During my early days of keeping chickens, I noticed my chickens’ wings were droopy and they had their mouths open. There were panting. Initially, I thought they might be sick. I called a friend who informed me that that is the way chickens behave when it is too hot.
When it is hot, human beings and most animals sweat so as to cool their bodies. Chickens, on the other hand, do not sweat. They pant and move their wings away from their bodies so as to cool their body temperatures. If this does not work, they look for other ways of cooling their bodies for example getting into water or dust bathing. They will try to get shade under a tree or any other cool area.
Backyard chickens in an enclosed coop and run will have fewer options of keeping their body temperatures at normal levels. It is up to you to find a way of keeping them cool when it is hot.
What temperatures are too hot for chickens? The temperature is considered too hot for chickens when it is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Once At this level, your chickens will be at risk of getting a heat stroke. You do not have to wait for the temperatures t get that hot. Once you notice that they are panting and are moving their wings away from their bodies, it is time to swing into action and assist them in cooling down their bodies.
Can heat kill chickens? Heat can have adverse effects on chickens including death. Heatstroke in chickens happens so fast that one hour there are there and the other hour they are gone. This is why it is good to take control measures early when you notice that the temperatures are rising.
Let us look at how heat affects chickens
Signs that is it too hot for chickens
You can tell a chicken is being affected by heat by the way it behaves and looks. The signs that it is too hot for chickens include:
- Heat stress – The signs of heat stress for chickens include panting, drooling, and laying on the ground with their wings flapping. Chickens with heat stress will drink less water, and will not drink at all when they are panting heavily.
- Panting – Chickens will have their beaks open and will be panting heavily. They will be inactive.
- Loss of electrolytes – Electrolytes are charged minerals in the body of chickens. They include calcium, sodium, potassium, and chloride among others. They are responsible fr body water regulation, pH balance in the body, and other bodily functions. Severe loss of electrolytes will lead to organ failure and eventually death.
- Outstretched Wings – Chickens will stretch their wings away from their bodies when it is hot.
- Loss of appetite – When chickens are faced with too much heat, their appetite will drop. Lowered appetite means that the chickens will not take in the nutrients needed for them to stay healthy and productive.
- Drinking too much water – When it is hot chickens will drink water in order to cool their bodies. While this is okay, drinking too much water leads to a loss of electrolytes and nutrients from the body.
- Decrease in egg production – When it is too hot, chickens will lay fewer eggs than normal and sometimes stop laying altogether
- Very loose droppings or diarrhea – When chickens drink too much water, due to excess heat, their stool will be loose, and sometimes they will start diarrhea.
If you notice the signs above, it is time to swing into action and help your beloved birds to stay cool.
Let us look at some of the ways you can keep your chickens cool when it is very hot for them. While the list below does not exhaust all the ways you can keep chickens cool in summer, it contains some of the most used methods.
- Giving them frozen treats
- Using fans
- Using shade nets
- Using misters
- Using sprinklers
- Letting the chickens move into shaded areas
- Letting the chickens free-range
- Providing a shallow swimming pool
- Flooding some area in your yard and letting the chickens out
- Deep dust baths
- Dunking the chickens in water
- Providing electrolytes
- Providing extra ventilation
- Providing extra clean drinking water
- Putting ice cubes in the drinking water
Frozen treats for chickens in summer
Giving chickens frozen treats in the summer heat is a great way of helping them cool their bodies. Anything that chickens eat, except dry feeds can be frozen and given to the chicken 2 or 3 times a day. Let us look at a few examples:-
- Frozen strawberries – You can blend the strawberries, put into molds, and freeze them. You can add electrolytes such as Pedialyte and water to the strawberry blend.
- Frozen watermelon wedges
- Frozen peas
- Frozen blueberries
- Frozen nonfat yogurt
- Frozen corn
- Frozen vegetables
Using fans in the coop
Using one or more fans in the coop can be a great way of keeping chickens cool in summer. Remember not to point the fan directly at the chickens. They do not sweat hence air directed to their skin will not help them.
The aim is to keep the air in the coop circulating, making hot air rise and cooler air get into the coop. Place the fan in such a way that it does not blow dust around the coop as this can cause respiratory issues to the chickens. A solar-powered coop fan would be a great way to save on energy costs. When using fans and misters or sprinklers, make sure that water does not get into the electrical system. This can lead to fatal injuries to you and your chickens.
