During the summer, it can sometimes get extremely hot. Chickens can keep themselves cool up to a certain point. However, when it is too hot, chickens are unable to keep themselves cool. Hot temperatures are more quite dangerous than cool temperatures. For that reason, it’s important that you know the danger of the summer heat and what to do about it to protect your chickens.
In this short article, I’ll go further in-depth on the different methods to keeping your chickens cool and safe in the summer heat.
How Hot Is Too Hot For Chickens?
Chickens can withstand extreme temperatures for some time. In general, when the temperatures reach over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, there will be a risk of heat stress and heat-related illness in chickens.
Exposure to high temperatures for a prolonged period of time will start to make them weak.
Most breeds are able to coop with the high temperature, but some others are not. Heavier chicken breeds may start to become overheated when the temperature is around 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
On the other hand, lighter chicken breeds are able to do better in hot temperatures.
Chickens can’t cool themselves by sweating. Instead, chickens cool themselves by dissipating heat through their combs, wattles, beaks, and feet. This means chickens that have large combs and wattles are able to cool themselves better than those with small peacombs.
Signs of Heat Stress and Heat Stroke In Chickens
When chickens start to suffer from high temperatures, they will start to exhibit signs. Below are some of the signs you should look out for:
- Chickens are standing with their wings held out and away from their body
- They are eating less or not eating at all
- Combs and wattles become pale or discolored
- Hens will start to lay fewer eggs
- Droopy and lethargic behavior
- Chickens will start to pant. They will breathe heavily and move their tongues up and down
How Do Chickens Cool Themselves
When a chicken is overheating, it will usually open its mouth to cool down. Unlike humans, chickens don’t have a sweat gland where they sweat.
Another way to cool down is to spread their wings, which the heat will be released from their feathers.
When they need to release warm moisture, the chickens will vibrate their throat muscle in a rhythmic pattern.
Besides their throat, they also remove heat through their beaks, combs, and feet.
When it becomes extremely hot, they will look for a shady spot to hide. This could be under a tree, bushes, plants, under porches, or awnings.
How To Keep Chickens Cool During the Summer
Chickens will look for a shady spot to cool themselves when it gets too hot. Sometimes, a shady spot may not be enough to keep them cool.
Below are some of the things you can do to help your chickens stay cool in the summer:
1. Water Misting
Use the garden hose and mist the air around your chickens. The mist will help cool the air temperature down.
Be sure to not spray the water directly on your chickens.
2. Spray the Chicken Coop
If your chicken coop is placed in direct sunlight, the inside of the coop can get hot very quickly.
A good way to cool the coop down is to spray water onto it. The water will help dissipate some of the heat from the coop and keep it cool.
3. Place the Coop Under a Tree
If you have a large tree in your yard, you can move the chicken coop under it. The tree will provide shade and keep the coop cool throughout the day.
4. Provide Shade
In the yard, always provide some sort of shade for them. This could be trees, large plants, or simply tying a large sheet from one object to another.
When it gets extremely hot, chickens will naturally find an area that offers shades.
5. Cold Water
On a hot day, I recommend a constant supply of cold fresh water. In a large bucket, pour clean water halfway and add ice until it’s full.
If you have chicken waterers, you can just add ice to them. Every hour or so, add ice to keep the water cold.
Sometimes, the chickens may start to show signs of heat stress. If that’s the case, adding some electrolytes to their water will help keep them hydrated.
6. Cold Treats
A great way to keep your chickens cool is by giving them cold treats. You can do this by freezing fruits such as strawberries, berries, watermelon, and peaches.
After it’s frozen, remove them from the freezer and toss them directly to your chickens. They will peck and eat it.
As they are eating it, the coldness of the fruit will lower their body temperature.
7. Ventilate the Coop
The chicken coop should always have good ventilation. However, in hot weather, you should provide extra ventilation in the coop.
This means the coop should have screened windows at all sides of the coop. Make sure the screen is predator-proof, though!
Another thing you can do is add a small fan to the coop. I recommend using a solar-powered fan as it is portable to move around and less likely the chickens can get electrocuted.
The last thing you want on a hot day is overcrowding. If there are too many chickens in a coop, the temperature will rise quickly and will cause them to overheat. For that reason, it’s a good idea to provide 4 square feet of space for each chicken.
8. Keep the Coop Clean
When the weather is hot, it’s important to keep the coop as clean as possible. The dirtier the coop is, the more the heat will be trapped in there.
Some chicken owners like to use a “deep litter” method. This method is simply allowing the bedding material to form a deep pile on the coop floor. The build-up of the material act as extra insulation in the coop. When it’s piled up too high, it will physically heat up due to the microbes working to break it down.
Therefore, it’s best to keep the bedding later inside the coop to no more than 2 inches deep.
9. Dust Bath
Provide your chickens with plenty of dust bath space. Not only will the chickens use it to bathe themselves to keep clean, but also cool themselves down. A few inches of soil below the ground can be several degrees cooler.
During days that are hot, provide shades for their dust bath space. You can set up a simple structure with a couple of wooden sticks and a tarp. Place the wooden sticks into the ground at four corners of their dust bath space. Then tie the tarp at the top to each wooden stick.
10. Give the Chicken A Bath
It’s not a good idea to give your chickens a bath since it can cause them stress.
However, during the extremely hot weather, this is an exception. Chickens that are hot will need to cool down quickly, or they could suffer from heatstroke.
You can simply grab the chicken gently. Then quickly dip them into the water.
The water will help lower their body temperature and keep them cool.
During the summer, chickens will mostly be outside foraging for food. When it gets too hot, they will naturally find a shaded area to cool down. Then, when they are cooled down enough, they will start to forage again. However, sometimes the summer can get extremely hot where it could make it difficult for them. This is when they need your help to help them stay cool. You can use some methods above to help protect them from the summer heat.