BEAT THE HEAT, Helping Chickens Survive High Temperatures
High heat is dangerous for chickens and measures must be taken by their caretakers to ensure their well-being, particularly when
temperatures increase suddenly. Heat stroke, heat-induced stress and death can result when a chicken is overheated.
I hose down areas around the coop in the heat of the day while replenishing waterers.
The normal body temperature of a chicken ranges between 104°-107° F; it regulates its body temperature by the amount it eats and by panting. In cold weather, a chicken will eat more to convert the energy in feed to body heat. In hot weather, a chicken will eat less to avoid increasing it body temperature. Since a chicken has no sweat glands to cool its skin, it depends on evaporation from panting for cooling. A panting chicken is cause for concern and immediate remedial action.
Since a chicken will eat less feed in the heat, a change in feed from layer feed, containing 16% protein, to grower feed, containing 18-20% protein, will help them get the protein they need. While layer feed contains the added calcium laying hens need, grower feeds do not, therefore oyster shell should be provided free-choice (as always). Oyster shell should never be added directly to feed. Each chicken has different calcium requirements and too much calcium can cause organ damage. Without adequate calcium, weak egg shells and brittle feathers can result. A chicken will eat the calcium it needs when it is made available to them free choice.
TIPS TO BEAT THE HEAT
It is critical to provide clean, cool water to chickens in hot weather. Supply additional water sources wherever possible and change them often throughout the day.
Add electrolytes to the water to help with heat stress and replace those lost from panting. Provide additional shade wherever possible by using tarps, shade cloth, and reflective film on coop windows.
Freeze various sizes of water bottles and jugs. Add frozen water bottles or ice to waterers throughout the day.
Place a plastic bucket or trash can on its side in a shady spot, adding frozen water bottles/jugs inside it for chickens to rest
Add fans to the coop and run. Place a frozen jug of water between the fan and nest boxes. Add frozen water bottles
to nest boxes, especially those containing broody hens.
Reduce pine shavings to two inches or less and keep it as clean as possible as both retain heat. Replace deep litter in high-heat
conditions with clean, shallow bedding. Tuck frozen water bottles into bedding, particularly at night.
Provide a wading area with a kiddie pool or shallow pan of water for chickens inclined to use it. For those not partial to wading, flood areas of high-traffic so they have to walk through it.
Spray the run with water often throughout the day. Frequently spray the roof of the coop with water to cause evaporative cooling.
As a general rule, avoid giving chickens treats when it’s hot outside so as not to encourage increased internal temps with the exception of frozen fruit and vegetables (blueberries, strawberries, corn, squash, etc.) that can help cool and hydrate them. Watermelon is particularly helpful towards this end.
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