High heat is dangerous for chickens. As their caretakers, we need to take precautions just as we would for any other pet, especially in temperatures over 85 degrees F. Heat stress, heat stroke and death can occur in an overheated bird. Here are some tips to help keep your flock cooler and happier this summer:
Provide shade. Give your birds a place of refuge from the sun. If they don’t have shade from trees or shrubs, create some artificial shade; put up a big beach umbrella, shade cloth or tarp.
Provide lots of cold water. Cold water will regulate the chicken’s body temperature, and like us, chickens don’t like to drink warm water. On hot days, change water frequently, keep it in a shady area and add ice to help keep it cold longer.
Provide dirt bath areas. Dust baths help remove parasites such as mites and lice from your chickens' feathers and legs. But when it’s hot, chickens dig down into the ground to rest in cooler soil. Sand stays cooler and the birds use less energy to dig it up.
Add electrolytes to their water. This will help keep them from getting dehydrated in the heat.
If you have artificial lighting in the coop, turn it off!
Provide ventilation. Open windows or doors or install screens in your coop to help the hot air escape.
Provide a shallow pan with cold water. Some chickens will use it as a wading pool and cool off by standing in the cooler water.
Install a fan in your coop. Use it for exhaust only because chickens don’t like the wind blowing on them. Place a filter in front of it to trap dust and dander from destroying your fan. And, keep it out of the way so they don’t get hurt in the moving blades.
Give them cold or frozen fruits and vegetables. Eating them will help the birds cool off. Who doesn’t like a frozen treat in the summer?
Leave them alone. When it’s really hot, we all slow down. The more active your chicken is, the higher their body temperature gets. Let them lie around in the dirt and stay cool.
Decrease the litter inside the coop. Both litter and chicken waste generate and trap heat so on hot days, decrease litter to no more than 2 inches deep.
Keep an eye out for signs of stress. Healthy birds mean less work in the long run and a lot more EGGS!