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Keeping chickens cool in the summer is important! Chickens and hot weather often don’t mix well together and if you don’t help chickens to cool themselves you can end up with less eggs and sick birds. So find out how hot is too hot for chickens and the best ways to keep your chicken coop and hens cool and comfortable in a heatwave.
It’s something that you might not think about at first but chickens can easily get too hot during the summer.
Overheating can cause chickens to slow down or stop laying eggs and in worst cases, extramarital heat can kill chickens.
Chickens can’t sweat so they rely on evaporation to stay cool. They do this by panting to remove moisture from their lungs and body.
Since this is the only way a chicken can expel heat from their bodies if you live where you have a humid summer panting isn’t as effective for your birds to cool down.
How To Tell If Your Chickens Are Hot
It’s pretty easy to tell if your chickens are getting hot.
The birds will start panting and holding their wings out away from their bodies. This helps them to circulate the air around their bodies and to release hot air.
This is perfectly normal for chickens to do in warm weather and isn’t normally a cause for worry. But if they don’t have a way to cool down it can lead to heat exhaustion.
Signs Of Heat Exhaustion In Chickens
If they are unable to cool down they will start to get labored breathing and become listless. You need to take care of the bird right away.
Watch out for these signs of heat exhaustion:
- Heavy panting
- Pale wattles and comb
- Being unsteady
- Falling over
If you think your hen is suffering from heat exhaustion don’t wait to treat it.
(Disclosure: I’m not a Vet but these are ways that we have successfully treated birds that have become overheated. Always discuss medical treatments with your own veterinarian.)
Move the bird to a cool place right away and gently wet the bird with cool water. Make sure she has some electrolytes to drink to help her regain her strength.
Easy Ways To Keep Chickens Cool In The Summer
1. Keep Their Water Fresh And Cool
In hot weather, chickens need a lot more water and they are more likely to drink it if you can keep it nice and cool.
If needed change their water a few times during the day. Keep the water in a shady place and place a frozen water bottle or ice cubes inside to help keep it cold.
Try to make sure that the birds don’t have to walk through a hot, sunny area to get to the water either. If they do then they are less likely to drink as often as they need too.
2. Provide Shade
Making sure your chickens have access to shade in the summer is a simple but effective way to protect them from the summer heat.
Try to make your summer run in an area that has cover from trees and bushes.
If you don’t have natural shade then you can hang shade cloth or tarps over the run.
3. Feed Frozen Treats
Give your chickens some frozen vegetable scraps, you can even freeze some inside of ice cubes. This gives them something cool and fun to peck at and cool themselves down.
4. Use Misters
Chickens can’t swim so make sure you don’t put in pools of water thinking that it will help them to cool down, save that for the ducks!
But you can use a mister attached to the end of your hose to help keep them cool with a gentle mist of water.
If you really want to keep a pan of water in the coop for chickens to wade in then make sure it’s very shallow. A storage bin lid or shallow tray that holds an inch or so of water can work well.
You could also place frozen bottles of water in the coop for the birds to lay against and cool down.
5. Keep The Coop Clean
If you normally use a deep litter bedding in your chicken coop try keeping it cleaned out in the summer and just a thin layer of bedding on the floor
Deep litter creates a lot of heat as it breaks down and starts to compost, this is great in the spring and winter when you need that extra warmth but not helpful in the hot summer.
6. Good Ventilation And Fans
One of the simplest ways to keep your chicken coop cooler in the summer is to make sure it has good airflow.
Make sure it has windows that can open easily. Open the windows in a way that provides a nice cross breeze to cool the coop down.
Remember to make sure that open windows are predator proof with strong wire on the window.
If more ventilation is needed look into using barn fans to really get that air moving.
7. Enough Room Per Bird
It’s really important that you provide as much room as possible per bird in the summer. Chickens have a naturally high body temperature between 104 F and 107F (40C and 41C) and put out a lot of heat and moisture as they breathe.
Make sure that each bird has at least 4 square feet of room to keep them from heating up the area too much.
8. Dust Baths
All animals like to lie in the cool dirt in the hot summer and chickens are no different.
Make sure they have a cool place in the shade to have a nice dust bath on a hot day.
9. Raise Heat Adapted Breeds
If you live in an area that always has hot and humid summers then raising a breed of chicken that has been adapted to do well in these conditions could be a great fit for your homestead.
A little extra care through the summer will keep your hens healthy, happy and providing you with lots of fresh eggs.
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Kim Mills is a homeschooling mom of 6 and lives on an urban homestead in Ontario, Canada. Blogging at Homestead Acres she enjoys sharing tips to help you save money, grow and preserve your own food.