Climate change means there will be more freak weather events and more sudden stresses. Some events, such as heatwaves are slow enough to give us a chance to be prepared and act. Sadly, a lot of people don’t know what to do when they and their animals suffer. Don’t wait for the heat wave to arrive, there is plenty we can do in preparation.
Here are some easy tips:
- Give your animals self determination in times of stress. Fencing offers security from predators and enables us to manage the animals and plants but fencing can also limit a creature’s choices in difficult times when they really may need to find alternative habit. Leave the gates open in a heat wave, or heavy rain and risk of flood.
- Check there is a range of habitat choices including high ground, marshy ground (you can use a sunken dish or fill a pond with earth, water and plants, fresh-water ponds, water-dishes, grasses, shrubs, trees, shade and patches of full sunlight with fresh air (to help kill fungi). Keep trees, shrubbery, nooks and elevated structures within the enclosure to enable you animals to find refuge during floods or to hiding during a heatwave, fire or predator attack.
- Create shade. In a heatwave there are many things you can do to make life more comfortable for animals in the heat. You can get immediate shade by using hessian sacks which you can get from free from many retailers such as coffee grinding outlets, take-away shops or wholesale fruit and vegetable suppliers.
Use a natural cooling system based on heat transfer which occurs during evaporation of water. You can hang wet sacks on the walls of their enclosure and have the tail end of the sacks soaking in a trough of water. The water will be drawn slowly up the sack and dry off in the heat. This makes the surrounding area much cooler. This works most effectively in dry climates. In the tropics, this system would not be as effective as designing the space to catch breezes and funnel them for best use.
If the enclosure has a metal roof, hose this down and then cover it securely with cardboard, hessian, old carpet or woven matting. Add a ventilation device at the rooftop peak to allow hot air to escape or simply cut a hole in the top of the wall to let the heat out. Domestic farm animals are creatures of habit and will return to a roost when they are exhausted and ill even if it will kill them so check that the roost is ventilated.