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How To Care For Chickens In The Hot Summer Months

 

 

This is the time of year when your chickens will need more special attention.  Chickens have a much higher body temperature than you or I and will generally feel that rise in heat faster then we will.  The average body temperature for a chicken normally will run at 102-103 degrees F.  Their heart rate is normally 280-315 beats per minute.  Another fact is a rooster will take around 18-20 breaths per minute while a hens is 30-35 breaths per minute.  The average life span for an egg laying chicken is around 5-8 years for large breeds such as your Rhode Island Red's but have been known to live 20 years while 'meat' birds only live 1-3 years.

 

Heat can create more problems for your chickens than cold weather can.  It's easy to see they are insulated rather well with many feathers. Chickens fluff up their feathers as many birds will do which traps air between the layers which keep air in as a insulation in cold weather. In warmer weather they seek out shade.  You will notice them lay down and spread their wings and bodies out to cool down.  The main way a chicken cools itself though is drinking plenty of cold water.

 

Since we as humans do not speak chicken 'cluck cluck language' our chickens let us know in other ways such as body language when they are uncomfortable or getting overheated.  Number one will be having their mouth open and panting and most often they will have their wings spread somewhat hanging at the sides of the body.  They will lay around more.  Egg laying will drop.  Chickens will eat less in warm weather.  Chickens can not sweat so they hold their wings open away from their body and pant to release some of that extra heat in the summer.  Chickens cool themselves by blood flowing through the comb and wattles which then cools and recirculates back through the interior part of their body.  In extreme heat they most often will seek out a shady location to lay and rest. 

 

I've read that adult chickens will start to pant once temperatures reach in the middle 80's.  With the heat we have moving through our region now special care is essential to keep a happy and healthy flock. Heat stress factors can be damaging to a chickens health and well being even leading to death in some cases.  We can prevent this by paying close attention and meeting their needs in these conditions.

 

WATER: 

 

 

This is the time to have additional amounts of water available for your chickens.  In high heat conditions chickens will drink twice as much water. Try

keeping extra pails of water available for your flock both in the coop and outside as well.  Having more than one source of water for chickens also helps in preventing fights between them over 'who gets to drink first'.  Place pans around the yard so chickens do not have to walk to far to find it. This will encourage them to drink more and more often.   Make sure the water is clean and fresh!  The best rule to live by is replacing the water daily so it is always fresh and cool.  Chickens will drink more water if it is cool rather than warm.  During hot weather algae is more likely to grow so remember to clean out the water bowls more often too.

 

 

CHICKEN COOP: 

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In extreme heat it is extra important to provide plenty of ventilation inside the coop.  A thermometer is an essential tool to have in the coop to monitor the heat conditions. All window should be open for air circulation.  Thick bedding such as pine shavings can be a heat absorber and should be used more sparingly having only an inch or so in thickness.  If you have electric in the coop providing a fan will help in circulating air flow.  Having constant air flow is a must. Roof vents will help in removing trapped heat around the ceiling.  Look for signs of mold in the coop if using straw or hay. Using hay and straw in the coop during hot weather can start to rot much faster which turns to compost which in turn will only add more heat. Remove and clean the coop if any mold is found.

 

SHADE:

 

Always make sure you are providing plenty of shade for your chickens in warm weather. Place an old watered down bed sheet over the coop. Use anything you can think of to provide shade. If you do not have an abundant amount of shade think of ways to provide that important necessity. A simple cardboard box turned on it's side with a hole cut out for ventilation will help during warm weather.

 

WAYS OF COOLING OFF CHICKENS:

 

Provide frozen water bottles. Frozen water bottles can be placed in the bedding inside the coop. They can be placed in the water pans to keep the water nice and cold. 2-liter bottles are wonderful to use.

 

Hosing off the coop.  Take the hose and apply water to the walls and roof of the coop in extreme heat conditions.  Hose the run area early in the morning paying special attention however that the chickens are not standing in the water which can lead to foot problems.

 

CHICKEN HEAT STRESS MANAGEMENT:

 

Providing Electrolytes, When a chicken pants it will alter their electrolytes, so adding electrolytes to the water will aid in rebalancing.  This will increase the chickens drinking habits making them drink more water which they need in extreme heat conditions. When supplementing the water with anything it is always important to speak with your vet or health specialist.

 

In extreme heat chickens eat less so it is important to feed them during the coolest part of the day. Remember digestion produces more heat.

 

Provide evaporative cooling.  Water misters and foggers can be used. Providing water on chickens helps to cool them off in high heat conditions.

 

Avoid overcrowding,  Overcrowding increases heat.  Provide plenty of room for your chickens to move freely.  Provide shade in as many areas as possible.  Try not disturbing your chickens in the middle of the day.  They need to do their own thing and rest when they can.

 

When free ranging,  Taller grass, shrubs and weeds prevent air flow.  Make sure they have plenty of places where the grass is short and shady locations. Make sure you are providing plenty of fresh, clean cold water. 

 

Provide chilled or frozen fruits and vegetables, Providing chilled fruits and veggies will help in cooling off your chickens. Avoid grains such as corn which are high in starch content during extreme heat conditions. High starch content grains will heat up a chickens body temperature.

