Saturday, July 15, 2017

How to keep your chickens cool in summer

In the hottest days of summer I often worry about my chickens and how they are handling the heat. Chickens can die of heat stroke so of course I want to do everything in my power to help keep them cool. Luckily, it's pretty easy to tell when chickens are getting overheated.

When chickens got hot they pant and hold their wings away from their body. They tend to seek out cool spots to rest and don't bunch up together as much. Once you see these symptoms you know its time to go into emergency cooling mode! However, the best results are in prevent overheating to begin with. These are the 14 things I do to prevent overheating in chickens.

prevent heat stroke chickens

1) Extra water bowls: in summer I fill all their normal watering stations plus leave large dog bowls full of cool, clean water absolutely everywhere. Try to keep waterers in the shade so the water stays cool longer. I like using dog bowls since they are deep enough for the chickens to drop their wattles in to help cool themselves. Providing lots of cool, clean water is the number one way to prevent heat stress in chickens!

2) Bobbing for berries: If the chickens don't seem to be drinking enough, float some ice and berries in a bowl of water and let them at it. Some berries float and some sink, but the chickens eat them all and afterwards they seemed a whole lot cooler. I also tried this with frozen peas and they gobbled them up just the same. Plus I used up all the fruit that has been going bad way too fast in this heat!

keep chickens cool

3) Popsicles: Freezing bowls of water with fruit and veggies is a great way to make a treat to keep your chickens cool! You can add almost anything you have on hand and make these treats any size from ice cube size to gallon sized bowl. Check out this post for complete instructions.

4) Cold fruit: watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes or other fruit straight from the fridge will help cool the chickens down also. Just like how you feel cooler when you eat ice cream. I don't think chickens like I've cream though!

5) Avoid corn: corn is an interesting subject because many people believe that you should give cracked corn to your chickens in the winter to help them stay warm. However if it's helping them to create body heat in the winter than it would be keeping them too warm in the summer. I avoid seed mixes like scratch in summer also because of the corn content.

6) Well ventilated coop: having adequate ventilation in the coop is very important in the summer because as chickens are sleeping at night they are breathing out warm air and giving off body heat. Without proper ventilation the air inside the coop can quickly become too warm.

7) Open coop windows and doors: during the day I like to keep the coop windows and doors wide open. This allows for the air to flow freely and keep the inside of the coop as cool as possible. This way when I shut the coop at night to keep predators out, I'm not shutting in a bunch of hot stale air.

8) Shade: Provide lots of shaded area for the chickens to hang out in. I have woods all around my yard so the chickens tend to go under the trees to hang out in the warmest parts of the day. If you don't have naturally shaded areas, you can hang a tarp for them to go under. Or don't be surprised when you find them on your porch! I often find chickens just chilling under my truck in the summer. If you don't have trees you can plant a few bushes to provide shade. 

9) Kiddie pool: we have a small kiddie pool that used to be used by ducklings. I put about an inch of water in it on hot days. They usually jump in to get a drink and walk through the water. I don't put much more then that though because chickens can't swim. I find I need to change the water at least once a day because they end up pooping in it! 

I also have an old cat litter pan under the downspout next to the house that they could wade in....but since it's under a light that's on all night, they just prefer to pick the bugs out of it that have decided to go swimming during the night.

10) Avoid overcrowding: summer is not the time to be pushing the limits of coop capacity! When chickens are over crowded at night they cannot space themselves out to allow air flow between them and being crowded together keeps them warmer. 

11) Dust bathing: chickens love to dust bathe and in the summer a dust bathing area can help them to cool down. Make sure their dust bathing tub isn't out in the sun (especially if you use sand, nobody likes walking on hot sand!) Or dig them a shallow hole in a shaded spot. Don't forget to add wood ash and DE

12) Water mister: I have read several times to try a mister so when one of these hose attachments was on sale at the end of summer one year we picked it up. The idea behind it is that it provides a cool, fine mist and your chickens would enjoy sitting under the spray and cooling off. Mine ignored it, but some people have had luck with them!
summer | chickens

13) Hose down the coop: Spraying water on the roof and sides of a hot coop can cause it to cool down a bit. As the water evaporates it takes some of the surface heat with it. 

13) Hose down the run: spraying some water on the run can also cool it down. If your run is all dirt try not to make a mud bog, but damp dirt is cooler and much more fun to dig in!

Hopefully your summers won't get as hot as ours but if they do, it's worth the extra effort to help your chickens keep their cool all summer long!

~L 
                           

2 comments:

  1. Chickens are so interesting birds. We had chickens all the time when I was growing up on our farm. Now our neighbor has chickens which I love to watch them. He lets them run over the yard and has a fence between our properties so they don't come over and ruin my garden. The DE has so many uses with animals, birds, and humans. I use that in my garden. Congratulations on being featured on Homestead blog hop.

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