Managing Summer Heat for Chickens
When we think of summer, we think of vacations, beaches and fun. It can be all that, but it can also be HOT, HOT, HOT. Sometimes, it gets too hot.
Heat stress isn’t just uncomfortable, it can be dangerous and life-threatening to you and your animals. When you’re hot, you sweat, crave a cool glass of water, and you probably seek shelter in the shade or a nicely air-conditioned building.
But what about your chickens? Unless you speak fluent chicken, how will you tell if your chickens are hot?
Signs of Heat Stress in Chickens
When chickens are hot and under heat stress, they engage in a number of behaviors to help them cool down:
- They pant with open beaks.
- They hold their wings away from their body to release trapped heat and to allow air flow.
- They lounge in a shaded area and roam around less.
- They don’t eat as much
- They appear very lethargic and lay down, not moving. If you have a chicken showing these signs, please skip to see the Emergency Measures for a Chicken Suffering from Heat Stroke and follow those steps immediately!
What To Do To Keep Them Cool
There are many simple ways in which you can make the heat more bearable for your feather kids. Depending on where you live, you may not need to employ more than one or two ways to help keep your chickens cool. However, in certain parts of the country, temperatures can spike dangerously high, and you’ll want to make sure you do a few eggstra things to help keep your chickens safe.
Make sure that you provide ample shade for your chickens in their favorite hangout areas. If they don’t have natural shade, you can hang a shade cloth over their coop, run, or wherever they prefer to hang out. You can use a gardening shade cloth, tarp, old curtains or sheets, or even plant some trees to provide shade.
If you don’t have a physical structure, you can erect a beach umbrella, or attach a shade cloth to garden stakes using spring clamps.
Ventilate the Coop
Make sure there is plenty of air flow and ventilation in the coop. Prop doors and windows open. You may even want to prop open the nest box doors.
While ventilation is very important, you also need to keep predator safety in mind. You might need to use a metal grate to block the windows or doors, if you didn’t have one built in already.
Hose down the coop roof to cool it down, and wet the perimeter of the coop and run. This will aid in lowering the overall ambient temperature.
Also, wet the ground in any areas they like to hang out during the day. On a particularly hot day when temperatures are well over 90˚F to 100˚F, water things down as often as you can.
Don’t forget to water their favorite dust-bathing areas. Chickens not only dust bathe to keep their skin and feathers clean, they also do it to help regulate their body temperatures. By providing them dampened and cooled dirt to dust bathe in, they can keep themselves cool when they kick the wet dirt into their skin.
Provide the chickens with extra sources of drinking water, including tubs they can step in to keep cool as needed.
Ice, Ice, Baby
One of the easiest tricks to get your chickens to hydrate on a hot day is to sprinkle protein-rich snacks like Grubblies into ice cold water. While they bob for their snacks and get extra protein, they’ll gobble up plenty of water along the way. Fun fact... this works well with dogs and cats too!
Provide your chickens with healthy ice snacks too. You can try freezing their feed or freezing fruits like watermelon, grapes, apples, cucumbers, salad greens, tomatoes, and other veggie scraps.
You can also chop up the veggies and fruit scraps, and add a few Grubblies, and make little ice cube snacks. Look out for our frozen snack recipes!.
You can also freeze large bottles of water and put it in their hangout areas to help keep the ambient temperatures cool.
If the eggstra shade and cool snacks aren’t enough, particularly if you live in areas where summers can get really hot, you should consider getting misters.
Misters can cool the ambient temperature by quite a bit, and even as much as 20 to 30 degrees!
Your local home improvement store sells free-standing misters that can attach to a hose. You can also buy misting system kits that you can mount in their run or hangout area. If you’re particularly handy, you can DIY your own misting system.
If you are DIYing, make sure you find fine-spray nozzles that spray. Usually they are rated with something like “0.5 GPH” or “1 GPH.” GPH = gallons per hour. The rating tells you how much water is sprayed out of the nozzle per hour. You’ll want to choose one that sprays a very fine mist and uses as little water as possible. The idea is to mist, not to irrigate.
If you’re able to run electricity to your yard, you can set up a fan for the chickens. However, please take care to avoid any potential electrical or fire dangers.
If you’ve reached this point in the articles, it’s a good indication of how much you love your chickens like family. And chances are, you’ll enjoy this story from a chicken mom whose chickens wouldn’t eat… until this.
Related: 10 Signs of Chickens in Heat Stress