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How To Care For Chickens In The Hot Summer
There is no better time to live life to the fullest than the summer months. Water slides, barbecues, and camping, there’s always something to look forward to. However, egg laying chickens don’t feel the same way, as they prefer cooler weather over hotter weather. At around 75°F chickens can dissipate their heat naturally, but when it becomes hotter than 85°F, heat presents a serious danger. This is when we have to step in and ensure optimal conditions so our flock doesn’t suffer from heat-related issues. With plenty of water, shade, ventilation, misting, a small pool, and even a fan if necessary, we can care for chickens in the hot summer and ensure they make it until fall.
How Chickens Cool Down
Chickens have an average body temperature between 102°F and 106°F. When chickens are overheating they open their mouth and pant while allowing their wings to hang loosely at their sides, rather than being held closely at their sides. Since chickens don’t sweat, they release excess heat through blood circulation. When blood passes through the comb, waddles, feet, and beak, it cools down, thus regulating their body temperature. However, when it is extremely hot outside, this rudimentary cooling circulation system doesn’t offer much relief.
If chickens are too hot, they will eat far less than normal and egg production will drop dramatically. Chickens will also spend most of their time lying around, may seem disoriented, and may be clumsy when walking. If this is the case, they must be cooled down quickly to prevent heat-related death.
Adequate Water Is Critical
Caring for chickens in the hot summer all centers around ensuring they have adequate access to water. During a hot day, chickens drink twice the water they normally would. For this reason, give chickens plenty of different water-filled containers and ideally, provide them an automatic watering system so they always have access to drinking water.
Water should be available in the coop, as well as locations on the chicken run. Ideally, place all sources of water in the shade, so the chickens don’t have to enter the sun to drink scalding hot water. Additionally, replace their water at least two times a day, ideally using cool water or room temperature water.
To cool down a chicken’s drinking water more, either place ice cubes or better yet, a frozen 2L bottle of water into their drinking water container so it keeps the water cool throughout most of the day.
A Chicken Pool – A Fun Way To Cool Down
Just like humans, chickens enjoy cooling off in the pool. Placing a kiddie pool in the shade and adding 2 inches of water gives chickens an area where they can cool down quickly. Avoid filling up the pool higher than 2 inches, as chickens can drown.
Water Misting System
Setting up a water misting system in a shaded area allows chickens to pass through the water whenever they feel too hot. A misting system is easy to create and can greatly increase a chicken’s life quality during the hot summer months.
Add Electrolytes To The Water
Adding electrolytes to the water is another great way to make sure that chickens are optimally hydrated. Either make your own electrolyte mix or purchase a pre-made solution.
Feeding During The Coolest Part Of The Day
Since chickens will eat less when it is hot out, feed them during the coolest part of the day to ensure they are receiving sufficient calories. Some people go as far as freezing the chicken feed before giving it to their chickens. Another idea is to feed chickens frozen fruit or scraps that can cool them down quickly.
Reduce Bedding Material And Overcrowding
Thick bedding material is great during the winter months, as it serves as insulation, but should be removed during the summer months because it can greatly increase a chicken’s body temperature. Additionally, overcrowded conditions can increase body temperature, if hens are all competing for the same area to lay eggs.
Adequate Chicken Coop Ventilation
During the summer months, the chicken coop should supply adequate airflow so it doesn’t heat up significantly. A chicken coop with walls made out of Hardware Cloth is the best option in this situation, as it has ideal ventilation qualities. If the chicken coop is made of wood paneling, ensure that the doors and windows are open so the coop doesn’t turn into a sauna. Ideally, place a thermometer inside the chicken coop and check it regularly so you know exactly how hot it is.
Nothing Like A Good Dirt Bath
Chickens cool off in the dirt and a regular dirt bath is part of their hygienic routine. Make sure areas on the chicken run and in the coop have plenty of dry dirt that chickens can use for a dirt bath.
An Electric Fan Can Make All The Difference
If it is extremely hot, consider adding an electric fan to the chicken coop and even in shaded areas of the chicken run so chickens can better regulate their body temperature.
Place Chickens In The Dunk Tank In Extreme Situations
If chickens are showing heat distress, it is important to take immediate action by dunking them in a bucket of water for a minute or two. Simply hold a chicken shoulder-deep in room temperature water for a short time to cool them down quickly. It isn’t necessary or advisable to use cold water, as room temperature water is sufficient.
How To Care For Chickens In The Hot Summer
During the hot summer months, you will have to keep an eye on your chickens and make sure that they have everything they need to properly regulate their body temperature. In extreme circumstances, you will need to tend to chickens with heat distress quickly so they don’t become a casualty to the environment. At the very minimum, providing chickens with enough water is critical for them to get through the warmest part of the year.