Pasture-raising in the Summertime: No sweatin’ chickens!
As the rest of the U.S. heats up, in the Southern States it’s been steamy for about a month already. At our farms, we make sure to keep our hens hydrated while giving them plenty of access to shade. Pasture-raising is still a very successful and viable method of farming, even in the heat. However, even when monitored very closely, heat stress can disrupt a chicken’s laying process and affect the overall quality of their eggs. High temperatures will put additional stress on the body, which also directly affects interior egg quality. As the days get hotter, it becomes highly important to monitor water availability, feed intake, and duration of eggs exposed to high temperatures.
In order to maintain a body temperature of about 106.5 degrees, the chicken must increase its rate of breathing (panting) to cool itself down. Heavy panting increases CO2 in the blood, which causes the pH of the blood to become alkaline. This disturbance in acid-base balance can reduce the availability of calcium. Calcium intake reduction is not only due to pH disturbance, but also to reduced feed consumption. (The less heat needed to maintain body temperature, the less feed the chicken will eat). Reduced feed consumption will then directly influence the metabolism of a chicken. This heat stress can cause more soft shelled and cracked eggs in the summer. A little water in the feed becomes a treat for the ladies and they love it! Along with the reasons listed above, and the obvious threat of dehydration, it is crucial to have adequate amounts of COOL water supplied to laying hens at all times! (And any other
animal spending lots of time outside, for that matter). The duration of eggs left in the summer heat should also be monitored at all times, as this diminishes the egg quality. Lastly, a major indication of the overall interior quality of an egg is the albumen (egg white). A thinning or watery albumen is a sign of quality loss. When cracked on a plate, the yolk should be in a central position surrounded by a thick albumen. Quality control is very important to us, and we’d like to give our customers all of the information they need to recognize quality when they see it.
We know you will enjoy our delicious and nutritious Summer eggs! Please keep in mind that we are more than happy to give consumers insight into our daily farm operations. Tell us, what about pastured, organic hens is a mystery to you?