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Chicken Care: Staying Cool in the Sweltering Heat

7/22/2009 4:07:05 PM

Tags: chickens, temperature control

A photo of Michelle HernadezWe Texans may be babies when it comes to cold, but we know how to handle heat. Well, usually we do.

This year has been a brutal summer with little relief in sight. We are in extreme drought conditions. We already have had triple digit Fahrenheit temperatures for 26 days – and summer is just getting started. We may get some possible relief from La Niña, but that is not likely until late fall.

At least most Texans can escape the heat in air conditioning in their cars, in stores, or at home. But what about the chickens?

It’s been quite sad to see the recent surge in chicken obits posted on the backyard poultry forums in my area. It has been indiscriminating as to the forum poster – some seasoned chicken owners, others new.

I had been concerned about my flock and had already tried some serious measures. If I could have A/C, I thought, I wanted them to, as well. I started bringing my flock in and putting them in large dog crates in our sun room. Between the chickens, dogs, and cat, not to mention the turkey poults from babysitting, the room looked – and honestly, smelled – a bit like an indoor barnyard. Further, cleaning the crates regularly was a bit impractical for my schedule. I quickly realized this wasn’t going to be a practical longer-term solution, so I started thinking about what else I could do to keep my chickens cool.

My birds free-range, but they do go to their coop for laying eggs, eating, and roosting in the evening. Here are my steps for a cooler coop:

Coop shade cloth

1) Secure the coop shade cloth but made sure it allowed air through the wire.

Soil cooled with water

2) Remove any heat-retaining litter such as hay. Cool down soil with water to allow the chickens to dig down for relief.

Clip on fan in chicken coop

3) Purchase and attach small clip-on fans to the inside of the coop. For $10, the fans have been quite handy and durable, with strong clips and adjustable heads. I can also point these fans toward the roost in the evening to give them an extra breeze.

Ice in water for chickens

4) Keep the water cool by keeping it out of direct sun and occasionally adding ice cubes.

In the daytime, the chickens are able to get under my house deck very easily. They prefer to hang out there during the peak heat hours, so I’ve set up a day camp to help out.

Ice packs prepared for the chickens

1) Prepare daily ice jugs from Ziploc quart cylinders and any recyclables around. I scatter these under the deck so that the chickens can stand by or lay on them.

2) Spray down the ground around mid-morning. With the full shade, the ground stays wet throughout the critical hours.

3) Turn on a large vortex fan. The chickens, and even the guineas, love to get in front of it to cool down.

Chicken in fan

4) Supply additional waterers with iced water under the deck. The birds love sipping on this throughout the day. It seems to pep them up.

Happy birds

The birds have looked better overall. They still pant at times, but they forage and seem to find relief in this setup.

For those of you who do have the room and inclination to bring your flock inside during the hottest time of the day, here is a creative solution. Again, this is a short-term setup to keep the birds cool for a few hours, not a permanent coop. Special thanks to Lori Bausman from Austin for the following idea that is lightweight, and offers easy cleanup and storage.

Supplies

• 1 small 3 foot diameter dog/baby pool (Petsmart, $9)
• 10 feet of 24 inch high poultry wire (HomeDepot $7, you'll have a little extra)
•  Zip ties and a hula hoop that we had on hand

Instructions:

1. Bend the poultry wire into a circle that fits inside the pool and zip tied together.

2. Wedge the hula hoop inside the wire circle for stability. The high sides of the pool provide a little extra protection for the bathroom floor - and the pool is easy to rinse out at the end of the day. So, the pool is the floor, the wire is the walls with a hula hoop for stability, and you can put the chickens in and out through the open top.

3. Place a plastic top that goes to a large bin on top in case the chickens decide to fly out. You could also use a 2nd pool as a lid.

Chickens cool in the pool

Hope you and your birds stay cool this summer!



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Post a comment below.

 

lhamid
7/21/2014 2:28:36 PM
It gets quite hot here in the Sacramento Valley too (CA). For those triple digits days, I keep watermelon in the freezer or fridge. I cut off big hunks and put it out for the birds (I have about 40 chickens). It hydrates and cools them, and the LOVE it. I do the same with some of those giant cucumbers that I find hiding. They especially like the seeds.

Arnaldo
5/20/2014 8:02:38 AM
Staying cool in summer is as important for you as it is for your chicken, and hence you need to make arrangement for your chicken as well. The most appropriate way is as mentioned above. But as to keep your pool in good condition you need to take help of people like http://beachwoodpools.com/ , in the same way you need to take care of the arrangement for your chicken as well.

Richard
9/11/2013 3:50:45 PM
I have had chickens for many years. as few as 6 and as many as 40 hens. I am not counting the Jumbo Cornish Rocks as they end up in the freezer. it can get hot here in Southeast Kansas. My hen house was large this hen house was an old molasses house and tin. standing about 15 feet high. even with the height and plenty of windows it got too hot for the hens. I tried several things. one was to plant Morning Glories on the west side. with all the chicken poo put around them they really helped. I planted a couple of mulberry trees in the large run. that helped also and they grow fast. I was still loosing a hen or two every week. Thank God for the 75 year old retired farmer that live just up the road. He dropped by for egg one afternoon and I was complaining about loosing hens and a rooster to the heat. the next thing I knew he was back with a old rusty looking swamp cooler. with a couple new filters a an hours work we had it attached to the hen house. shut most of the windows and turned to on. with the garden hose attached to the top and the drain running in a stock tank all went well. the temp dropped the hen cooled off and no more dead ladies or gents. fun story for me to tell. needless to say Frank got free eggs for the next few years and fried chicken every other Sunday.

Marie James
7/7/2012 2:49:05 PM
Thanks for the tips, Michelle! We usually have a few weeks of hot weather each year and I'm always on the lookout for new ways to keep our chickens cool!

Bsmiley
7/1/2012 2:57:45 AM
Thanks a lot for sharing. Here in KY, I have already lost 4 chickens due to this massive heat! 3 last night and 1 tonight. Of course my good layers. I will try the water bottles and even some fans. We all, who have ckns. appreciate your help. God Bless and Keep all of y'all safe and cooler!

Shane
7/22/2009 10:19:24 PM
Some great ideas! Thanks for sharing.



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