Did you know excessive heat can kill your chickens more quickly than cold conditions? Summer is a time of adventure, fun, and excitement for chickens and humans alike. However, chickens don’t have sweat glands and depend on their beaks, wattles, and combs to cool down.
And, sometimes, this cooling mechanism isn’t enough making them susceptible to heat stress and heat stroke. Fortunately, there are several ways you can help keep your chickens cool in summer.
In this article, we look at signs of heat stress in chickens and how hot is too hot for them. We also give you eleven measures you can take to keep them cool in extremely hot temperatures.
So, how can you help them beat the heat and remain cool in summer? Read on to learn more.
Table of Contents
How to Detect Heat Stress in Your Chickens?
Overheating chickens will display the following signs and symptoms:
Panting and Rapid Breathing
Just like how dogs open their mouths, chickens open their beaks to dissipate internal heat and move their tongues up and down.
Pale or Discolored Comb and Wattles
Wattles, beaks, and combs are chickens’ only ways of helping them keep cool. Excessive body heat leaves through these extremities, which can make the skin pale in the long run.
Outstretched Wings and Erected Feathers
Air is the best insulator.
The digestion process generates internal heat; hence, if chickens experience heat stress, they eat less often. Moreover, they drink excessive water as a compensatory mechanism to keep cool.
Decreased Egg Production
With prolonged heat exposure, chicken ceases or reduces egg production. Eggs contain water; if the chickens are dehydrated, they will not have enough body moisture to produce eggs.
Droopiness and Lethargic Behavior
A limp and dull behavior is a sign of heat stroke in chickens. In this severe and emergency condition, the body’s organs start shutting down. Chickens under brutal heat will look disoriented and have poor body posture, while experiencing immobility or even staggering. In extreme cases, they experience seizures.
So, to keep them cool, we’ll discuss tips on what you can do to help. But before that, let’s look at how hot is too hot for chickens.
How Hot Is Too Hot for Chickens?
If you’ve reared chickens before, you’ve probably seen them panting when the weather is hot. Although they can quickly adapt to different weather conditions, they perform well in optimal temperatures.
Prolonged high temperatures and high humidity are uncomfortable and deadly for chickens.
The level of heat stress depends on factors such as the habitats of the chicken, breed type, and diet. For instance, heavy chicken breeds become overheated when temperatures reach 85ºF (29ºC). In contrast, lighter or smaller breeds generally can tolerate higher temperatures.
Moreover, breeds of chicken with large wattles and combs cool themselves faster than smaller ones.
Tips for Helping Chickens Stay Cool
Prevention and preparedness are crucial to helping your chickens stay cool in summer. Here are several tips to keep your chickens cool this summer.
1. Provide Cool Drinking Water
Some chicken keepers add ice blocks, ice cubes, or frozen water bottles to keep the water cool, especially in summer.
If the chickens show signs of heat stress, like droopiness and lethargy, add some electrolytes to the water to quench their thirst. Electrolytes help restore lost vitamins and minerals in dehydrated chickens.
2. Provide Frozen Treats
Therefore, reduce corn treats or avoid them during extreme heat. (Source)
Instead, offer refreshing, cold, and high moisture diets such as fruits and vegetables.
Frozen treats are ideal for keeping your chickens full, cool, and entertained.
3. Ventilate the Coop
Ensure the coop has screened openings (and is predator-proof) to allow air to pass through. It should also have an open nesting area and coop windows. Furthermore, you can add a fan to circulate air. But take precautions to ensure all electrical cords are out of reach for the chickens.
When installing the coop’s roof, consider adding wind turbine vents to allow hot air escape.
4. Provide Shade
If your chicken run area is sunny, provide additional shade by draping tarps for shade cloth over the existing structure. Check the sun’s movement throughout the day and adjust your shelter accordingly.
5. Avoid Overcrowding
No one, including humans, likes crowds on hot days. Ensure you have enough space to avoid overcrowding. Ensure you have at least two doors, one for the chicken and the other for human keepers.
6. Set up a Kiddie Pool or a Muddy Puddle
While chickens don’t like standing in water, they will cool their feet in a kiddie pool or muddy puddle when the temperatures soar.
Make a small kiddie pool with a few inches of water for the chickens to walk on. Alternatively, make a muddy puddle in the coop where they can cool down their feet.
7. Provide Misters or Sprinklers
You know how refreshing it feels to have cool water droplets on your body when temperatures soar. Well, your chickens will love it as much as you do.
In addition, adding moisture to the ground or air around the coop and run area lowers the surrounding temperature. As the hot water evaporates, it cools the surrounding air. Therefore, setting up a mister or sprinkler system can help keep chickens cool on hot days.
8. Freeze Their Feeds
Providing your chickens with frozen foods and treats helps lower their body temperature from within.
9. Keep the Coop Cool and Clean
During summer, keep the coop as tidy and clean as possible.
Alternatively, you can use sand to keep the floor cool, reduce disease incidence and help keep the chicken feet healthy. Plus, it’s an instant dust bath avenue.
10. Have Frozen Water Bottles Near the Nesting Areas
Chickens get motivated to lay in their nesting boxes when it’s cool. Therefore, no matter how comfortable the nesting boxes are, they are more likely to avoid laying eggs if the temperatures are high.
Putting frozen water bottles near their nesting boxes relieves them and provides a conducive environment for laying eggs.
11. Give Them a Refreshing Bath
Sometimes, your chickens need more cooling relief than a light sprinkle. Gently hold the chicken and quickly deep them in soothing fresh water to reduce the body temperature.
Keeping your chickens safe during extreme weather conditions is part of your responsibility as a chicken keeper. If your chickens display signs of heat stress, act quickly and save their lives. Your chickens can remain cool, healthy, and productive in summer with proper care.
These tips will help you keep your chickens cool in summer while enjoying the warm weather with them.