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How to Keep Chickens Cool in Extreme Summer Heat
A sudden heat wave or particularly hot summer can be deadly for your chicken flock. Chickens don’t like weather over ninety degrees and will start to become overheated above when the temperature is above eighty-five. This is because chickens don’t sweat! They have no sweat glands to help them cool off, and instead have to rely on other, less effective methods. When temperatures hit the high 80s they may pant or breathe rapidly as well as hold their wings out from their body a bit to increase airflow between their feathers. While some breeds of chickens are better suited to warm weather, they can still struggle in heat extremes. This makes it important that you get to know your chicken breeds. Breeds such as Orpingtons, Light Sussex, Faverolles, and Australorps are known for being prone to heat exhaustion. In addition, birds that are a bit overweight and young chicks will also struggle more. Worse, humidity can make the whole situation even more difficult.
Keeping Chickens Cool in Summer
Shade Keeps Chickens Cool
Providing ample shade for your chickens is one of the number one ways to keep your birds cool and the biggest suggestion we have for you. Providing shade is even an important part of a couple of the other suggestions. There are lots of ways to add shade including shade cloth and planting a couple of trees for your birds to congregate under.
We are planning to build a chicken moat for our ‘household’ flock and to use trees as the ‘fence posts’ for the fencing. Plenty of shade with the added benefit of deterring hawks and other airborne predators.
It’s even a good idea to create dust baths that are in the shade. This will encourage your chickens to head for the cool, shady spots rather than bathe in the sun. Your chickens will enjoy being able to snuggle down into the even cooler dirt.
Hydration is Important
Be sure that you provide access to cool, fresh water. When temperatures rise, you’ll want to increase the number of waterers available to your birds. You may also want to include some electrolyte solution to balance the loss of chemicals from the increased hydration. Plus, you can add ice, or frozen fruit and veggies to encourage them not only to drink more but also to eat! Most livestock, poultry included, will stop or slow down eating when they are too hot, which means they’re not getting enough nutrition.
Create Cool Treats
Providing cold and water-heavy treats like watermelon, frozen peas, and frozen strawberries is a great way to cool down your flock. You can even consider putting their feed in the freezer and feeding it to them cold. Cold food in the crop will keep them cooler from the inside. However, if you notice they are still eating less than they should increase the protein content of their food. Another great idea is to make frozen treat blocks and keep them on hand in your freezer for hot days.
Frozen treat blocks are simple to make. Take a plastic container that will fit in your freezer and add fruit, vegetables, and a little bit of chicken feed or chicken treats. Pour water on top and freeze. Once it’s a solid block set it out in the coop. Your chickens will peck, eat, and drink the block and the food. It works as a great, fun way for your chickens to cool down.
Ventilation will Keep Chickens Cool in Summer
Good airflow will keep your chickens cooler and it’s just as important to have during hot summer nights when they’re locked up in their coop as during the day. Make sure your chickens aren’t overcrowded. Keep your coop well ventilated either with open, screened windows or the addition of a fan to keep your chickens cool.
In addition, do not use the deep litter method during the hot times of the year. Keeping chickens warm in the winter is a big part of the reason deep litter is used. However, in the summer this makes the coop too hot and can quickly become deadly. Deep litter is not a way to keep chickens cool during the summer.
Try Alternative Watering
In addition to providing more drinkable water, you can add water in other ways to keep chickens cool in extreme heat. If your chickens like to play in the water, set up a little pool for them to wade in. You can use misters or even sprinklers to provide more ambient moisture in the air. A good breeze or a fan will help keep them much cooler.
If you see a chicken that is obviously in distress, give them a quick dunk in a bucket. You only want to go as high as their shoulders and only for a minute. Make sure the water is room temperature – DO NOT use cold water. Cold water will put them into shock. Giving them about a minute in room temperature water will cool them back down. Plus the evaporating moisture will help to keep them cool longer.
Creating alternative ways to get cool will also keep chickens cool in extreme heat. One of the best ways to do this is to add ice packs or frozen water bottles to their coop and yard for them to lean up against. They can gather around these items and cool down in the heat of the day.
Learn the Signs of Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke in Chickens
Knowing the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion can help you save your chickens from dying of heat stroke. Keep an eye out for any of the following symptoms. If you see them, work quickly to immediately cool your chickens down.
- Panting and rapid breathing
- Pale comb and wattles
- Wings that are outstretched and feathers that are erect
- Reduced or stopped eating and drinking
- Decreased egg production
- Drooping, lack of activity, laying around, or general lethargy
If your chicken reaches the stage of seizures and convulsions then they are suffering fully from heat stroke and will most likely not survive.