Depending on where you live, you could be wondering where spring went as summer seemingly crashed down upon us. While it is technically spring for nearly another month yet, temperatures are reflecting something else in much of the country. With temps in the 90's on what has become a normal basis for many of us, it is time to start thinking about how you will keep your chickens cool as the mercury continues to climb.
Photo: Hen Cam
Much like people and other animals, chickens are no exception to the list of creatures susceptible to overheating. Heat stroke can affect chickens and death may be a result. Because of this, it is important to offer options for keeping cool so birds will not perish in the heat. When it comes to keeping things cool now that hot weather is upon us, there are several steps you can take to make things easier on your chickens. These include:
1. Give your chickens constant access to cool water that is clean and replenished frequently. As water sits outside, it will warm up, so consistent efforts to cool it back down will give your chickens a refreshing water source from which they will drink more plentifully. A good way to keep water cooler for a longer period of time is by freezing plastic bottles of water and setting them inside the waterer, essentially creating a reusable ice cube. Keeping waterers in the shade will also help regulate the temperature of the water they contain. Also beneficial is adding more sources of water in new locations for the warmer months.
2. Increase air flow to the coop by opening doors and windows. This will allow a breeze to circulate through the coop, introducing cooler air and moving hot, stale air out. The only drawback to a wide open coop is that predators may creep inside, so check for unwanted visitors before closing the coop up for the night.
3. Wet things down. Whether it is the coop or common walkways, give it a spray from the garden hose. The water will cool off these areas and it will benefit your chickens as they walk through them. It is also useful to create puddles for wading or introduce a kiddie pool.
Photo: Armchair Homesteader
4. Create shade in areas where chickens like to hang out. If you have shade trees, that is great, but some extra shade from the sun is still beneficial. Even if all you do is hang a sheet to create a sun barrier, the cooler area beneath it will make for a good location to beat the heat.
5. Give frozen treats, such as frozen fruit and vegetables. In some cases, the fruit can be given freely in a frozen state, while others prefer to freeze fruit in water. Whichever method you pursue will have the same affect in cooling down your chickens and either can be used. Freezing watermelon as it exists naturally is good as well because watermelon contains a lot of liquid.
Photo: The Beehive Cottage
6. Add electrolytes to water sources. This will help replace nutrients lost during hot weather and panting when dehydration may become a possibility.
If it feels hot to you, chances are it feels hot to your chickens as well, but a good sign of a warm bird is one that holds its wings away from its body as this not only helps introduce cooler air to the body but also allows trapped warm air to better escape. Birds that pant, act lethargically, or have pale combs and wattles may be having issues with heat tolerance. To remedy situations such as this, having a bucket of cool water nearby at all times could have lifesaving potential as a quick dunk of a hot bird in cool water will help bring their temperature down quickly.
Photo: The Poultry Guide
While normal body temperature for chickens falls between 104-107 degrees Fahrenheit, that does not mean it has to get that hot before chickens begin experiencing heat issues or illness. Remember that they do not have the same sweat glands that we do to help regulate their body temperatures, so a chicken can begin to overheat long before the air reaches a level that is comparable to the normal body temperature. With that in mind, any time the outside temperature breaks 80 degrees, be prepared to take steps to keep your chickens cool.