With temperatures in the 90s and heat warnings well over 100 degrees out here in Eastern Iowa, it looks like hot summer days are finally upon us. If you have backyard chickens, it’s important to know how to keep them cool during summer. Here are a few ways to make sure that your chickens stay cool in the blazing summer heat.
How to Keep Chickens Cool During Summer without Electricity
Someone turned up the heat and it’s finally hot! Did you know that summer heat is harder on chickens than winter cold? You definitely need to know how to keep chickens cool during summer to keep them healthy.
Recognize signs of heat stress or heat stroke in chickens
Because chickens don’t have sweat glands, they can’t sweat so it’s important to recognize signs of heat stress. You may notice your chickens spreading out their wings and panting when it’s hot. Panting in chickens is similar to a dog panting. It’s how both types of animals cool off.
This is perfectly normal behavior during hot weather, but if they become lifeless, lethargic, or their combs start to discolor, you will want to cool them off as soon as you can. Cool them off by putting them in cool water, but don’t submerge their heads. Then, keep them in a cooler spot until they are completely recovered and running around as normal. Read more about hot weather management for poultry here.
During extremely hot weather, many chickens cut back on laying eggs. So keeping them as cool as possible may help with egg laying as well.
Make sure your chickens have lots of water
Fresh, cold water during hot weather is so important not only for chickens, but for all of your animals. A well hydrated bird is much more able to regulate its body temperature than a bird that’s thirsty, so make sure to check water often and keep it cool and fresh.
It’s a good idea to add ice cubes to the water if you can. Double check water throughout the day as chickens drink a lot more during hot weather. You might also want to provide electrolytes to help them cope better.
Give your chickens lots of shade during hot weather
Make sure your chickens have access to shade. I check on my chickens more often during hot weather and move food and water as necessary to keep it in the shade. If you don’t have shade of tall grass or around trees, making temporary shade with tarps is also an idea.
Change your feeding schedule
During hot weather, you may want to change when you feed your chickens. Feeding them in the morning or evening when it’s cooler will be better for them than feeding them during the hotter afternoons. Your chickens will also appreciate cool treats like watermelon or frozen treats like fruit and veggies when it’s really hot out.
Use misters or wet the ground
Using misters is a great way to keep your chickens cool during summer. If you don’t have misters, you can wet the ground with a hose to give your chickens a place to wet their feet. Burying a frozen bottle partway in the ground to give them a spot to rub on is another good idea.
Give chickens swimming opportunities
Okay, you got me. Unlike ducks and geese, chickens can’t really swim well. They don’t have waterproof feathers or webbed feet, and they’re not able to right themselves in the water. But, they do like to splash around in shallow water containers, and they can swim short distances when they must.
We have little pools of water out in the summer. Primarily the ducks and geese swim in them, but the chickens do drink water from the pools and if they are shallow enough, they will walk around in them too.
Make sure the chicken coop has adequate ventilation
Make sure the windows are open in the chicken coop. If you have fans, you’ll probably want to run them during very hot weather. Air flow in the chicken coop is always important, but it’s even more important on hot days. Here’s a solar powered fan that costs under $25 on amazon.
Dust baths help keep chickens cool during summer
Dust baths are very good for chickens for a lot of reasons, but they are especially important during hot weather. Not only do dust baths help chickens rid themselves of parasites and bugs of all sorts, but bathing in the cool dirt is another great way to help them cool off. Dust or sand from dust bathing absorbs oils and moisture from the chicken’s skin.
While there are lots of ways to keep chickens cooler without electricity, if you do have electricity to your coop, you may want to run an electric coop fan. Fans can help with flies and gnats in the coop and also help air flow and keeping the coop cool.
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