Looking for the ultimate summer chicken care guide? Look no further – consider this your one-stop shop when it comes to caring for your flock during the hottest days of the year.
Summer is finally here, and it’s time to get outside, enjoy the sun, and do some grilling. But summer isn’t just for barbecues!
You can also use this time of year to take care of your chickens. Keeping them happy in the summertime will help make sure that they’re healthy all year long.
If you want to know how then keep reading!
How Hot is Too Hot for Chickens?
How hot is too hot?
Chickens tend to be more fond of cold weather than hot – temperatures over 90 degrees are uncomfortable for most chickens, even those of tropical breeds.
That’s not to say that you can’t raise chickens if you live in a warmer climate.
However, it’s important to consider the summer chicken care guide and tips we’ve provided below if you want to keep your chickens cool in the heat of the summer.
That’s because, over 90 degrees, the risk of heat stress and other heat-related illnesses are dramatically increased.
You’ll need to be vigilant, especially in the event of prolonged high temperatures combined with high humidity.
Signs of Heat Stroke in Chickens
The summer heat can be just as dangerous for chickens as it is for you. It can increase their core body temperature, but unlike humans, chickens aren’t able to sweat.
Instead, these birds cool themselves by spreading their wings from their body or by panting.
If you see either of these behaviors from your backyard flock, that’s not necessarily a reason to panic. However, if you see other signs of distress, you will need to cool down your birds quickly.
The average body temperature of a chicken hovers around 105 or 106 degrees. Therefore, the ideal weather for a chicken is likely right around the temperature you keep your house – 65 or 70 degrees.
That is why egg production tends to be best during the summer – in addition to longer daylight hours, the beginning and end of summer typically host temperatures right around that range.
However, when temperatures get much higher than that, you’re probably going to see your egg production steeply decline.
After all, chickens need extra energy to cool their bodies, and they aren’t going to waste it on making eggs.
Watch out for these signs of heatstroke or heat exhaustion:
- Loss of appetite
- Increased (or nonexistent) water intake
- Wings outstretched and feathers lifted
- Combs and wattles are pale
- Change in egg production (drop in egg production or eggs with thin shells)
- Rapid breathing or panting
If you notice the last three symptoms – seizures, staggering, or disorientation – that’s a sign that your chicken has serious heatstroke and needs to be cared for immediately.
A failure to do so could result in the death of your bird.
Tips for Keeping Your Chickens Cool in the Summer
When the mercury rises, there are a few tips you should keep in mind to help your chickens stay as cool as a cucumber!
Offer Lots of Fresh Water
Freshwater is key during all seasons, but especially when it gets toasty in the summer.
Hydration is essential to keeping your chickens cool.
If you have a large coop or run or happen to own lots of birds, you must make lots of water sources so that your chickens can always find a cool drink.
If you can, choose drinkers with a high capacity so they won’t run out.
And if it’s sweltering, you might want to consider adding things to the water to help keep it cooler. You might include things like ice cubes or even frozen water bottles.
They’ll both thaw relatively quickly in warm weather but can provide a long-lasting boost of chill.
When you put waterers out for your chickens, could you put them in the shade?
Replace and clean the waters often since this can help eliminate bacteria, fungus, and algae, which grow more quickly in hot weather.
If the temperatures linger in the 90s or 100s for more than a day or two, consider adding an electrolyte supplement to the water.
This can help your chickens regulate their body temperature and replenish lost electrolytes during the heat.
Extra waterers are essential in the summer so that all of your chickens have access to water. Plan for a minimum of one gallon for every seven adult birds – but the more, the better.
Consider putting large rocks or marbles in the drinking dish, which will reduce splashing and prevent your birds from wasting their water.
Collect Eggs Often
Just as you would in the dead of winter, you will also need to adjust your egg collection habits in the summer too.
You have to worry about eggs freezing and cracking in the winter, but you have to worry about them losing freshness in the summer.
Collect eggs twice a day, if possible, to help make sure you get the freshest eggs possible!
Provide Plenty of Shade
This tip might sound obvious, but there’s nothing more important than shade when it comes to keeping your chickens cool.
While there’s nothing wrong with a little fresh air and sunshine – they’ll want to be able to layout in the sun at certain times – try to keep your chickens in the shade as much as you can.
The coop should be located in a cool, shady spot.
Keep the Coop Clean
Cleanliness is next to godliness, they say – and that’s especially true when it comes to maintaining a healthy chicken coop in the dead of summer.
Keep the coop dry, clean, and well-ventilated – this can help prevent diseases, parasites, and pests.
