How to keep chickens happy in hot weather seems to be a common question from chicken owners all over the world. Extreme heat and dehydration is one of the biggest killers when it comes to chickens. They seem to have their own way of adapting to the warmer weather, but sometimes it’s not enough. Most breeds of chickens prefer a mild climate, over a really hot or cold one.
Too much heat can cause major problems for your chickens including heat stroke and heat stress. A chicken’s body temperature is usually between 103° and 107° Fahrenheit, so their ideal temperature to be kept in should be about 15 degrees lower than that.
Besides heat stroke and additional stress, high temperatures can also cause other problems. Your chickens may suffer from a decrease in appetite and decide not to come out much to eat, or may just lack the overall energy required to get up and move around.
Keep in mind that chickens do not have sweat glands, so they cannot sweat to keep their body temperature in check. In order to regulate their temperature they pant, kind of like dogs. Panting in a chicken, however, is not a good sign. This indicates that the chicken is too hot and needs to be cooled off quickly. Other ways that you can tell your chickens are getting to hot is if they are spreading their wings out a lot or digging a hole to sit in, as the dirt is cool.
Once you see your chickens exhibit any of these signs, it’s crucial that you intervene and begin finding out how to keep your chickens happy in the hot weather as soon as possible. We’ve put together a list of things that should help your flock make it through a heat wave with no problem.
1. Provide Plenty Of Shade
With hot weather comes an unrelenting sun. For your chickens to have a chance to make it through the overbearing heat, they have to have a way to escape it. Providing them with a way to get some shade will do a lot of good for them.
Bushes, tall plants, and trees are good for providing natural shade throughout the day. If you don’t have trees or bushes for them to rest under, you will need to build a structure that’ll do the trick.
Depending on how much you want to invest in the purchase and task, you may want to just order an easy-to-setup tent online, or you might be able to set up a few old tables around your yard. There should be numerous ways to create some shade for your chickens, just use your imagination.
2. Water, Water Everywhere
We all know how important water is to keep us hydrated, but this is referring to having water available for the chickens to jump and play in. Set up an area with a sprinkler and a little kiddie pool full of water for them to wade in. It’s crucial that you have a way to quickly bring down a chicken’s body temp if need be.
One other tip here would be to make sure to hose down any of the bushes that your chickens may like to hide in. The bushes not only provide excellent shade, but with a little water it can make a great retreat for them.
Of course you should bring out some extra water bottles during the hottest time of the year, too. It’s essential to keep a lot of fresh clean water readily available for your flock. If it seems like the water is not doing enough to keep your chickens hydrated, you ought to look into finding a good electrolyte to add to it.
If you need an electrolyte quickly, you can make one yourself. All you would need is one cup of cold water, two teaspoons of sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and baking soda. That’s it! All you have to do is add that mixture to a gallon jug of water and you’re all set. It’s important that you keep the water cool, but not necessarily ice-cold.
If you find yourself with a chicken that is experiencing heat stroke do not place your chicken in ice-cold water thinking that colder is better. It can create a sudden shock for their body, which may result in a stroke or heart attack for the chicken.
You may also want to take some time to fill up a bunch of bottles with water and freeze them. Once they’re frozen you can place them around the coop and run (in the shady areas). This placement will allow your chickens to cozy up to them for a cool off, if they feel so inclined to.
3. Up The Greens And Fruits
We all know that chickens love eating leafy greens, and these will come in handy, especially in the middle of the summer. Besides being packed with essential vitamins and nutrients, they are also full of water. This helps to keep them full and hydrated, while providing them with a special treat.
Since chickens tend to lose their appetite when they get overheated, it may be a good idea to pull out any special treats that you know they will eat. It’s important that you ensure they reach their required daily nutrition, so they can make it through the severe temperatures.
Another great treat for them would be giving them a chilled treat. Frozen fruits and vegetables can literally be a lifesaver for a chicken. Try placing a half of a chilled watermelon out in the run, that’ll help keep them hydrated and give them some vitamins. Cucumbers are also a good option, considering how much water they’re made of.
Remember, any time you provide them with extra food or treats, that you place it in the shade. You should encourage them to hang out in the shade as much as possible. This will help to double up the hydrating effects you’re encouraging.
4. Check Their Coop
It’s extremely important that the chicken’s coop has plenty of ventilation during the hot summer months. You should have a couple of screened windows in the coop to allow any windy breezes outside to blow in and out. Your chickens will more than likely be spending their evenings in there, so it needs to be cool and comfortable for them.
You will also need to ensure that you’re practicing good husbandry and that the coop is kept clean. The ammonia from the droppings and urine can build up quickly, and a dirty coop can be stressful on your chickens, especially in sweltering temperatures.
If you’re concerned that it may not be cool enough you can install some water misters along the ceiling. It would be easy to turn the misters on and off when needed and your chickens will love it. They’ll be able to stay cool all summer long. You could also install a ceiling fan in the coop, if you don’t already have one.
5. Have An Area For Cool Dust Baths
Chickens are funny animals as they clean themselves by getting dirtier. What that means is that a dust bath will help them clean their feathers and help to remove mites and lice. Their dust bath also aids in cooling the bird down.
You probably already have a designated area where you put some loose soil or sand to allow them to bathe themselves. If so, you may have noticed them squirming about until they reached a cooler and more comfortable part of the earth. If you’re so inclined, you could also run a little stream of water into their dust bath area to cool it off even more.
6. Invest In Some Heat Tolerant Breeds
90° Fahrenheit, including states like Florida, California, Nevada, and Arizona, among others, you should make sure to add in breeds of chickens that can handle the heat. There are some breeds out there, like Leghorns, Minorcas, and Andalusians, that are lighter-weight, lighter in color, and have larger combs to release their body heat from.
These breeds are typically more capable of handling extremely hot climates. You will need to do your research and decide what else, besides the chicken’s heat tolerance, is important to you before deciding which breed to invest in.
You are the one who is responsible for determining whether your chickens are suffering from an elevated body temperature, or not. They cannot talk to you to tell you what they’re going through, so it pays to be mindful and vigilant. It is never too late to take precautionary measures, especially when you know a hot summer is fast approaching.
When it gets dangerously hot, you must pay attention to your flock. If you see that your chickens are panting heavily or breathing rapidly, if their combs or wattles are pale in color, or if their wings are outstretched or droopy, these are signals that you need to act fast and get that bird cooled off.
Remember when the temperatures outside reach the 90s, and especially the triple digits, you have to do whatever it takes to help those birds during the heatwave. Hopefully, these tips are enough to get you all through it together.