Caring for Your Chickens in the Heat

Have you caught on to the fact that it is hot where I live?  If you didn’t already know this little fact, then the amount of time I’ve ALREADY bombarded you with this information should have given you a clear picture.

So, that being said, it is hot.  And if you keep chickens, this can be a problem.  Caring for your chickens in the heat can be a tricky task.

Caring for Your Chickens in the Heat

We are currently raising six chickens on our property.  Two of these chickens are around two years old or a little older.  The other four are approaching six months.  Caring for our chickens in the heat is an important business.  From what I’ve read, chickens are better adapted to the cold than they are to extreme heat.  Plus, short of installing central air in their coop, it is easier to keep them warm than it is to keep them cool.

Here’s a little more info (mostly drawn from  Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens my go-to book) on how chickens handle the heat:

  • At temperatures above 104, chickens have significant trouble regulating their body temperature.  (It easily gets up to 112 in the shade during the height of summer.)
  • Chickens don’t sweat.  They will pant to help them lose internal body heat and hold their wings out to allow increase air circulation around their body.  (On any given afternoon you will find my chickens doing both of these things.)
  • Chickens can cool themselves through their feet.

Here are some things that we do to care for our chickens in the heat:

  • Box fan We keep a box fan going 24 hours a day to keep air circulating and a breeze going to help the chickens cool themselves.  They were scared of it for the first day but quickly figured out its worth.
  • Shade – Both coops are situated under a very large tree.  We have also stapled burlap on the west side of the coop/run to protect them from the scorching afternoon sun.  Based on a reader’s advice, I attached a tarp over the simple run that I built for the “baby” chickens.
  • Ice – Ice, ice and more ice – ice is your chicken’s best friend in the heat.  I scatter cubes from the freezer on the ground.  They will stand directly on it or lay next to it.  It also cools the ground and after it has melted the chickens have a great time rolling and bathing in the cool, wet dirt.
  • Shallow pans of water – I use the dishes that come with terra cotta or plastic pots.  I fill them with water and then place a frozen bottle of water (with the lid off) in the dish.  The water will slowly melt and provide cool water for a long period of time.  The chickens love to stand in these.
  • Lots of cool clean water – This probably doesn’t need much explanation.  Just like us, they like a nice, cool drink in the summer.  Eggs are mostly water, so this is important.  (We currently use  this LITTLE GIANT Miller Manufacturing Plastic Poultry Fountain  waterer, though I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of it.)

This is about all we’ve done and we’ve been successful so far.  Lisa of the blog Fresh Eggs Daily has a great post on how she cares for her chickens in the heat.  I read over it and she has some great information and does many of the same things we do.  She even has a recipe for homemade electrolytes to feed your chickens.  I might have to try that one out.  I’ve also heard about a lot of people freezing chicken treats in blocks of ice.  This seems like a great idea, too.  Anything to get them to drink more water.

One thing that I did try and wasn’t that successful was using a water mister.  The chickens were terrified of it and gave me a great visual for the cliche “mad as a wet hen.”  I’ve heard of people using them with success, but as Lisa cautions in her post, it can cause health problems if not done correctly.

What is summer like where you are?  What special lengths do you go to for your chickens?