With a heat wave hanging over most of the United States, our feathered friends need some TLC when the temperatures soar. When temperatures reach the 90’s or go into the 100’s chickens, pea fowl, guinea fowl, ducks and turkeys all need some help to prevent them from dying of Heat Stroke. High humidity levels elevate the heat index for animals too. There are a number of things that you can to do keep chickens cool in the summer heat. Most are quick and easy to do and very inexpensive.
Here’s 10 Tips to Keep Chickens Cool When it’s Hot Outside
1. Provide Shade – make sure that your chickens and other fowl have plenty of shady areas in which to take refuge. Trees, shrubs, under decks and porches are excellent shady and cool places but if your chicken run or pasture is short on shade you can set up man-made shady areas.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started;
- A folding table with a plastic tablecloth or tarp over it
- Suspend a tarp between trees and the coop or other structure
- Set up saw horses with an old door or scrap wood laid over them
- Place a few inexpensive beach umbrellas around
- Use an old patio umbrella set in a nice corner
- Patio or screen houses with the screen rolled up
2. Provide Cool Water to Drink – as the day heats up so does the water in their drinkers and fountains. Change out the water once it begins to get warm with cold water. Freeze blocks of ice in plastic storage containers and place these large blocks of ice into the water containers, this will keep the water cool for hours.
3. Mini Ice Air Conditioners – freeze gallon jugs of water overnight and set them around the chicken run in shady places where the chickens like to rest. They will learn that sitting next to the jugs is cooler. Some will peck at the condensation drops on the outside of the jugs and that gives them extra liquid.
4. Refrigerated or Frozen Fruit – large watermelons are the easiest. Just put it in the refrigerator overnight and cut it in half length-wise. Then set it outside during the hottest part of the day. They love to eat watermelon and the liquid helps to keep them hydrated. Other fruits or squash work well too. You can also try frozen strawberries or grapes.
5. Dust Bathing Areas – It’s always a good idea to provide sufficient dust bathing areas, this helps to keep them healthy and parasite free. Dust bathing is essential when the temperatures are high. Chickens will dig holes in the dirt and sit in them where it’s cooler.
6. Spray Down the Run or Yard – and especially any dust bathing holes that they have made, with cold water. The water soaks into the ground quickly and the chickens will gravitate to the wet dirt because it is cooler.
7. Wet Down the Chickens – When it’s very hot and the humidity is high the body temperature of the chickens increases. Giving them a dip in cool water helps to bring down their core body temperature. If you get them sufficiently wet, when the breeze blows, it will help them to say cool. You can dip them in a bucket or tub of cool water to gently spray them down with a garden hose that is putting out cool water. They usually don’t like the water at first but given the opportunity to relax they will settle down and enjoy the bath or shower.
8. Remove Soiled Bedding from Coop Areas – If you have soiled straw, hay or wood chips inside your coop that has become compacted then it’s a good idea to remove it. Compacted bedding material starts to compost and this means that it will generate more heat – something that you don’t want to do when temperatures are all ready elevated. It’s always a good idea to clean out the coop and remove old bedding just prior to summer.
9. Add Electrolyte Mix to their Water – You can buy a powdered electrolyte and vitamin mixture at feeds stores. It is usually used for new baby chicks but it can benefit all ages of chickens when the weather gets HOT. Just follow the package instructions and mix it with cold water.
10. Cool Down the Nest Box Areas – this is a real problem area with coops that are very small. As the day progresses, the temperature inside a small coop increases and can easily get near 120 degrees or above. Make sure that nest box areas are well ventilated and have air circulation. Using a fan to circulate air can also be helpful. Remember that hens will sit for nearly 2 hours in the nest box to lay their egg. If you can’t modify the coop or nesting area then make them a secluded nesting area outside in the shade. Use fake eggs to entice them to use this summer nesting area. Close the coop door so that they don’t have access to it during the day if it is too small and the heat builds up inside. Make sure to air it out before they go up to roost at night. Use hardware cloth on the windows or vents to allow air circulation. Prop solid doors open and install an inexpensive screen door on the outside. Replace the mesh screen with hardware cloth to prevent predation.
I hope these suggestions help you to manage your flock of backyard chickens during the Summer heat.
Simcha and Shalom,