Summertime is supposed to mean fun in the sun. Unfortunately, the sun and heat can be too much for some people and animals. Your chickens are no exception. In order to keep your flock from getting roasted this summer, you should know how to keep them cool. Many breeds of chickens are fully capable of tolerating the heat when their home is set up for it.
What Temperature is Too Hot For Chickens?
You might think that a creature that was bred from jungle fowl would be a bit better at tolerating the heat. However, your chickens are just as susceptible as you are to heat stress and stoke. That is why keeping them cool throughout the day is essential. Generally, any time it is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, your chickens are in danger of heat-related health conditions, death included.
Some breeds that carry more weight or plumage can start feeling the effects of heat around 85 degrees F. On the flip side, lightweight chickens and bantams tend to fare a little better during the summertime.
What are Signs of Heat Stress and Stroke in Chickens?
How do you know when your chickens are suffering under the hot summer sun? Here are some signs to look out for:
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased egg production
- Droopy combs and wattles
- Discoloration of combs and wattles
- Standing with wings held away from the body
- Mouth breathing and panting
Ways to Keep Your Chickens Cool During Summer
Looking for ways to make your yard more chicken-friendly this summer? Here are 10 ways to keep your chickens cool.
1. Provide Plenty of Shade
One of the simplest but most essential measures to take when protecting your chickens from the heat is to give them shaded places to rest. Whether in a fenced-in run or roaming free, your chickens are going to need ample shade in the summer. Consider planting shade trees around the yard or near the chicken run. Set up little umbrellas or canopies to block out the sun in places. Your chickens will thank you.
2. Cool, Fresh Water
Chickens need water throughout the day. More so in the summer. You should be continuously refreshing their supply and adding a couple of ice cubes to keep the water from getting too hot. Make sure the water is also somewhere shaded and not sitting directly in the sun.
3. Air Out The Coop
Good ventilation is a must for any coop, regardless of the temperature outside. Otherwise, your chickens are going to be breathing in ammonia or getting too cold or hot. In the summertime, you want your coop to feel cool inside. Consider putting up some wire screens on the doors and windows so you can leave them cracked open throughout the night without predators sneaking it. You can also add some battery-powered or solar-powered fans to circulate the air.
If the coop is overcrowded, get a bigger one before the next heatwave. Providing your chickens with ample space to roost will help them space out and keep cool.
4. Frozen Feed and Treats
Whenever a chicken consumes something, it will sit in their crop until the evening. So why not use their digestive tract to their advantage? When the mercury is climbing, break out some frozen food and treats. You can stick their regular feed in the refrigerator or freezer for a period of time then serve it up as you usually would. Your chickens will immediately get relief from swallowing the cool food; and that food will work within their crop to cool them internally.
The same is true with treats. Choose fruits and vegetables with a high amount of water and stick it in the freezer. Serve those frozen pieces to your chickens throughout the day. Freezing such fruits and vegetables not only helps them stay cool, it gives them another way to stay hydrated. The best fruits and vegetables include celery, lettuce, carrots, peas, pineapple, banana, apples, strawberries, and blueberries.
5. Clean Out The Coop
When the temperature rises, it is important to keep your chicken’s coop and run clean. In the winter, you may have increased the amount of litter in the coop to allow for natural insulation to build up (known as the deep litter method). Now is the time to remove most of it. Leave only a dusting around 2 inches deep. That will reduce the amount of heat trapped inside the coop.
6. Bring Out The Kiddie Pool
Taking a dunk in a pool on a hot day is the ultimate refresher, right? Well, your chickens agree. Chickens use their feet to help control their body temperature, which is why you might see them standing in water on a hot day to cool down. Why not set up a kiddie pool for your flock instead? It is going to take some time for your chickens to get used to a big blue pool in the middle of their run, but with time they will take to standing or floating in the water. If your chickens trust you, you could also dunk them in the bath.
Consider adding a couple of stepping stones into the pool, too. Your chickens can then stand on a cool, stable surface.
7. Dust Baths Galore
To humans, bathing in dirt sounds counter-intuitive. For chickens, dirt is the best thing ever for their feathers and skin. Dust baths help chickens stay clean and parasite free, which is why it is always a good idea to give them space for bathing in dust. Of course, some of those areas might end up in the middle of the yard, directly under the sun. And you are probably aware of how hot sand can get when it is right under the sun… As such, build a dust bath somewhere shaded.
You can also consider filling a galvanized metal tube with some sand and putting it under a tree or somewhere with a decent breeze. Add in a bit of lime or wood ash to help with parasite control, too. Your chickens will thank you for the cool dust bath.
8. Install Misters
If you don’t want the ground of the chicken run to turn into a mud bath, why not consider installing a few misters to the coop? Misting will prevent the ground from being overly saturated while helping reduce the air temperature in the area. As the water floats through the air, it starts to evaporate, which works to remove some of the heat. As such, your chickens will feel much cooler. The alternative is a sprinkler. If you don’t mind the mud, you can also soak the ground and let your chickens stand in the puddles.
9. Turn On a Fan
If your coop is set up for it, or if you have a generator, you may be able to set up some fans around the coop to keep the air circulating in and out. Fans are an excellent way to keep your chickens cool during the nights when summer storms are rolling through the area and the windows and doors are shut. Fans can also be turned outward into the yard, if necessary.
10. Chill The Ground Lava
In the event you don’t have a wading pool to offer up your chickens, you can cool the ground in other ways. For example, you can grab a couple of gallon jugs of water. Freeze them solid then bring them out into the yard. Set the gallons down in the places where your chickens like to lay, be it near the dust baths or under a tree. The ambient chill of the jugs will be enough to cool the ground. Optionally, you can put a towel over the jugs so your chicks can perch atop them.
Finally, you can watch this video that illustrates many of our tips:
Final Thoughts on Keeping Chickens Cool
How do you keep your chickens cool in the summer? You give them shade, water, and plenty of frozen treats. Should none of these tips be enough to beat the heat, you can always bring them inside into the A/C. Otherwise, your chickens will be able to cool themselves down with cold food in their crop and a short wade in the kiddie pool. With that, every member of the flock will be able to enjoy the summer without melting.
Valerie has been content writing since 2016 for websites and companies all around the world. A traveler, dancer, martial artist, Valerie loves gathering experiences and wisdom. Her travels have taken her to over 20 countries, and she hopes to see more of the world soon.