Memorial Day weekend brought an unpleasant and unexpected heat wave to the upper Midwest. All time high temperature records shattered as the mercury hovered near 100 degrees. Hardly a breeze wafted across the land, but clouds of gnats attacked any warm-blooded creature that dared venture outside. The combination of heat plus gnats killed many chickens. Normally July and August are the hot months, so flock owners have some time to take action to keep their birds as cool as possible. This unexpected heat-wave and the swarms of gnats did in four of my neighbor’s chickens.
Here are simple actions that can be done to reduce heat and gnat stress:
Short Term Fixes
• Install mosquito netting over windows to supplement the wire netting. The larger wire keeps big predators out. The netting keeps gnats and mosquitoes at bay.
• Put a fan in the coop to create a breeze.
• Spray the coop’s exterior with water from a hose a couple of times each day. Evaporation will cool the inside of the coop a few degrees.
• Encourage calmness in the flock. Excited chickens heat up, so minimize activity that could rile them up.
• Keep waterers full and add a few extra ones so birds don’t have to walk far to take a drink.
• Move a picnic table into a sunny run to produce instant shade for the chickens beneath it.
Longer Term Permanent Fixes
• Insulate the coop.
• Plant trees that will eventually provide afternoon coop.
• Plant a bush in the run that shades a patch of ground.
• Buy heat tolerant breeds if elevated temperature is normal in the area.