Summer time may be exciting for humans, but for your chickens it could be deadly. Chickens can withstand the cold much easier than they can handle extreme heat.
When temperatures get into the 80s, you should keep an eye on your flock and begin to use the tips below to not only make them more comfortable but to keep heat stroke away.
When temperatures approach 90 degrees, egg production will slow down and your girls will start to show signs of distress. Signs of heat stress include “panting” or keeping their beaks open, pale comb or wattles, or laying on the ground with wings spread out.
When temperatures exceed 100 degrees, your chicken’s life could be in serious danger. Large bodied, heavy breeds like Orpingtons, Wyandottes and Australorps are especially at risk in high heat. If you see your bird is in distress and lethargic or unresponsive, immediately bring her into the shade or into your air conditioned home. Stand or sit her in pan of cool water, and put a cool, wet, washcloth on her combs/wattles. Chickens don’t sweat, they regulate much of their body temperature through heat exchange in their combs, wattles, and their legs. Offer you heat distressed chicken some cold water with electrolytes mixed in. If she is in severe distress & disoriented, call your vet immediately.
How can you keep your chickens comfortable this summer? Check out my Top 7 Tips to Keep your Chickens Cool in Summer!
#1 – Water, water and more water! Keeping your birds properly hydrated is the number 1 way to prevent heat stress & heat stroke. Change out their water at least daily (multiple times a day in super hot weather). Try adding some ice cubes to the water dish to help keep it cooler longer. Keep the water in the shade and consider adding additional water bowls so that fresh water is never far from reach for them. Mint can also help lower body temperature, so adding some fresh, crushed mint leaves to your chicken’s water is a great idea!
#2 – Hose down the run & coop roof – As the water evaporates, it evaporates the surface’s heat along with it (at least temporarily). This is a great way to make a noticeable and immediate difference in the air temperature for your flock. You can also get a mister to run in your chicken’s favorite daytime hangout spot. Let it run for a half hour or so once or twice a day and you will be surprised by how much the constant stream of cool mist can help to lower the temperature.
#3 – Pool Party! While you have the hose out, create some puddles or fill some small dishes or a kiddie pool for your chickens to stand in. Most chickens do not like to swim or get wet, but they will welcome a chance to cool off in the water.
#4 – Frozen Water Bottles – Those cozy nest boxes filled with hay can get really warm & stuffy in the summer. Try putting a few frozen water bottle in the nest boxes to cool things down.
#5 – Provide Shade – Give your chickens somewhere they can escape the glare of the sun. My chicken’s favorite hangout is in the huge rhododendron bush in my backyard. It gives them somewhere to roost, to hide from predators and shade from the sun. If you have no natural shade, drape a light colored painter’s drop cloth over the run. Consider planting some large bushes or tall ornamental grasses. Give them a nice sandy spot in the shade where they can do their dust bathing.
#6 – Frozen treats – Just like you appreciate an ice cream cone on a hot summer’s day, your chickens would love a frozen treat too. Lightly frozen watermelon is always a hit, but you can freeze most berries or melons and they will love it! Frozen fruit treats are perfect, but heavy treats like corn & scratch should be avoided in hot weather as the extended digestion time can raise body temperature (making it a great treat for winter!)
#7 – Make sure you have proper ventilation in the coop – Chickens produce a lot of moisture when they breath, a lot of ammonia in their poop, and their fat, fluffy bodies produce a lot of body heat. The combination can make the coop so humid and so hot, it could kill your flock. A general rule of thumb is to have 1 square foot of ventilation per 10 square feet of floor space. For example, a 40 square foot coop should have at least 4 square feet of ventilation between windows and vents. If you live in a very hot region, having even more than that is recommended. For more tips on designing your coop, click here.
During the day when the hens are out, try to cool down the coop as much as possible by opening all the doors. If you have really warm summers, consider adding a barn fan to your coop to keep the air moving. Make sure that all windows & vents are covered in hardware cloth so predators can’t get in!