Keeping chickens cool in a heatwave can be a struggle. With temperatures soaring, it’s not just humans who struggle to stay cool. Chickens, too, can be affected by the scorching heat, making it essential for poultry keepers to take measures to ensure their feathered friends are comfortable and safe.
In this article, we’ll explore some helpful tips and tricks to help you keep your chickens cool and healthy during a heatwave.
What are Signs of Heat Stress in Chickens?
Signs that a chicken has heat stress are panting with beak open, lying down with its wings spread, being off its food and lethargic. Don’t wait until you see the signs. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and take action as soon as the weather gets hot.
Tips on Keeping Chickens Cool in Summer
Providing Shade for Chickens – Just like humans, chickens need relief from direct sunlight. Ensure that your coop or chicken run has plenty of shade options available. Use tarps, umbrellas, or even tree cover to create shaded areas where your chickens can seek respite from the sun’s rays. The are even more cooling when wet.
Leafy shade works best where possible, as the air is cooler than shade created from building materials such as wood or brick. This is because the heat from the sun permeates wood and brick, so the warm air radiates from it. If you don’t have trees near your coop, container grown shrubs work well and they can also be moved to provide shade throughout the day. If you use shrubs within the coop, make sure the plants are not poisonous to chickens.
Cool Treats – Chickens love treats! During a heatwave, frozen treats can be a refreshing and enjoyable way to help them cool down. Freeze berries, melons, or plain yogurt in ice trays to create tasty popsicles for your flock. They’ll love pecking and licking at these icy delights! Avoid overdoing the grains as digesting them raises a chicken’s body temperature.
Water and Ice – Chickens always need access to cool water, especially during a heatwave. Refresh their water multiple times a day to keep it as cool as possible. Consider adding ice cubes to their waterers or using shallow dishes that allow them to dip their feet in, which can help lower their body temperature.
Chill drinking water with ice cubes several times per day. Place extra drinkers or water trays in the pen to encourage regular hydration. Freeze bottles of water and direct a fan on them to blow cool air around the run.
Adequate Ventilation: Proper airflow inside coops is vital in maintaining a comfortable temperature. Ensure that your coop has enough openings for ventilation, such as windows or vents. This will help hot air escape and allow cool air to circulate, preventing heat buildup.
Coops can get hot and stuffy, even at night. Consider using a fan to push cool air through the coop, but set it at an angle so the breeze is not directed at perches.
Electrolytes – These are minerals and salts that are lost during body heat. Help your chickens replacing them by adding electrolytes (widely available from poultry suppliers and Amazon) to their drinking water. Note: electrolytes are for chickens with signs of heat stress, do not give to healthy chickens.
Bathing and Misting – Misting or setting up sprinklers in the chicken run can provide relief from the heat. The water droplets evaporating on their feathers help cool chickens down naturally. Ensure that misting or sprinkler systems are set up in areas where it won’t make the coop wet, as excess moisture can lead to other health issues.
Dust Baths – Chickens naturally enjoy dust bathing, which not only helps with parasite control but also helps regulate their body temperature. Ensure that your flock has access to a designated dust bathing area with loose soil or sand. This activity allows them to stay cool by keeping their feathers clean and free from excess oils and dirt.
Set a hose to spray a fine mist over the pen. There are also garden misting cooling kits that will work over chicken coops, although they are often designed for patios and other things.
Misting reduces the ground temperature and allows your chickens to have a cooling ‘shower’ if they want to. Don’t mist the whole area though, as there should always be somewhere dry to go.
A shallow tray of water will encourage chickens to wade in and cool their feet, bathe and splash it over themselves. Place it in the shade for maximum effect.
Close Off Nest Boxes – Hens are creatures of habit, and will want to lay eggs in nest boxes. The trouble is, nesting boxes can become dangerously hot. On hot days, prevent your chickens from going inside the coop entirely, as time spent in a sweltering nest box could be too much. Instead, provide alternative places to nest in the shade outside.
Emergency Care for Overheated Chickens
If you find a hen suffering from extreme heat stress, bring her indoors. Fill a sink or bucket with water that is room temperature and sit her in it, taking care to make sure her head and neck are above water. Do not use cold water as this can cause shock. Keep her in a cool area indoors with plenty of water to drink with added electrolytes. This could save a chicken’s life!
Keeping a bucket of water near the coop is also a good idea, so you can cool down hens that show signs of heat stress.
With extra care, heat stress in chickens is a problem that can be avoided. When temperatures rise, it is essential to take proactive steps to keep your chickens cool and comfortable. By following these tips and being attentive to their needs, you can help your garden chickens beat the heat and keep them happy and thriving throughout the scorching summer months.
Please share your tips on keeping chickens cool in summer!