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    6 Tips to Help Chickens Beat the Summer Heat

    Authored by Jodi Helmer

    When temperatures rise, chickens can struggle to keep cool. We are experiencing record-breaking temperatures across the nation and your flock is going to need some help staying safe. Read more about the effects of hot temps on chickens and get six tips for helping them beat the heat.

    Chickens and heat stress

    “A chicken’s core temperature is naturally high, making it especially susceptible to heat stress,” says Gail Damerow, author of “Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens” and “The Chicken Health Handbook.”

    Do chickens sweat?

    Chickens do not sweat. To cool off, they pant, vibrate their throat muscles, and hold their wings away from their bodies to increase airflow. While these natural responses help, they may not be enough during heat waves. Without enough relief from the heat, chickens can succumb to heat stroke.

    Follow these six tips to help your flock stay healthy during hot spells.

    1. Watch the water

    Providing your flock constant access to fresh water is important all year long, but it’s critical in the summer. Since water heats up in the sun, Dr. Jon Moyle, extension poultry specialist at the University of Maryland, suggests keeping waterers in a shaded spot and refilling them with cold water several times a day. Adding ice cubes will keep water cool temporarily. If you use a hose to refill waterers, “remember to run the hose long enough to get the hot water out,” Jon adds. “Chickens will drink more if the water is cool.”

    You may also want to add electrolytes to drinking water to replenish the ones chickens are losing in the heat. 

    However, “do not spike drinking water with vinegar during hot weather,” Gail cautions. “One of the effects of acidified water is to reduce the availability of calcium, which in turn causes hens to lay fewer eggs and with thin shells.”

    Farm-Tuff 5 gal. Top Fill Poultry and Game Bird Waterer

    Harris Farms 5 gal. EZ-Fill Poultry Drinker

    FlockLeader Recover 911 Poultry Supplement for Severe Stress, 8 oz.

    FlockLeader Arrive Daily Support for Chicks, 8 oz.

    2. Change your flock’s feeding schedule

    Digestion increases body temperature. To keep your chickens from overheating, feed them in the mornings and evenings when temperatures are cooler. Consider adding cold or frozen foods, such as pineapple, watermelon, and strawberries, to their diets; these fruits contain a lot of water, which can help keep chickens hydrated. Use cookie sheets to create ice blocks filled with sweet fruit, providing enrichment and extra hydration. 

    However, frozen treats—even fruits and veggies—should not take the place of chicken feed that contains the right balance of nutrients. Jon suggests limiting treats to no more than 10% of a chicken’s diet. 

    Another important factor to keep in mind is that feed goes stale faster in hot weather, according to Gail. She suggests keeping rations fresh by buying smaller amounts of feed more often and storing it in a cool place.

    PMI International Cluck & Co. Organic Layer Blend, 10 Pound Bag

    Nature's Best Organic Egg Layer Pellets, 40 lb.

    Nutrena NatureWise All Flock Pellet Poultry Feed, 40 lb.

    DuMOR 16% Layer Poultry Feed Pellets, Calcium Fortified, 50 lb.

    TSC team member, Neely Green, shares her favorite hydration trick for her flock - "I create ice cubes by freezing melon cubes - it's added nutrition and it helps keep them cool." 

    3. Prioritize shade

    Make sure your coop and run are located in a shady spot or consider adding protective shade elements.

    In an open pasture with few shady spots, consider hanging tarps or shade cloth to provide much-needed respite from the heat, suggests Jon.

    “Chickens don’t like to be out in the hot sun,” Jon says. “If you turn them loose in the yard, they’ll look for the shaded spots to stay cool.”

    Rugged Ranch Canvas Top for Walk-In Chicken Pen

    OverEZ Heavy-Duty Chicken Run Tarp Cover, Fits OverEZ 8 ft. Regular Run

    Rugged Ranch Welded Wire Chicken Pen Canvas Top

    ShelterLogic 10 ft. x 20 ft. MAX AP Canopy

    4. Add more cooling features to your run and coop

    A small wading pool placed in the shade can give chickens a spot to stand, cooling their bodies through their feet. Chickens are not swimmers - it's important to only fill a wading pool with 2 inches or water or less. Clean it often so chickens are not drinking fouled water, Gail advises. 

    Another way to help chickens get relief is to place frozen bottles of water covered in an old towel in the coop. This will give the birds a cool place to perch during a heat wave. 

    Funsicle QuickFun Pool

    Funsicle Americana QuickFun Pool

    Element Aluminized Sheet Pans, 2 pc.

    3 gal. Galvanized Steel Utility Feed Pan

     5. Encourage air circulation in the coop

    Airflow helps chickens stay cool. Open the windows to get a breeze moving through the coop and make sure you have hardware cloths securely attached to each pane to keep predators out.

    As temperatures heat up, chickens may need extra help cooling down. 

    “If you have electricity [in your coop], the easiest thing you can do is install a fan,” Jon says. “Air movement is going to cool them more than anything else.”

    You can also try to get creative with a homemade misting mechanism. “In commercial poultry houses, we have sprinklers for really hot days and we’ll sprinkle the chickens with water,” Jon says. “We also have fans and the air movement causes evaporative cooling.”

    You can lightly mist adult birds to help cool them down, but never mist chicks; they could catch a chill and die. 

    XPOWER 11 in. Rechargeable Cordless Air Circulator

    Maxx Air 14 in. Misting Fan with 20 gal. Tank, Blue, 3 Speeds

    CountyLine 18 in. Wall-Mount Fan (Indoor)

    XPOWER FC420 1/3 HP 3,600 CFM Professional Grade Air Circulator Utility Fan, 5 Speeds

    6. Choose heat-tolerant breeds

     If you live in an area with long, hot summers, choose breeds that are suited for the climate. Gail suggests breeds such as Ancona, Andalusian, Buttercup, Catalana, and Leghorn, which originated in hot climates and have light feathers and large combs and wattles that help them stay cool.

    “In hot weather, blood circulation through large combs and wattles increases to help dissipate body heat,” Gail says. “Since feathers trap heat close to the body, another warm-climate adaptation is sparse body feathering and no feathers on the legs and feet.”

    Breeds such as Rhode Island Red, Brahma, and Barred Rocks are less heat tolerant.

    You may not be able to control soaring temperature in the summer, but you can use smart strategies to keep your chickens cool when hot weather hits.

    More tips for keeping your flock cool

    Keeping your flock cool in the heat is as important as keeping them warm in the cold. Learn how to provide natural shade to their coop and chicken run with this guide.
    Proper coop insulation is key to your flock's safety in extreme heat or cold. Gail Damerow talks us through insulating your coop and what you can use.