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Tending to Your Flocks Summer Needs

Tending Your Flocks Summer Needs

For most of the US, even though summer is still a few days away, the heat is already here. That means it’s time to discuss tending to your flock's summer needs. Being subjected to extreme heat is more dangerous for your chickens than extreme cold. So, let’s dive in and learn how to keep a flock comfy when those temperatures soar. 

How Heat Affects Chickens

Chickens of almost any breed, age, or size are susceptible to heat stress and heat exhaustion. Larger, heavier breeds tend to have the most significant problems managing high heat, but soaring temperatures can affect any flock. High temps can cause feed consumption to go down, affecting egg production, eggshell quality, and hen health. If left unchecked, heat stress can be fatal for chickens.

How Hot is “Too Hot” for Chickens?

Many chicken keepers worry about how their flock will fare in freezing temperatures but fail to realize that their chickens come with built-in down coats. Those feathers are great for managing winter nights but can be problematic when the thermometer rises. Your average chicken lives its best life when temperatures are between 55 and 75 degrees F. Any number over 80 degrees stresses their bodies, particularly when adding high humidity. At 90 degrees, you’ll begin to reach the red zone, with an increased risk of heat stress, heat stroke, heat-related illnesses, and even death. 

Signs of Heat Stress and Heat Exhaustion in Chickens

Chicken keepers must know the signs of heat stress so that they can recognize them and take action. Gradual temperature increases are one thing, but sudden heat waves will pose the greatest threat to your flock, so always pay close attention to impending weather changes.

  • Heavy breathing or panting through open beaks

  • Crouching with their wings held out away from their body

  • Lying on the ground with their wings spread

  • Decreased feed consumption

  • Lethargic behavior

  • Pale or discolored combs and wattles

  • Decreased egg production

It’s also important to note that around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, egg production can stop entirely to allow your hens to preserve their fluid and rest their bodies. A chicken exhibiting more than one or two symptoms is in extreme danger of dying from heat exhaustion. To cool your bird quickly, submerge her body (not her head) in a bucket of cool (not icy) water and move her to a cool or shaded area until completely recovered.

Tending to Your Flocks Summer Needs

Unlike other animals, chickens don’t have sweat glands and, therefore, don’t sweat. Heat loss is achieved through respiration, and they expel excess heat from their beaks, combs, feet, and wattles, otherwise known as any surface that isn’t covered in feathers. 

Provide Ample Shade

First and foremost, your flock needs easy access to areas where they can escape direct sunlight, whether provided by trees and shrubs, tarps, or shade cloth. 

Keep Water Dishes Full and Cool

Ensure that your chickens have access to cool, clean water and plenty of it. Place watering containers in shady locations, and when temperatures get really high, consider adding ice blocks to keep the water cooler for longer. 

Chickens Eating Watermelon

Be Smart With Treats

It's important to limit treats, especially scratch grains or corn, which can increase their body temperature. Instead, focus on threats aimed at increasing hydration and decreasing your hen's body temperature. Frozen fruits or veggies work great, or try making the frozen chicken treats below. 

Frozen Chicken Treats

Freeze Their Feed

It’s not uncommon for overheated hens to have a decreased appetite, but to ensure flock health, they still need to consume the appropriate amount of properly balanced layer feed. To encourage this, try freezing their food for an hour or so before freezing. When chickens consume frozen foods, it can help to lower their body temperature from within.

Create a Dust Bath Area 

Dust bathing is one of almost any chicken's favorite ways to keep cool, and providing a large dusting area to accommodate several birds is helpful. Any large shallow container will work to create a dust bath. Our chicken's dust bath is made from an old tire. All you need to do is fill it with a mixture of sand, cooled asses, and diatomaceous earth or First Saturday Lime (not an affiliate link, just what we use.) 

Improve Coop Ventilation 

A well-ventilated coop is essential year-round. During the summer months, it can provide your flock with a naturally cooler place to roost. Adding a small, screened (predator-proof) window is a great option, but you could also increase under-eave ventilation to encourage airflow.

Hose Down the Coop 

During extremely high heat, you may want to wet down the coop to provide temporary relief through evaporative cooling. Wet down the roof and sides thoroughly, as well as part of the yard or run, to give chickens a cool place to rest.

Give Them a Pool

If your climate is hot, try getting your flock a kiddie pool to splash around in. Not all flocks will take to wadding, but for those that do, you’ll find an increase in their comfort level, and, at the very least, a pool will provide a really large source of water to drink from. 

Add a Fan or Mister

In extreme heat situations, when temperatures spike into the triple digits, you may need to bring in the big guns, such as fans or misters. This has never been necessary for our Colorado flock, but some Texas and Arizona chicken keepers swear by it. 

Cool As a Feathered Cucumber All Summer Long

Remember that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and preventing heat stress is much easier than treating it. For the best results and the coolest flock around, use as many of the tactics listed here as possible. To ensure your flock's safety in the summer sun, have a plan in place and be ready to implement it in the event that a heat wave is headed your way. What are your favorite ways to cool down your flock? Tell us all about them in the comments below, and until next time, stay cool and 

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Tending to Your Flocks Summer Needs

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