Augusta County farm keeps animals cool in summer heat with special shelters

Augusta County farm keeps animals cool in summer heat with special shelters
Laying hens at Polyface Farm staying cool in their mobile shelter. (Source: WHSV)

SWOOPE, Va. (WHSV) — On hot summer days, farmers have certain infrastructure in place to make sure their animals are not getting overheated.

“When it gets hot, they’re seeking comfort just like the rest of us, but it’s kind of hard to air condition a whole farm,” Joel Salatin, owner of Polyface Farm in Swoope said.

Laying hens at the farm hang out in a mobile shelter for shade and to stay cool. It gets moved every three days for fresh pasture.

“We call this the Millennium feather net, and yes, it is named after the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars, but this has 1,000 layers in it,” Salatin said.

The shelter's design allows air to flow through it to keep the chickens cool, and it sheds water to keep them dry.

“So, it’s like a big breezeway, and believe me, you step in there you feel like you’re in an air conditioner,” Salatin said.

Animals like ducks and lambs have a permeable cloth they use for shade, which allows them to get wet and cool off when it rains.

“Every animal kind of has its own nuance of the kind of tolerance it has and the kind of shade it actually likes,” Salatin said.

Making sure farm animals do not overheat is important. Salatin said the chickens are the most fragile when it comes to heat.

"They would be pretty uncomfortable and therefore not productive, [the chickens] wouldn't lay eggs," Salatin said.

The animals can tolerate the heat with the appropriate shelter, but on extremely hot days, farmers will check in on them more often.

“We might go up and just kind of spray some water on their shelter, stir them up,” Salatin said.

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