Using shade cloths / Shade Tarps
If your chickens are confined all day in the coop and run, consider using a shade cloth to provide them with a cooler environment. Shade cloths, also known as shade nets work by blocking UV light and can reduce the heat underneath them by up to 32%.
Shades nets come in two different types, knitted and woven. Knitted shade cloths create a cooler environment than woven shade cloths.
Shade cloths UV blockage is measured in percentages, ranging from 10% to 90%. The 90% shade cloths block 90% of UV light from the sun, creating a cooler environment shade cloths of fewer percentages.
You can also use camo netting to provide shade for your chickens in summer. Camo netting is widely used in the military and hunting for camouflage. It is made from the same materials and shade cloths.
The great thing about camo netting, shade cloths, and shade nets is they block the sun rays, reducing the amount of heat while letting air and wind circulate freely.
Misters turn water into a fine mist. The mist is able t reduce temperatures in the surrounding areas by 5%-20% depending on the humidity. Evaporative cooling, the type of cooling provided by misters works by having the fine water particles absorbing heat from the air. This is a great way to keep your chickens cool during summer.
Misters can be placed high up in the chicken run so that the mist particles drop down evenly in the chicken coop. Putting them too low might only cool a small area.
An adjustable mister can work well for chickens since you can adjust the height, direction, and angle.
Sprinklers work the same way as misters work, by cooling the air as water droplets pass through. The droplets of water from sprinklers are larger than from misters. If using a sprinkler around the chicken run, take care because the area can quickly become muddy.
Chickens will most likely run away when you turn on the sprinkler but come back to the cool wet area created once you turn off the sprinkler.
Letting the chickens free-range and move into shaded areas
If your chickens are kept in an enclosed run, it is a good practice to let them out in the yard when it is hot. They will quickly find a shaded area where they can keep themselves cool. The temperatures under a tree or shade can be 10 or 20 degrees cooler than an open area.
Providing a shallow swimming pool
A shallow kiddy pool is a cool way of cooling your chickens, they will walk in the water to cool their feet, hence keeping their bodies cool. When they stand in the water, the mist of the evaporating water will cool them down.
Flooding some area in your yard
You can also flood a small area in your yard. Let the chickens out. They will most likely move to that flooded area and start playing and rolling in the grass. This was they will be able to keep their bodies cool. You can use a garden hose to flood the area where your chickens can go and splash around.
Deep dust baths
Chickens love dust baths. That is how they get clean. When it is hots, a dust bath sprayed with some water will go a long way in getting the chickens to cool their bodies. The dust baths should be in a shaded area.
You can also dig deep holes in a shaded area, 2 feet deep to create a cooler dust bath. At that depth, it is 65 degrees, cooler than the surrounding area. Add sand and spray some water in there to create a cool deep dust bath. You can keep spraying water once in a while because the hole will get hot.
Dunking the chickens in water
When is it hot and you notice that your chickens are panting, you can dunk them in water. The water should not be hot or cold but at room temperature. Dunk them into the water, neck deep, and let me back into their run.
You will notice that they will shake their bodies, in order to get rid of the water. This will have a cooling effect on their bodies for a while
If you are worried about the chickens staying wet, a fan in the coop can help them dry faster, while cooling their bodies.
Chickens will need extra electrolytes when it is hot. These are essential micronutrients such as calcium, sodium, and potassium. They are found in the blood, tissues, and organs. Electrolytes help in maintaining bodily functions. When it is hot, there is an increased loss of electrolytes and they need to be replenished.
When it is hot you can put electrolytes in the chicken’s water. You can either buy electrolyte supplements for chickens or make some at home.
Providing extra ventilation
During summer, you can add extra windows to the coop. If possible add gable or ridge vents. This will provide extra ventilation, helping your chickens cool down in the summer heat.
Providing extra clean drinking water
During summer, provide extra clean drinking water for your chickens. They will consume more water when it is hot. If you are free-ranging your chickens, you can put water in tins around the yard, especially in the shaded areas.
Putting ice cubes in the drinking water
You can put ice cubes in drinking water, to help chickens cool down their bodies. This will help cool down the water, as it gets warm during hot weather.
Chickens need help in keeping their bodies cool during hot weather. You can use a combination of the methods listed above. Whichever methods you decide to use, remember to ensure the safety of your chickens and their keeper.
How are you keeping your chickens cool this summer? Let us know in the comment box below.