Keep Your Chicken Flock Safe During A Severe Storm

Springtime means storm weather for much of the U.S., so stay prepared for severe conditions by preparing your chicken coop and runs.

by Ana Hotaling
PHOTO: jjorstad/Pixabay

As spring storm season gets underway, many parts of the U.S. are preparing for potentially devastating thunderstorms, tornadoes and floods. Should catastrophic storms head your way, you must get yourself and your loved ones to safety.

To have the peace of mind to do this, prepare your chicken coops and runs ahead of time for severe weather. These steps will help get your henhouses set for the storms ahead.

Sandbag the Perimeter

A tight circle of sandbags around the base of your coop will help keep rising waters at bay. This is especially true if you have a ground-based building and not an elevated coop.

Standing them on end and overlapping them works fine. But it’s better to lie them down and build a sandbag wall at least 1 foot high. You can do this for not much money, but it takes some effort.

Ask a quarry or garden center to deliver a truckload of sand. Use empty feed bags as your sandbags. Fill them until they are at three-quarter capacity, then stitch or tie off the ends.

Once the storm season is over, you have a healthy supply of sand for dust baths and chicken runs. The weight of sandbags against the bottom of a coop might also stabilize it against the strong winds that might come.

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Use sandbags to weigh down your movable chicken tractors, too, keeping in mind how much weight the roof of your tractor can bear.

Yes, you can use sand as a coop bedding. Here’s what to do.

Secure the Surroundings

Remove toys, perches, swings and other freestanding objects from the run. Store them in a secure location, such as a garage or barn.

If your run fence is not dug into the ground, take the time to fasten the wire mesh to the T posts with extra brackets and zip ties. Make it as immovable as possible.

If your fence material is chicken wire, remove it, roll it up and store it until the storm has passed. Chicken wire is not made to withstand roaring tornado winds. It can get torn to shreds and also cause problems for you or your neighbors as storm detritus.

Finally, secure the gate to your chicken run so it doesn’t bang itself loose in the storm. Lash it in place with zip ties. A flying door can cause a lot of damage to your coop (or anything it hits).

Stabilize the Interior

If your feeder and waterer are not permanently installed inside your coop, remove these and store them in a safe place inside your garage, barn or home. Your chickens will not starve or dehydrate in the few hours it takes for the storm to blow over. And they’re safest if these items don’t become projectiles.

Also remove any supplement hoppers and anything else that is not bolted down.

Check roosts, and ascertain that they are firmly attached as well. Collect all eggs—believe me, the remnants of flying eggs is not something you’ll want to clean up. If possible, minimize the amount of bedding inside to reduce the poultry dust that gets kicked up by the wind and enters your birds’ respiratory tracts.

Here’s how you can ensure proper coop ventilation without introducing drafts.

Depressurize the Coop

If your coop has windows located opposite each other, open these up approximately 2 to 3 inches and secure the lifted windows in place. Letting air more easily circulate through your coop allows the structure to depressurize during storms and quite possibly stand up to strong winds.

A tightly closed coop with no air circulation can create unequal pressure inside versus outside. This is extremely uncomfortable for your birds. It can also cause the building to blow out in the storm.

If you don’t have windows, ensure that all the vent openings in your coop are open to allow for that critical air movement.

Keep the Doors Open

Most birds seek the comfort of the shelter they know best when a storm is imminent. However, if the pressure inside proves too much for them, or if they simply wish to escape, they need an exit.

Keep the coop door open for them. Anxious, frightened chickens don’t do well in an enclosed space, especially if panic sets in throughout the flock.

Having a point of egress lets them to get outside to find better refuge or simply enjoy the outdoors before we emerge from our own storm shelters.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of Hobby Farms magazine.

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