Summer is here and those chickees are hot!
Seriously though, our chickens thrive best in the cooler months. A chicken's normal body temperature sits between 105 Fahrenheit and 107F (40.6 and 41.7 Celsius). Chickens are homeothermic, they produce and dissipate heat to support a constant body temperature. Their feathers, wattles, and combs keep their body temperature at an optimum. You will most likely see your chicken standing with its wings pushed out the sides. This posture is your chicken attempting to cool itself. Chickens do not have sweat glands. Their air sacs work to take in cooler air and then panting expels the heat from their body. When the outside temperature, mixed with high humidity stays above 90 degrees your flock is at risk for heat stress and possibly heat stroke. Heavier breeds are at higher risk. But this is a concern for all sizes and breeds. Don’t lose hope though, you CAN help your flock manage hot chick summer. Here are my top tips that you can easily implement today.
1. Clean fresh cool water is a requirement. Please provide extra waters during the summertime and check as often as possible. The heat can cause their water to evaporate quickly. Preferably keep waters in a shady area. You can do this by adding a beach umbrella, a lean-to of some sorts, or a cover. Adding ice cubes to the waters, or frozen water bottles will help keep their water nice and cool on those hot days.
2. Shade is a must and I understand not everyone has tall trees placed around their coop and run. Although, this is something to think about when deciding where to place your coop before building. You can create shade with beach umbrellas, shade cloth, and tall plants around the outside of the run. Get creative and think outside the box!
3. Adding electrolytes to their water can help your chickens replace lost nutrients. There is a vast variety of brands on the market to choose from. You can also make a homemade version by adding a ¼ cup of baking soda per gallon of water. Please make sure they have access to just plain drinking water. Some chickens will go without drinking if they find the water with electrolytes unfavorable.
4. A Dust bathing area is a necessity all year long but is crucial during the long hot summer days. Chickens will dig down into the cool dirt to not only cool themselves off, but also to keep their feathers and skin healthy.
5. Fan (electric or battery powered) can keep air moving. Placing frozen water bottles near the fan can help circulate cool air. Placing the fan in a dusty area could cause respiratory issues. It’s recommended that you use a fan that’s Agricultual safe. It’s important to use a fan that will stand up to all the dust/dander and be washed regularly.
6. Misters or sprinklers are great for creating a cool place for your chickens to stand. Chickens can't swim and I don’t recommend placing them in a pool or dunking them in cold water. UNLESS your chicken is suffering from a medical emergency like Heat stroke. Then a cool bath would be called for.
7. Feed in the early mornings and evenings towards roosting time. Just like us humans, their body temperature increases with activity. You'll notice your chickens are most active in the early mornings and evenings towards roosting time.
8. Provide enough room for your flock to move around. Your chickens need room to move away other members of the flock to cool off.
9. Don’t stress your chickens by chasing them. Its best to leave them alone and let them cool off during the hottest times of the day.
BONUS TIP: Avoid giving scratch grains during the summer time. Frozen berries, watermelon, and leafy greens are my flocks favorites. Since my chickens are consuming less food during the summertime, I also add in some fats like black fly solider grubs! You can change up their normal layer feed to a higher percentage grower feed. They’ll be consuming less but getting the nutrients their bodies need. Make certain to provide laying hens oyster shell free choice. Please skip ACV (Apple cider vinegar) during hot weather. ACV makes the calcium in their laying feed less digestible. Read the article here: The Chicken Chick Heat Stress
Signs of Heat Stroke: Heat stroke can lead to death rather quickly.
- Pale combs/wattles
- Diarrhea. During the hot summer months
chickens will take in more fluids and in turn will produce looser
- Lifting wings away from body (Normal during shot weather)
- Panting (Normal during hot weather)
- Severe Lethargy
I know this all sounds very overwhelming. But with a little extra care and attention we can keep our flocks safe and healthy!