Spring has now past and we are slowly creeping forward into the summer. Whilst this is great for most of us as it means holidays and great weather, spare a thought for our two legged friends who often struggle in the heat.
Here in the US, we can expect to see temperatures soar over 100Fahrenheit in some places and believe us when we say, your chickens won’t be impressed…
Let’s take a look at how you can identify when your chickens have heat stroke and then our favourite 7 ways to cool them down during the summer.
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Signs Your Chicken Has Heat Stroke
Some breeds of chicken cope better than others in the heat (Black Minorcas do really well), however when the temperatures get up and over the 80Fahrenheit mark, any breed of chicken will start to suffer.
This suffering can range from going off lay all the way through to, in extreme cases, dying.
You will probably notice as the temperature gets over 90Fahrenheit their egg production will slow down and eventually stop as temperatures exceed 100Fahrenheit.
If you don’t take special measures during such heatwaves your girls will show signs of heat fatigue such as:
- Walking around with their beaks wide open.
- Lying on the ground with their wings spread.
- Eating little amounts of food.
We’ve had chickens now for over 6 years so our girls have seen their fair share of heatwaves and we’ve learnt a thing or two about how to help them during this time.
Let’s take a look at the 7 things you can do to cool them down and keep them laying eggs.
1. Ice Their Water
The first and easiest thing you can do is to sort their water supply out. Normally we just have a single 30 litre chicken drinker in their pen and this is fine for our girls most of the time.
However during heatwaves we replace their drinker with several shallow dishes. We scatter these dishes throughout the pen so the girls are always near water. The shallow dishes are also much easier to refill throughout the day to keep the water cool.
Make sure to keep these dishes in shade and during midday place ice cubes in the dishes to keep the water cool.
2. Freeze Their Feed
Once you’ve sorted their water supply out the second best thing you can is feed them cold or frozen food. Our chickens love: bananas, pineapples, watermelons, apples and strawberries.
We take these fruits, chop them into small pieces and freeze them. It should only take a couple of hours until they are frozen then you can feed them straight to your chickens.
A word of caution: make sure to remove the pips from apples as they are poisonous.
Another favourite of our chickens is yogurt mixed with fruit. We feed them plain Greek yogurt and place some frozen fruit inside it. Just dump this yogurt out into their trough and watch them go crazy!
As well as feeding them the right food you need to make sure not to feed them the wrong food during a heatwave. Don’t feed them Maize (diced corn) or scratch as this takes them a long time to digest and causes their body temperature to rise.
3. Give Them Shade
If your pen is anything like ours, it doesn’t have any shade except the chicken coop- this is bad news for our chickens during heatwaves.
During our girls’ first heatwave we noticed they were digging to try and get underneath the nesting boxes and that’s when it struck us… they didn’t have any shade.
We went out and bought a free-standing parasol for $20 and we now have two of them at either end of the pen. During the summer we set these parasols up and the girls love hiding underneath them during midday when the temperature spikes.
4. Get A Mister
So the parasol isn’t quite cutting it for the girl? You can always get a misting attachment for your hose and leave this on during the day. Once you put the attachment on your hose just hang it down off either a tree branch or the top of your pen.
Friends of ours who’ve done this say it reduces the ground temperature by around 15 degrees- your girls will be jostling to get underneath it for sure!
We haven’t done this because the weather never gets too much over 80Fahrenheit, but we have got this as a standby in case we ever need it!
Make sure to use this carefully as you can run up a large water bill.
5. Ventilate Their Coop
If you live in the hotter states (Florida, Arizona and California) then you might need to make adjustments to your chicken coop as chances are its heating up before you even let your chickens out into their pen in the morning.
To keep your chicken coop cool you need to allow for ventilation. The simplest way to do this is to fit a window into your coop and leave the window slightly open when they go to roost. This will give your chickens nice cool air throughout the night.
Read how much room do chickens need for more advice on chicken coop design.
If you’re concerned about predators you can place a steel window guard on the outside of the window.
Another great way to reduce the temperature is to install a fan in their coop and run it during the daytime. This helps keep the coop cool so it isn’t hot when they go to roost in the evening.
Finally, make sure you only have a very thin layer of bedding (sawdust) down on the floor of the coop. if you have too much chicken bedding inside your coop during the summer, it will act as an insulator and keep some heat inside the coop.
6. Baby Pool Time
Instead of using the misting method above, we decided to get out our old baby pool and fill this with ice cold water. Our girls came flying over and dunked themselves into the water when we set it up!
If you really want to make the water chilly you can place ice cubes into the water.
On a hot day you will find after a few hours the water inside the pool will heat up and need replacing. We’d recommend only using the baby pool once a day during early afternoon when the temperature spikes.
7. Frozen Gallon Jugs
If you don’t have a spare baby pool, you can always make you own portable frozen water bottles.
Take a spare gallon milk jug and fill this up with water then freeze it. Once it’s frozen solid, take it to your chicken pen and slightly bury it in their favourite dusting places. Place a small towel over the jug then let your chickens perch on top of the jug and cool down. For added effect make sure to bury the jug in shade.
We hope this helps keep your chickens cool during the heatwave. Be sure to let us know in the comments how you get on and if you have any other clever ways to keep your chickens cool during the summer.
8. Different Breeds – Different Results
Not all breeds are created equal and if you know you live in a climate that often sees extreme temperatures, be sure to research which breeds can handle the heat a bit better than the rest of the flock. Here are a few breeds that are little more sun-loving than others:
Even though these breeds tend to fair well in hot temperatures, there’s always a boiling point. In other words, there’s it’s always possible for your chickens to be too hot.
9. Give them Some Breeze
In hot temps, a barn box fan will do wonders for your panting poultry. And if you need something quick, look for the best area on your property that offers even the slightest breeze, and move your flock to it. Just make sure that you keep their enclosure in a shaded area and that you provide enough shade to make the relocation worth it.