It’s normal for people to change their habits during the summer to help them keep cool when temperatures rise. They stay in the air conditioning, wear lighter clothes, and enjoy cold drinks. But people don’t always think about how the summer heat affects their chickens.
Chickens aren’t capable of making these types of changes when the weather heats up. They need your help to stay cool. Without it, they could experience heat stress that can affect egg production. Heat stress occurs when a chicken’s core body temperature rises because of poor heat loss and the means taken to cope. In severe cases, heat stress is life-threatening.
Chickens don’t sweat as we do. Instead, they may spread their wings to release body heat. When they get hot, they pant, releasing moisture into the air. This can result in dehydration and a pH imbalance. Once the temperature reaches between 75° and 80° F, it’s time to start thinking about the steps needed to keep chickens cool. Preventing heat stress is easier than treating it after it happens.
How to Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer
1. Start by Improving Hydration
Even if you don’t calculate how much more water you need in summer, you know that you get thirstier and need more fluids to keep you hydrated. Chickens are the same, especially since they lose more water through panting.
One of the most basic steps for keeping chickens cool in summer is making fresh, cold water available. During the hottest part of summer, chickens drink as much as double the normal volume of water as in any other season. A good general rule of thumb is to provide 500 milliliters of fresh water for each chicken daily or one gallon of water for every seven chickens. Some ways to accommodate them include:
Make giving them fresh, cool water part of your basic chicken care routine in the morning and evening. During hotter weather, you might need to offer fresh water more often.
- Place extra waterers where the birds can always have them
- Place the waterers in the shade to help keep it cool
- Some chicken owners put ice in the waterers to keep it cold longer
- Add electrolytes to their water to help keep them hydrated
Hydration is the first and most important step for keeping chickens cool during the summer. The next step in summer chicken care is knowing what to feed.
2. Continue Feeding a Healthy, Cool Diet
There is no better time to offer your chickens cold, healthy treats than during summer. While your main goal is to keep them cool, you don’t want to get away from providing a balanced feeding schedule. Stick with the 90/10 rule of 90% complete feed and 10% healthy treats.
Start by offering your chickens complete feed in the morning and evening. Feed them in a shady area and wait until they finish feeding before offering treats. Not only can you freeze their feed, but also their snacks. Eating frozen food will help lower their internal body temperature.
3. Give Them Their Space
Keeping chickens cool in summer means you need to consider their body temperature. Normally, the temperature of a grown chicken is between 105°and 107°F, while a chick is lower at 103.5°F. If their body temperature increases, it can cause a lasting strain on the chicken’s health. Some things to do to keep them comfortable in the heat include:
- Provide them with a shady space outside of the chicken coop. If they are in a run, place a roof onto it to keep out the sun.
- Put screen doors in the coop in place of solid doors. Turn the lights off during the day and minimize the bedding.
- Leave no more than two inches of bedding in the coop. Otherwise, it will trap heat.
- Ventilate the coop and add a fan. If you don’t have access to electricity, consider installing a solar model. Avoid overcrowding the pen and their run space. Each chicken needs a minimum of 4 square feet of indoor space and 5-10 square feet of outdoor space.
- Add misters to spray the outside of the roof. Keeping their feet wet will help chickens lower their body temperature.
- Set up a kiddie pool. Putting pavers or stones inside the pool will allow them to stand. Place the pool in the shade to keep the water from getting hot.
- Provide them with a dust bath where they can keep cool. If you don’t have the right setting or the appropriate shade, fill a large container with fine dirt or sand. Sprinkle some diatomaceous earth into the mix for added mite and lice control.
Be Prepared for Sudden Temperature Increases
Chickens can sometimes handle gradual temperature rises more than those that happen suddenly. But don’t get caught without everything you need to keep chickens cool once the temperatures rise dangerously high.
Shop Grange Co-op for All Your Chicken Care Needs
At Grange Co-op, we offer a wide range of chicken care items, including everything from high-quality feed to ventilated chicken coops. Contact us to talk with one of our Poultry GrangeExperts to learn more about chicken health for your backyard brood.