We’re not accustomed to hurricanes here in the Northeast part of the United States and neither are our backyard chickens. With the forecast calling for Hurricane Irene to pay us a visit, I took a crash-course in hurricane preparedness while we waited and thought I would share what I learned about preparing for hurricanes with backyard chickens. This is Irene’s projected path as I type this. It’s not looking good for us at 2pm on Sunday.
WHAT IS A HURRICANE AND WHAT ARE THE HAZARDS?
A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, which is a generic term for a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics. The cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms and, in the Northern Hemisphere, a counter-clockwise circulation of winds near the earth’s surface. The main hazards associated with hurricanes are storm surge, high winds, heavy rain, and flooding, as well as tornadoes.
A storm surge is a large dome of water, 50 to 100 miles wide, that sweeps across the coastline near where a hurricane makes landfall. It can be more than 15 feet deep at its peak. The surge of high water topped by waves is devastating. Along the coast, storm surge is the greatest threat to life and property.
Hurricane winds not only damage structures, but the barrage of debris they carry is quite dangerous to anyone caught out in them. Damaging winds begin well before the hurricane eye makes landfall.
Tropical cyclones frequently produce huge amounts of rain, and flooding can be a significant problem, particularly for inland communities. A typical hurricane brings at least 6 to 12 inches of rainfall to the area it crosses.
Tornadoes spawned by land-falling hurricanes can cause enormous destruction. As a hurricane moves towards shore, tornadoes often develop on the fringes of the storm.
excerpts taken from: http://hurricanes.noaa.gov/pdf/hurricanebook.pdf
BASIC PROVISIONS FOR EVERYONE
Regardless of where your chickens ride-out the hurricane, there are basic preparations that can be made in advance to ensure their safety to the extent possible. Stock up on enough feed to last your flock at least one week.
- Buy extra feed in case it is not readily available following the hurricane.
- Store feed at least 2 feet above ground in a dry, flood-proof area.
- Stockpile enough water to last at least one week. Each chicken will require at least one gallon of water for every three days. If water becomes scarce, cut back on feed intake.
- Stock up your chicken first aid kit with basic veterinary supplies: bandages, Vetericyn VF, Vetrap, triple antibiotic ointment, etc.).
IF POSSIBLE, BRING YOUR FLOCK INSIDE
If at all possible, evacuate your chickens to an indoor space such as a garage or basement. Damage to the coop from high winds or a tornado can injure or kill them.
Dog crates or rabbit hutches make great temporary quarters for small flocks. Wooden pallets can be used to create a makeshift pen indoors. A tarp on the floor of a bathroom, covered with pine shavings can serve as a temporary holding area. Even cardboard boxes can be used as temporary crates.
With hatching eggs in an incubator, preparations should always be made for the loss of power. Read more about how to save hatching eggs during a power outage.
PROTECTING YOUR FLOCK OUTSIDE
If it is not possible to bring your chickens inside, there are measures you can take to heighten their safety during a hurricane. Most damage to coops, runs and flocks results from wind and flying objects, therefore, protecting them from these dangers ahead of the hurricane greatly reduces the risks.
- Trim dead wood and weak or overhanging branches from all trees around your coop.
- Coops can be strapped down to ground ties as trailers are to reduce wind damage.
- Inspect your coop and run closely for loose boards, roofing, fencing, etc. Secure any found.
- Remove anything from inside the coop/run to reduce the risk of injury to your chickens by flying objects e.g.: loose boards, empty buckets, seats, decorative items, etc.
- Unplug or turn off all electrical power and water in the coop to prevent damage when power is restored.
- Do not put yourself at risk checking on chickens that remain outside during the storm, but do check on them immediately following the hurricane.
- Securely close all doors and windows. Nail doors and windows shut, if possible. Nail ¾” thick plywood or boards over large windows.
- Brace any weak walls.
- Check that roof rafters are securely fastened to the wall studs.
- Install hurricane straps or clips to help keep your roof attached to the walls.
AFTER THE STORM HAS PASSED
- Check for injured chickens and tend to any that need first-aid.
- Separate any injured birds from the rest of the flock. Chickens will peck at the injuries of other chickens, making things much worse for the injured bird.
- Most animals are accustomed to being outside in bad weather but will be stressed from the hurricane, Adding vitamins and electrolytes to the water for a day or so can help those who have become dehydrated.
- Ensure a clean supply feed and water.
- Do not use feed that has been in contact with flood waters.
- Check your outdoor area to make sure that the area is clear of hazards such as broken glass, downed wires and fallen tree limbs before letting your chickens out of the coop.
- Beware of displaced wildlife (predators). The homes of wild animals get damaged during hurricanes and they will be active after the storm. Shore up any breaches in coop security that may have occurred during the storm.
This is not an exhaustive list of things that you can do to keep your flock safe, but I hope that you find it a good resource for getting started. Please share any additional suggestions that you may have for protecting your backyard chickens during a hurricane.
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