antibiotic, vetericyn and epsom salt in your first aid kit for any cuts or scrapes.
Some disasters cause power outages. Have a backup plan in place just in case you are without power for awhile. In large disasters, you may be without power for a few weeks. Automatic chicken doors, chicken water heaters and incubators will not work.
Consider using a generator if you have a batch of eggs incubating and using a small solar panel to open and close your coop door. Or you can just open and close it the old fashioned way!
11. SHELTERING IN PLACE
If you find that you need to shelter in place and only have a small flock of chickens, consider bringing them indoors during the potential hurricane, tornado or tsunami.
Set up large dog crates in your garage or laundry room with bedding, food and water to hunker down during the storm.
12. KEEP INFORMED
Listen to local emergency alerts on your battery operated emergency radio so you know if you need to evacuate or if the disaster has passed.
For more information as to what you can do during a disaster with your livestock, read an article published by FEMA, Animals in Disasters.
How to Prepare a Chicken Coop for a Disaster
Hurricanes are tropical cyclones and depending upon how high of winds, they are called different things. They can cause very high winds, torrential downpours that lead to flooding as well as power outages.
|TROPICAL STORM||39-73 MPH|
|CATEGORY 1 HURRICANE||74-95 MPH|
|CATEGORY 2 HURRICANE||96-110 MPH|
|CATEGORY 3 HURRICANE||111-129 MPH|
|CATEGORY 4 HURRICANE||130-156 MPH|
|CATEGORY 5 HURRICANE||157 MPH-OR HIGHER|
1. Check to make sure that your chicken coop roof is secure.
2. Use tie downs to secure your chicken coop. These are also used to secure mobile homes.
3. Take all chicken coop tools or anything else that you usually leave inside your chicken coop or run and place them in a shed. This includes rakes, shovels, pitchforks, ladders, feed containers, etc. You do not want to leave anything inside the coop that can fly around during high winds.
4. If chickens are inside of the coop during a hurricane, secure all windows and open walls with plywood.
5. If chickens will not be in the chicken coop during a hurricane, open any coop windows.
6. If you have an area that is enclosed that you can lock your chickens up in, such as a basement or garage, this is recommended.
7. In case of flooding in the chicken coop, make sure there is sufficient roosting bars for the whole flock.
8. In case of flooding, add pallets to your coop floor. This way your chickens will not have to walk in muddy water, predisposing them to “bumblefoot.”
9. To prevent electrical fires, shut off all power to your home and chicken coop.
10. If a hurricane is going to occur, shut off your gas to your home and chicken coop.
If you live in an area that is predisposed to earthquakes and you own chickens, it is important to take all possible precautions not only for yourself, but your flock too!
Unfortunately, with earthquakes, we are not given any warning. So it is important to be prepared before one strikes!
Preparing Your Chicken Coop for an Earthquake
1. Secure any tools that may be hanging in your coop. This includes rakes, shovels, pitchforks, etc. You do not want anything falling on top of your chickens. Large earthquakes can knock everything that isn’t secured off of your walls.
2. Secure any decorations on your chicken coop walls. Chickens are small and even a little sign or knick knack on the wall that hits them can kill them.
3. Make sure that your chicken coop structure can withstand heavy shaking. If you need to, add some support brackets to the walls and rafters.
4. If an earthquake occurs, be prepared to shut off the gas. Large earthquakes can cause gas leaks which can cause a fire.
5. Large earthquakes can also cause power outages. Be prepared to have to open and close your automatic chicken door on your own. If an earthquake happens in the middle of the night and the power goes out, your chickens will have to be let out in the morning.
6. After a very large earthquake, you may also be without running water for several weeks. Have enough water stored for your chickens to last a couple weeks. The average adult hen drinks anywhere between 1-2 liters of water a day, depending upon the weather.
Other sources of water in your home include a hot water heater, toilet tank and a swimming pool.
If you live in an area where tornadoes are prevalent, get prepared before one occurs. During a tornado you can experience very high winds, up to 300 MPH. This is high enough to lift and throw a car and flatten your home or chicken coop!
Preparing Your Chicken Coop for a Tornado
1.Make sure roof, rafters and walls are secure.
2. Remove all tools from the chicken coop and anything else that is not securely packed away.
3. Remove all knick knacks off of the walls. These can easily fly off the wall and harm your chickens during high winds.
4. Be prepared to be without electricity after a tornado. If you have an automatic chicken door, you will have to open and close the door yourself.
5. If you smell gas after a tornado, be prepared to shut your gas off. Turn the valve 90° clockwise to shut off your gas.
6. If you know a tornado is going to pass by your home, try to relocate your flock. Check area shelters for availability.
7. Consider bringing your flock into your basement or garage during if a tornado is coming.
8. If you are not going to keep your chickens in the coop during a tornado, open windows in the coop.
9. Use mobile home tie downs to secure your chicken coop to the ground.
10. If flooding is expected, place sandbags around the perimeter of the coop.
11. Add more high roosting bars for your flock so they all have a safe place to retreat to in case of flooding.
12. Place pallets on the coop floor in case of flooding so chickens will not have to walk in muddy water.
Many times blackouts also occur at the same time as a hurricane, earthquake, tornado, wildfire or heat wave.