 

Provide a dirt area, Providing loose dirt that has been waterred down and allowed to drain will be a cool area they can lay in and dirt bathe. A chicken likes nothing better then rolling around in cool dirt! Try to have plenty of these areas so all your chickens

have space to cool off.

 

Leave your chickens alone, As much as we love our chickens and want to be around them it is best to leave them alone during extreme heat conditions.  At this time you want to keep stress levels down as low as possible.  Let them do their own thing. Avoid

picking them up which will increase their body temperature. Only monitor them during hot weather for signs of excess heat stress.

 

See here for more on summer chicken keeping:

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/788391/keeping-chickens-cool-in-summer-heat/0_30

http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/544237/how-to-keep-chickens-cool-in-the-heat-tips-wanted/0_30

http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/61883/idea-for-keeping-chickens-cool-in-outrageous-heat-update-w-picture/0_30

http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/213810/keeping-my-chickens-cool-in-the-heat-pictures/0_30

 

Comments (13)

Great information for the first summer with my ladies. Regarding electrolyte replacement, do you have a product that you would recommend? And what temperature range would indicate that I should be on the look out for needing to use this in their water?
Congrats to you and your ladies! Raising chickens can be such an enjoyable hobby. I've only used one brand so I cannot recommend any certain one. Electrolytes are made by many different companies. I generally shop at my local tractor supply store and they carry Save A Chick brand so that is what I use. I start them on electrolytes when it gets in the mid 90's myself. I buy it as a three pack and instructions are on the back of each package. Below is a link about the product:
http://www.valleyvet.com/ct_library_info.html?product=52241b1a-154d-4aad-8a3c-aaa954a4ed7c&showText=1
What great information! I just got my first chickens in April and we are having record high temperatures this summer. Thank goodness I was able to check off most of your suggestions as done. Didn't know about the electrolytes though so I will be checking that out at my local Tractor Supply. Thanks for this great information!
Thanks for the advice. I am building my coop this summer and getting chicks next May. I live in a climate that gets very hot in summer and very cold in winter so I am trying to build a coop that will keep them comfortable in both conditions. Your suggestions will be very helpful!
The frozen 2 liter water bottles is a great idea...as they thaw, you can add some of the chilled water to the drinking water. Keep the watering bottle in the shade. The standard red plastic base and opaque water bottle tends to absorb a lot of heat.
I would also add, if you have them in a tractor during the day, reflective tarps over the top and sun-lit side to keep them cooler. Cheap and easy to relocate as the seasons change.
My hens are just over a year old.  Have 5 RIR's, 3 White Leghorns, 2 Domineckers, 2 meat hens.  All eggs have begun to be thinner. Seriously thinner as you can hardly handle them without breaking the shell.  They have plenty of access to ground oyster and I feed them 22% Layer food.  I average 11 eggs per day and that hasn't changed.  What is wrong?  Is it the heat? I live in North Georgia and we have had a very warm spring so far.  But they are shaded and have plenty of water.  HELP!
This is very helpful! Any additional measures for chicks or pullets? We get Heat waves here into and beyond 110 deg. Fortunately, the coop is constantly in dappled shade.
I live in Malta where it gets very, very hot in the summer. Last year I put a 24" plastic plant saucer in a shady corner of the run (in addition to their normal nipple waterer) and filled it each day. The girls (6 hens) seemed to think it was excellent for wattle dipping, and I'm sure that helped keep them cool. They never walked in it. I'll definitely be doing that again this year, perhaps with the addition of a frozen water bottle. It was super easy to keep clean, each morning I'd just dump whatever water was in there from the day before (giving them a damp area to lay in--bonus) and fill it up again. About once a week I'd scrub it with a brush. 
Ron8072, I was having the same problem. About three weeks ago I decided to give them some extra calcium by crushing a single tums and mixing it into some pellets and water (my girls love wet pellets!) and did that for a week. They are now back up to speed and the shells are thicker.
I've just recently bought some chicken vitamins to mix in with their water, and am on day 3 of 5 in giving them that little boost. I have 6 ISA brown hens who are almost two years old now. For a while there I was getting only one or two eggs (!!!) a day but now I'm back to 4 or 5 a day. Yay!
PS I suppose the results could also have come from the stern talking-to they got. ;)
I am in Florida and yea seem as this year is hotter than normal. 95 degree during the day and thank god its around 70 at night. My coop is half metal roof and the other half is plywood and a tarp covering. Course its wired on all side. I have tarp on the sides so bad rain keeps them dry and wonderful during the winter. So usually keep it rolled up during the summer. I use a small sprinkler on the roof to keep it cool. Nothing worse to look at your chickens walking around wings out and mouth open panting.
cluckberry, how many chickens shared the one tums per day? I sometimes have the thin-shelled problem too, though my girls have oyster shell at all times. This sounds like an intriguing idea. Thanks for sharing it.
Thanks, Cluckberry!  I should have known that!  Not sure about the wet pellets but will try.  I go to extraordinary lengths to keep my feed dry.  Heard some scary stories about wet and moldy feed so I decided  to keep it dry.  Will report back in a few days concerning the outcome.  Again, Thanks!
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