When the weather gets hot, it can mean trouble for your birds. Whenever the temperature gets above 90 degrees it can be dangerous for your backyard flock. Chickens (generally) don’t live in air conditioned buildings, and it wouldn’t be healthy for them even if they did. They also don’t get to go swimming like us lucky humans, so what are they supposed to do? Thankfully, keeping chickens cool in the summer is totally doable with only a few adjustments on your part.
Chickens are actually descended from jungle fowl, so many of them can do quite well. They certainly cope with heat better than rabbits do. Chickens dissipate heat from their combs, beaks, and feet. So, if you live in a hot area, try to choose lightweight chicken breeds with larger combs. Breeds that are hardy in cold weather will not do as well. You will probably notice a drop in egg production when it’s very hot, especially for breeds with small combs.
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Chickens can get heat stroke and die. If you notice them walking around with their beaks open, that’s a sign that they’re overheating and attempting to cool down. They will also hold their wings away from their body to help air flow cool them down. If you notice a bird that is non-responsive you need to act very quickly to cool her down! Put her in cool (NOT ICY) water and make sure to get past her feathers to her skin. This will cool her down gradually and may possibly save her life.
8 Tips For Keeping Chickens Cool In The Summer
Of course the best course of action is to keep your hens from overheating in the first place. Here are some tips that will help you keep your chickens cool even when it’s hot outside.
Make a mud bath.
Chickens don’t really like to stand in water, but when it’s hot, they will cool their feet in a muddy puddle. Make a muddy corner in their coop where they can stand to cool down. Don’t swamp the whole thing of course! Some people recommend a small wading pool with a couple inches of water, but I’ve found my birds never walk through one on their own, but they’ll happily wade right into a bit of mud.
Provide dust bathing space.
Dirt might not be your thing, but birds don’t mind it! A cool spot to dust bathe helps your chickens regulate their body temperature. If they don’t have a natural area in the run, then provide a rubbermaid tub of dirt for them to use.
Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation in the coop.
A well ventilated coop is a necessity year round, but you’ll want even more ventilation when it’s hot. My largest coop has a window that opens and shuts. During the day I could open it to create a cross breeze and cool the coop down. Any enclosed space is going to have a greenhouse effect. If your area gets very hot, plan accordingly when designing your coop.
Clean out the coop instead of using deep litter.
Spring is a great time to clean out aged deep litter in your coop. Using a deep litter method produces heat as it breaks down, which is great in the winter. Not so great in 100 degree weather. Take advantage of the heat and clean your coop from top to bottom.
Keep their water cool.
Chickens will need more water in hot weather, and they’ll cope much better if it’s cool. You can bring them cool water throughout the day if needed. You could also put a frozen bottle into their water to help it cool down. Putting the water in a shady spot helps as well.
Freeze treats for them
Frozen fruits or ice blocks with scraps of vegetables make great treats for a hot day. It also gives your birds something to peck at and entertain themselves with.
Make Sure They Have Shade
Shade is the most important thing for helping your birds stay cool. Shade from trees and bushes will help them stay cooler than shade from buildings. If you have no natural shade, tarps or shade cloth can be used in a pinch, but they’ll also reduce ventilation. Try to move your run into a shady area if possible. At the very least, plant some trees so that next year you’ll have them.
Adding a mister can significantly cool down an area. In fact, if you have a shady area with a few misters going, your chickens may be quite comfortable even if you’re sweating. You can purchase an entire misting system, or just add a misting nozzle onto the end of your hose. Here’s a decently priced misting nozzle if you need an example of what to look for.
Part of your responsibility as a chicken keeper is to keep them safe during extreme weather. Thankfully, keeping your chickens cool doesn’t have to be difficult, and they sure will appreciate you for it!
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