Summer Heat Stress and Cooling Tips for Backyard Chicken Keepers

| 6/28/2012 7:39:51 PM

Our Buff Orpington pants in the heat 

Summer has finally arrived on Cape Cod.  As temperatures soar, the hydrangea leaves are wilting, the perennials look tired and the flock has begun to pant.   Oyster Cracker, our biggest and fluffiest chicken, is always the first one to show signs of overheating.  Her panting is always the signal for me to begin taking cooling measures for the flock to keep them safe and comfortable in the heat.

Chickens do not do well in heat. Sometimes, it can be downright dangerous. Chickens regulate their body temperature through their wattles and combs. As they do not sweat, you will, on hot days, see them panting. Their beaks are open and their rate of breathing is increased. You might even catch a glimpse of them walking around with their wings held away from their bodies. All these things are normal phenomenon-ways chickens cool themselves. If not carefully monitored, chickens can become stressed in the heat. They can even perish if their needs are not met. So keeping this in mind, there are a few steps that you can take.

Be sure that the have access to cool fresh water. Don't hesitate to refill the waterers a few times a day. Feel free to add some ice cubes. It will stay cooler longer. Chickens will drink up to two cups per day when it is hot. Remember, their bodies are 50% water and their eggs are 65% water. You might even think about providing your flock with an extra waterer or two.

It is normal for hens not to lay as many eggs on scorching hot days. Sometimes they stop laying altogether until there is a break in the weather. Their bodies are stressed.

Chickens' appetites will also decrease as well. They may not eat as much food as usual. This is the time when I bring them treats from the kitchen a few times per day. I like to bring them goodies to serve whole, as they will stay cooler longer- cucumbers, tomatoes, halved watermelon and the like.

5/28/2016 7:35:48 AM

Since we're in hot central south Texas, our girls are fairly accustomed to hrat, but we provide a lot of shade. They free range, get under the big fig bushes, the pomegranate, but we also let the native sunflowers grow tall in their run right in front of the west side of their house. The extra waterer is in there, plus the shade from the small pecan tree and the figs - when I go out in the eveninh to lock up the coop, they all come in from that shady area. Also, while free ranging during the day, they like to slop through the gray water area from the house. It's not uncommon to see very muddy legs and feet! Of course, we don't use any strong detergents or other chemicals, so the water is safe for them and the plants around. Their house has hardware cloth and lattice panels on the bottom of the west exposure and the whole southern exposure, with a shed roof over the south side for extra protection.

7/16/2014 1:21:32 PM

I have been wondering about filling an old plastic kiddie pool and putting it in the yard for the chickens. Does anyone have any advice on this. It is a small pool and I was thinking that 2-3 inches of water in it might be a nice treat for the birds. I have a larger one that my dogs use and I have even seen the cats in it. Do you think the chickens would enjoy it if I kept it in the shade and throw in a frozen 2 liter bottle? I use those to keep the rabbits cool.

Live The Good Life with GRIT!

Grit JulAug 2016At GRIT, we have a tradition of respecting the land that sustains rural America. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing to GRIT through our automatic renewal savings plan. By paying now with a credit card, you save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of GRIT for only $16.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of GRIT for just $22.95!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters