Updated: Jul 28
A good percentage of the country is facing scorching temps right now. Even here, high in the mountains at nearly 8,000 feet we’re seeing 95-degree days. It can spell disaster for the garden, but also for your chickens. Did you know that most chickens don’t handle heat well?
There are a few breeds that tolerate heat well, like the Orpingtons and Leghorns and if you live in an area that is normally hot. (See the article below for more on chicken breeds.) But, on average, most chickens handle cold temperatures better than hot temperatures. And, well, it makes sense. Imagine walking around in a down coat in mid-July. No Thanks. When the temperatures soar in the summer, your flock relies on you to help them keep their body temperature at an acceptable level. Enter the frozen chicken treat.
How Hot is Too Hot for a Chicken?
The fact is that your average chicken does best in temperatures between 55-75 degrees F. When the temperature gauge rises above 80 degrees, it adds stress to their bodies, particularly when you add in high humidity. For your backyard flock, temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit increase the risk of heat stress and heat-related illnesses. Prolonged exposure to heat increases the stress on your bird's bodies, and it can result in death so keeping your chickens cool in the heat is an essential step.
There are of course various ways of doing this, from fans and misters to frozen jugs placed in the coop, but one of the simplest and most effective ways to cool them down is to feed your flock frozen treats.
What do You Need to Make Frozen Chicken Treats?
The good news is, very little. Almost any kind of large-ish tin or container will do. I used an old muffin tin, but you can also use small loaf or bunt pans or old yogurt containers. You’ll also need some ingredients and good old fashion water.
What Ingredients Do I Use For Frozen Chicken Treats?
Again, good news, almost anything. For the most part, if humans can eat it, so can chickens. However, the idea here is to keep your flock not only cool but hydrated so I like to choose plenty of ingredients that have a high water content. Leftover fruits and veggies from the fridge or garden that are going past their prime, canned or frozen veggies, applesauce, and fresh herbs are all great choices. I’ll also use mealworms, fresh herbs, apple cider vinegar ACV), and crushed red chili. Some of you may have read those last ingredients and wondered why.
I’ll start with the crushed chili. While capsaicin isn't a cure for anything, adding pepper flakes to a flock's diet could aid them in fighting off bacterial infections. Don’t worry, birds can’t taste capsaicin.
When I first got my baby chicks, I had one little Easter Egger who was so pasted I felt sure we were going to lose her. It went on for weeks, she was listless and underweight, half the size of the rest of the flock. I turned to my Facebook Chicken Group and put out a cry for help. What I got back (along with cleaning techniques) was to add crushed chili to the feed, ACV to the water, and provide chick grit. My baby girl was free and clear in a couple of days. Due to her size, we named her Chicken Little, but today she is the same size as all of her sisters.
What Not to Use...
Before you get started, there are a few things chickens can’t eat. Foods high in salt or fat are a no. The leaves of anything from the nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes etc.) Nothing that is moldy or too far off its expiration. Fruits and veggies that have gone soft are one thing, but if it’s beyond what you would consider eating go ahead and pitch it in the bin. For a good list of what not to feed your chickens, you can check out this post from backyardchickenproject.com.
How to Make Frozen Chicken Treats
Even more good news, this is the easiest “recipe” you’ll ever follow. Take whatever container you are using, and fill it about two-thirds full with your ingredients. Then, if you are using ACV ad a cap full of it to a container of water. Fill your chicken treat dish to nearly to the top with water, give it a stir, and freeze. And then - feed to your flock!
What do The Chickens Think of My “Cooking”?
The proof is in the pudding or in this case, the popsicle. When I enter the coop with these mid-morning, my girls all come running. Always place the treats in a shady area so they don’t melt sooner than necessary. The chickens not only love pecking at the ice block, for tasty morsels, but they also enjoy standing in the cold water as it melts.
Note: For the treats I have pictured, I used canned corn, mealworms, applesauce, rosemary, mint, some raspberries that were going south, and some chili flakes.
Do you make frozen treats for your chickens? What are your favorite ingredients to use? Tell us all about it in the comments! And, as always, until next time,