As summer quickly approaches, you might be wondering the best way to keep your flock cool during hot summer months. Chickens are not very good at keeping themselves cool in extreme heat conditions. In fact, chickens are better at keeping themselves warm in winter than they are at keeping themselves cool in summer.
How Hot is Too Hot?
Temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit can increase risks of heat stress and heat-related illness. A more dangerous combination though is prolonged hot temperatures and high humidity.
The degree of heat stress depends on a number of factors including, diet, breed, and living situations. If your chickens are a heavier breed, they can become overheated around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, lighter and small breeds do better in heat. Although, most chickens are uncomfortable in hot conditions.
Chickens cannot sweat, which means they cannot cool themselves like other animals can. Chickens get rid of excess heat from their combs, wattles, feet, and beaks. Which means breeds who have larger combs and wattles can cool themselves more efficiently than breeds with small wattles and combs.
Signs of Heat Stress
Chickens that are overheating usually pant, which means they breathe heavy through their open beaks and move their tongues up and down.
Additional signs consist of:
- Wings held out so they are away from their body
- Droopy, lethargic behavior
- Pale/Discolored combs and wattles
- Decrease in egg production and appetite
While all of these might sound a bit scary, if you take the right steps it is pretty easy to keep your flock cool during hot summer weather with minimal intervention.
Ways to Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer
There are a variety of easy ways to keep your flock cool during hot summer months.
It is very important that your chickens have a shady place to go on hot days. If your chicken run area is mostly sunny, add a tarp to cover your chicken run.
The OverEZ Chicken Run Tarp is great for protecting your flock from weather conditions, including hot and cold protection. It is made with heavy-duty canvas, which ensures the ultimate protection for your flock against weather elements and predators.
Cold Fresh Water
On really hot days it is vital to provide cold, fresh water. Keep the waterer in a shady place. You can also add electrolytes to their water to help keep your flock hydrated. Some chicken owners like to add ice to their waterers, or throw frozen treats in the waterer, which include frozen vegetables and fruits.
Treats for Chickens in Summer
Feeding your flock the right treats is very important, especially during hot summer months. There are some treats that can actually increase a chicken's body temperature. For example, many chicken owners question if chickens can eat corn in the summer. It is not a good idea to feed your flock corn or other high-carb treats during the summer, especially in high amounts.
Dry cracked corn and scratch are very high-carb, which means they will warm your chickens up from the inside out as they work to digest them. So, it is important to cut back or avoid chicken scratch in hot temperatures.
A great alternative for high-carb chicken treats are cold, refreshing treats such as watermelon, frozen peas, or frozen strawberries. Fill a large bowl with water and frozen treats and freeze them overnight. Set the bowl out the next day so your flock can pick at it as it thaws. You should only feed your chickens treats in moderation, especially in hot weather because chickens are eating less in general.
Freeze Chicken Feed
In order for chickens to maintain their health, it is important that they continue to eat their usual feed. One way to make it more appetizing is freezing the feed for about an hour before giving it to your flock. Cold material in their crop lowers their body temperature.
Ventilate the Chicken Coop
We recommend providing adequate ventilation inside the coop, especially when it is hot outside. Some customers have added fans to their coops to help with ventilation. Only do this if it is safe and electricity is available.
Another popular method of ventilation is adding a screened door to your chicken coop. The OverEZ Chicken Coop Ventilation Door allows you to easily add additional airflow to your coop. Assembly only takes a few tools and a few easy steps. Your flock will greatly appreciate this door especially when it's hot out!
Additionally, avoid overcrowding in the chicken coop and chicken run. It is important that there is at least 4 square feet of space inside of the chicken coop and 10 square feet of space outside.
Set Up a Kiddie Pool
Another way to help keep your chickens cool down is by setting up a kiddie pool. If they are able to keep their feet cool, this allows them to lower their body temperature. Some chickens will even dunk their heads into the water to help with keeping cool. Keep in mind that not every chicken enjoys this, it truly depends on your flock.
Provide Dust Bath Space
Chickens use dust baths for a variety of reasons including, to clean themselves, natural insecticide against parasites and bugs, prevents parasite infections, and it helps exfoliate a chicken's skin.
During the summer create a dust bathing space in the shade so your chickens can enjoy this routine in a cooler temperature.
Provide Natural Herbs
There are a variety of herbs that provide your chickens with a natural cooling effect, that will help them naturally acclimate to heat. These herbs include lemon balm, peppermint, and lemon grass.
Chickens know what to do to cool themselves down, they just need the resources to do so. Have more tips for keeping chickens cool during the summer? Share them in the comments below!