Chickens are good at lots of things — laying eggs, digging holes, throwing attitude around when they’re not pleased and even when they are happy… but one thing they are absolutely terrible at is keeping themselves cool in extreme heat. They need all the help they can get!
One of the most important things you need to know as a chicken owner is how to identify when they are overheated. They give signs like:
- standing with their wings spread away from their bodies
- lethargic behavior
- comb and wattle discoloration
- decreased appetite
- reduced egg production
These signs can seem pretty daunting. There is no need to worry because with a few simple tricks, you’ll be able to help them out in times of heat stress with confidence!
Provide as much shade as possible – When building your coop, try your best to locate it with an ample amount of shade in mind. My flock loves to hangout under the trees in their run on hot, sunny days. If trees are not an option for you, try using a black shade cloth over your run instead.
Create a breeze – Ventilation inside your chicken coop is always a good idea no matter what the season. In the summer, good ventilation is key to helping keep the inside of your coop cool. Provide screened in openings in your coop to get a good cross breeze moving throughout. If your coop doesn’t have great ventilation or you just want to add a little more air movement, consider adding a fan inside the coop. Just a simple box fan will do.
Clean your coop – During the summer months it is best that you do not use the deep litter method inside the coop. The deep litter method allows the bedding material (and chicken poo) to form a deep pile on the coop floor. The buildup of material acts like an extra layer of insulation on the coop floor. As the deep litter breaks down, the material physically heats up. This is great in the winter, but not so much in the summer. Try to keep your bedding no more than a few inches deep.
Fresh cool water – Water is a huge factor here. Always make sure to refresh your flocks’ water on a daily basis to ensure that it stays as cool as possible. You may even want to refresh it a few times a day when it is extra warm outside. Adding things to their water like ice or frozen fruits and veggies are a great way to help keep the water cool and it also gives them a yummy treat as well! If you feel as if they are becoming overheated, feel free to add electrolytes into their water to keep them hydrated.
Cool treats are a fan favorite – I don’t know about yours, but my ladies LOVE a nice cool treat on a hot summer day. Things like watermelon and other fruits and vegetables are a great choice. Be sure to use high moisture treats and avoid high carb treats like cracked corn and scratch grains. Watermelon, peas, fresh corn, and strawberries all freeze super well & provide a nice refreshing snack for the flock. When consuming frozen food, the cold goodies in their crop actually helps to lower their body temperature from within.
Give them space to dig – Wallowing in dirt – sounds glorious, aye? To us, not really. To a chicken? Absolutely! Chickens will dig and scratch at the ground until they get to the point where they have dug below the sun-warmed surface. Soil that is a few inches below the ground surface can be several degrees cooler. Make sure there is space in your run for the chickens to dig freely to find the comfort of the cool ground. Once they find the cool dirt, they are bound to lay in it! Perfect for cooling their underside.
When it comes down to it, no one knows your flock like you do. Use your best judgement and respond to the signs that they are giving you accordingly. These tips have kept my flock safe and comfortable and I hope they do the same for yours! Until next time! Have the best day!