Preparing Your Chicken Coop for a Blackout
1.Unplug all electric devices that your chicken coop uses. This will stop the devices from being damaged from a power surge when the power is restored.
2. If the power goes out in the night when your flock is already locked up in the coop, automatic chicken doors will not open in the morning. Be prepared to open and close your coop door for your chickens until the power is restored.
3. Consider installing a solar panel that can open and close your automatic chicken doors during a power outage.
4. If you have a heater to keep your chicken waterers from freezing, these will not work. You will need to replace the water more frequently to stop it from freezing.
5. Install solar lighting on the pathway to your chicken coop. You can get these at your local dollar store!
6. Keep a flashlight handy by your chicken coop.
7. Fully feathered chickens do not need additional heating and will do just fine without a heater. They snuggle up with each other and keep each other warm.
8. If you have young chicks that still on not fully feathered, bring them indoors to keep them warm. Use blankets to wrap the brooder. Light a fire in your fireplace and bring it close to the fireplace to keep warm.
Due to global warming, wildfires are happening more and more frequently. Not only are the flames from a wildfire dangerous to your chickens, but the smell of smoke, soot, ashes and toxic particles are too.
Smoke, soot, ashes and toxic particles can travel hundreds of miles and can be harmful for chickens to breathe.
Signs of Harmful Smoke Exposure in Chickens
- breathing with mouth open
- nasal discharge
- eye discharge
- difficulty breathing
- lack of appetite
Preparing Your Chicken Coop for a Wildfire
1. Clear all unnecessary debris and weeds 30′-100′ around the perimeter of your chicken coop. The larger, the better.
2. Don’t plant trees or shrubs that are extremely flammable close to your chicken coop. Examples of shrubbery or trees that can easily catch fire are pine trees and juniper shrubs.
3. Cut any dead branches and rake up any leaves surrounding your chicken coop. This includes on the roof of your chicken coop too. Flames and embers from wildfires can travel for miles and easily catch dry leaves, twigs or dead branches on fire.
4. If your chicken coop has gutters, routinely clean them to make sure they are not filled with dry leaves or twigs.
5. Make sure that you have a hose that will reach around the entire perimeter of your chicken coop, just in case you need to extinguish a fire.
6. Keep fire fighting tools close by. These include a fire extinguisher, hose, bucket, rake, shovel, axe and ladder.
7. Wet the roof of your chicken coop, just in case any embers land on the roof.
8. Keep any surrounding grass cut to no longer than 4″.
9. Don’t store any wood close to your chicken coop. Keep it at least 30′ away.
10. Turn off the gas to your home and chicken coop to prevent fueling the fire. Turn the handle clockwise 90°.
Have an evacuation plan in order. Consider bringing your flock to a location where they will not be breathing in harmful smoke or particles.
If you do not have to evacuate and are able to, bring your flock into your garage where the exposure to smoke is not as high.
6. HEAT WAVE
Preparing your chicken coop for a heat wave includes ensuring that your chickens are provided with enough shade, ventilation and given fresh, cool water throughout the day.
Chickens do not have the ability to cool themselves down by sweating. They don’t sweat.
Signs Your Chicken is HOT
- breathing with mouth open
- wings away from body
- decreased appetite
Preparing Your Chicken Coop for a Heat Wave
1. During times of high heat, an adult chicken can drink as much as 2 liters of water, 8 cups, per day. Make sure that you are offering enough cool water throughout the day. A chicken should have access to water at all times during the day.
2. Make more frequent checks on your flock during heat waves to replenish their water.
3. Bring them cool treats such as watermelon and adding ice blocks to their water several times a day.
4. Mist the coop to cool the ground.
5. If necessary, you may even consider installing a coop fan and mister for your flock.
6. Make sure that your chicken coop has adequate ventilation. It helps to lower the temperature inside and is also healthier for your chickens. It wouldn’t be pleasant “cooped up” all night breathing the ammonia from chicken manure.
7. Install additional tarps on your coop or chicken run during times of extreme heat so your chickens have more shelter from the hot sun.
For more information on how to cool chickens during extreme heat, read my article 17 Tips – How to Keep Chickens Cool in Extreme Heat.
Conclusion: How to Keep Chickens Safe During a Disaster
Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, blackouts, wildfires and heat waves are happening with an increased frequency all around us. Know what disaster is likely to occur where you live and prepare ahead of time for it. This includes preparing your pets and their enclosures too.
- Make a plan what you will do with your chickens should a natural disaster occur.
- Gather all of the essential supplies necessary to help your flock survive.
- Make whatever modifications to your chicken coop that you need to in order to ensure your flocks safety.
- Keep informed by listening to your local news or radio broadcasts so you know if you need to evacuate or if the storm/disaster has passed.
If you own chickens, it is your responsibility to make sure they are safe. What will you do to protect your chickens and coop before the next big disaster?