It will also keep flies and odors out of the coop, two things that can wreak havoc on the health of your birds (in addition to making the coop a wholly unpleasant place for you to be, too).
Don’t forget to clean the nest boxes out while you’re at it, either!
If water is in short supply where you live, misters might not be the most practical choice.
However, if you are lucky enough to have an adequate water supply, consider adding some mister to the coop or run – or even some sprinklers.
This will help keep things cool while also encouraging your chickens to play and exercise in the water!
While you need to be on the lookout for pests during all seasons of the year, pest control is significant in the summer.
Hang feeders whenever possible rather than resting them on the ground. This will lessen how much feed is wasted, which can attract insect pests and rodents.
There are other tips you can follow besides proper feet placement and maintaining a clean copy, too. You can apply fly traps in your runs or use other fly control products, like sprays.
You can use pesticides and many herbs and essential oils that can help repel flies and other pests.
Make sure your chickens are not overcrowded. Overcrowding will not only make your chickens feel the heat but can also result in other problems, like aggression and pecking behaviors.
Because of this, be sure to provide your chickens with at least four square feet of space indoors and a minimum of five to ten outdoors. The more, the better – and there’s nothing wrong with free-ranging, either.
If you do keep your chickens inside, again, space is paramount. It would help if you also had plenty of nesting boxes – think one for every four chickens at least.
Keep the lights off during the day and consider adding a box fan or barn fan to the coop (but be sure that it is rated specifically for use in a coop, as those that aren’t up to the task can overheat cause fires in extreme situations).
Water-soluble electrolytes can be a lifesaver in the heat of summer. Mix some up and add them to the water. This will help you increase your birds’ water consumption and replace electrolytes lost by heat stress.
You can even freeze it into ice cubes and add those to the water to help you double up on their effectiveness, too.
If possible, keep the coop door open during the day. This can increase ventilation and make things a bit more comfortable inside. A fan can help, too, but again, be sure it rates the task at hand.
You may want to install a screen door on your coop – this can increase ventilation while also reducing flies.
Keep just two inches or less of bedding in the coop to avoid trapping in heat and open up any windows and vents you have.
Don’t Forget the Dust Bath.
In addition to a shady run and lots of water, you must give our chickens a spot to dust their feathers. This will help them stay cool while also preventing lice and mites, two far more common in the summer heat.
If you don’t want chickens digging up holes on your lawn or in your flower beds, consider making them a dust bath that they can go to whenever they feel the need.
How to Feed Chickens During the Summer
In addition to the tips mentioned above, proper nutrition is essential during the hottest days of the year.
Your chickens might not be quite as hungry when it’s hot, but that doesn’t mean you’re feeding patterns should lessen.
Instead, it’s of paramount importance that you always keep fresh feed in the feeder. Hot weather can be hard on chickens, and they’ll consequently consume less feed during the heat of the day.
Ensure your birds always have access to feed at cooler times, like early in the morning and late in the evening.
Offering a higher protein feed can be helpful, but you should avoid feeding many scratches, cracked corn, and other high-calorie treats that will take a lot of energy to digest.
Things like corn can raise the core body temperature of your animals – this won’t help when it comes to keeping your chickens cool!
Instead, offer frozen treats like peaches, zucchini, watermelon, and berries. Leafy greens and other healthy fruits and vegetables are beneficial, too, as this can help cool your birds down.
Which Breeds of Chickens Do Best in the Heat?
While the tips above are helpful if you live in an area that experiences only occasional heatwaves – and a significant reprieve during the cooler months of the year.
You might want to think more deeply about your chicken-keeping strategies if you live in a place that is hot 365 days of the year.
Chicken keepers in tropical climates, for example, might want to consider which breeds of chickens perform best in the heat.
The reality is that it tends to be harder to keep a chicken cool than it is to keep it warm. There are far more breeds of chickens that are cold-tolerant than are heat-tolerant.
Most chickens naturally prefer temperatures that hover between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit – anything higher than that can stress your chickens’ bodies, particularly if the weather is also humid.
To find the best chicken breed for intensely hot weather, consider selecting a breed that has large wattles and combs.
These birds will be better at cooling themselves down. Also, look for a breed that is naturally smaller with less body fat. This offers a higher surface area to body weight ratio – translation – staying cooler in hot weather.
Those with few feathers or light-colored feathers also perform well in the heat, so keep that in mind when selecting a breed. Some good options include Orpingtons, Easter Eggers, Barred Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, and Welsummers, to name a few.
Ultimately, though, you can raise any chicken in the heat. It’s all about knowing exactly what kind of care they need!
Consider these tips and keep our summer chicken care guide handy – you’re going to need it as things heat up this summer!
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