Beat the Heat!

Keeping your chickens cool in summer


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Beat the Heat! Keeping Your Chickens Cool In The Summer

Currently, this year has had some milder temperatures than past years. However, this may change as we enter into the summer months.  We are able to stay indoors, with the air conditioner blasting, drinking ice water and waiting for the sun to go down.  We manage to stay cool until winter comes.  But what about our animals?  What about the most delicate of our animals, our birds?  How do chickens beat the summer heat, and what can we do as chicken hobbyists to help them manage the heat? Here are a few tips and tricks.  

How To Keep Chickens Cool 

Chickens Don’t Sweat!

Chickens cannot sweat to cool themselves off.  Instead, they pant, or breathe rapidly.  They also hold their wings slightly out from their body, allowing air to flow through.  When temperatures rise, this is not enough to keep them cool.  In extreme temperatures, your chickens are in danger of heatstroke.

Provide Shade to Escape from the Sun

four chickens in yard near a treeIf your birds are free-ranging around the yard, they stand a good chance of finding a bush or a tree to hide under.  They may dig a small hole to lay in under a tree, the cool dirt keeping them cool. Sometimes, you can hose the dirt lightly which will keep them cool as they dig.

If your chickens are housed in an enclosed run, it is essential that you provide them with shade.  Know the position of the sun throughout the day, and put up a barrier to block its rays during the hottest parts of the day.  If your birds cannot get out of the sun, they will not be able to survive.

Keep the Air Moving

Setting up a fan in the coop or run will help your chickens significantly.  It will cool the surrounding air and reduce humidity.  This is a particularly helpful strategy for chickens that are housed in enclosed coops and runs, as a natural breeze may not always reach them. Also, be sure you only provide a very thin layer of bedding in warmer weather. Having too much bedding inside your coop during the summer will serve as an insulator and keep heat inside the coop.

chicken standing in water dish trying to keep cool

Easy Access to Cool Water

Where do your chickens hang out during the day?  Make sure there is water nearby, so they don’t have to go far to reach it.  Put out additional water sources and make sure they are not in direct sun.  If you have automatic waterers, make sure the hose supplying them is not sitting in the sunlight as your flock will not drink hot water. Keep all waterers in the shade to keep them cool.  Not only do you want to make sure your chickens have drinking water, but also consider putting out a kiddie pool, or making a little mud and wet sand.  As the water evaporates off your chickens, it acts as sweat does on our bodies, and carries heat away.  They may enjoy walking through a cool puddle to cool their feet off, and a nice mist can cool surrounding air temperatures by up to 20 degrees.

If you live in an area where hot weather is a regular occurrence, setting up a mister system is a great way to help keep your chickens cool. Alternatively, you could use lawn sprinklers or a garden hose to spray down the ground and cool things off.

chickens eating watermelon

Give them Ice & Frozen Treats

Put out frozen gallon jugs, so they can lay next to them to keep cool. You can also add blocks of ice, or toss a bunch of ice cubes into the waterer or feed pan. Chickens can drink the ice water as it melts.

Frozen watermelon makes the perfect summer treat for your chickens.  It’s wet, mushy, cold, and tasty!  They’ll enjoy eating it, and they’ll get a hydration boost from the melon’s high water content.  Don’t overdo it and feed them too much, or you might start seeing pink droppings everywhere!

If Your Chicken is in Distress – ACT QUICKLY! 

If you see a chicken panting excessively, looking pale and lethargic, you must act quickly.  Immediately take your bird and submerge it up to its neck in a cool water bath.  Their body temperature must be reduced as quickly as possible and this could be a life saving measure.  Consider bringing your vulnerable chickens indoors, or setting up a pen in a cool garage.  Spending the afternoon in a dog crate in the air conditioning may not seem like their ideal day, but it may save their lives.

Want to learn more – check out our Poultry Care Corner!

(Editor’s note: This recently updated post was originally published 7/16/21)

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