Hi Readers! Your friendly know-it-all chicken-in-charge here! This time, I’m looking to y’all for help in answering a question I received via email. Erik Fain writes to us from Southern Louisiana seeking “wisdom in the counsel of many.” So, let us contribute to finding a solution to this problem.
Read his email below and use the comment box to share your ideas for Erik’s rabbits.
I’m looking for ideas for keeping the rabbits on my “urban homestead” cool and reaching out to my friends with knowledge in medicine, agriculture, engineering, science and common sense. They are very sensitive to heat and heat stroke. South Louisiana is a pretty hot climate for rabbits to begin with, but we are having very high temperatures even for our area, especially for this time of year. Another person I know who has a much larger operation said it is about all she can do to keep her rabbits alive right now.
It’s only the beginning of June and my rabbits are showing signs of being uncomfortably hot, so I’m trying to think of anything I can do. My preferred “silver bullet” would be some way to generally lower the temperature in the cage area.
Here is my set up:
• They are under a metal roof under a pecan tree. The metal above them only gets direct sunlight for a brief period in early morning.
• The area is basically open on all four sides except that on the east side there is a chicken house about three feet away. The area toward the East beyond the chicken house is a garden (open area). To the north, south and west there are trees in a sort of savannah (not so thick there is no air flow, but for sure the trees reduce some breezes).
• I have two tiers of cages (with corrugated plastic at a steep angle in between so waste from top does not fall on the ones below).
• I have things set up where there is “bedding” below the cages and chickens scratch around below mixing the manure/urine in with the bedding to prevent ammonia buildup (with chicken wire affixed such that the chickens can’t roost and poop on the cages).
• The whole operation is on a vacant lot. I have municipal water but not gas or electricity.
Here is what I am currently doing/planning to do:
• Given them water that is partially frozen so the water they drink is good and cold.
• If things get bad, I’ll put a 2-liter bottle of frozen water in each cage.
• I give them feed with low protein content to help keep body temperature lowered.
• I would expect the rabbits on the top tier to be hotter (because they are closer to the metal roof), but it is the rabbits on the bottom that show signs of being hot. I think this must have to do with air flow, but I suppose the heat from composting manure below their cage could be a factor.
• It appears that sunlight is blocked well enough and any kind of extra shading I could provide would be more likely to block air flow than lower the temperature.
• The weather in our area is very breezy these days, so that’s a plus.
• My solution has to take into account that at some point in the year the weather won’t be hot (though I don’t think I’ll have too many problems with the weather being too cold in our area.
Some thoughts I’ve had
• I have heard of people wetting the rabbits or wetting their ears. I don’t know if this is safe.
• I’m wondering is some sort of water feature (like a kiddie pool, buckets of water, etc) nearby would help. If rabbits sweated to cool, it would seem to have a negative “heat index” factor, but since they don’t I wonder if the evaporation would help.
• I wonder if some sort of misting device might have an air-conditioner effect. Not sure how to best produce an appropriate mist.
Any thoughts would be appreciated.