How To Keep Chickens Cool In The Summer
Preview: This post shares several things you can do to help keep chickens cool during the summer heat.
During the summer months, your chickens likely don’t have the benefit of air conditioning like humans do. Their normal body temperature is between 105 and 107 degrees.
Once the temperature rises above the mid 80’s, your chickens will start to suffer in the heat. Egg production will slow down and you may even notice more unusual looking eggs. So how do you keep your chickens cool in hot weather?
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How Do You Know If Your Chickens Are Hot?
First, let’s talk about how you can tell when your chickens are too hot. Most likely, the first time you notice your chickens are too hot, you may be a bit upset. Chickens don’t sweat.
To cool themselves, they will open their beaks, pant, and spread their wings apart to allow heat to escape. This is normal behavior and nothing to be alarmed about but it does mean your chickens are hot.
But there are some things you can do to help your chickens cool down in the summer.
Ways To Keep Chickens Cool
Provide Some Shade
First, provide some shade, especially on really hot days. (But really, your flock should have a shady, cool spot all the time. Extreme temperatures can happen any time.) If your chickens free range, make sure they have access to a tree or shady area on your property.
If your chickens are kept in an enclosed chicken run, cover at least part of the area with shade cloth or a tarp if your run isn’t near a tree or building that provides shade. A tarp with reflective material on the outside will help deflect even more of the sun to keep the area cooler.
Creating a shaded area is a great way to provide cool dirt for chickens to take a dust bath. (And dust bathing can help prevent health issues in your flock.) Oftentimes this shady spot will be their favorite place to hang out on hot summer days.
However, don’t cover your entire run with tarps. Another key to keeping chickens cool in the summer is ventilation.
Provide Adequate Ventilation
While adequate ventilation is necessary all year ‘round, even a slight breeze in the summer can provide cooling relief for your chickens.
Think about a hot summer day with no breeze. It makes the temperature feel even hotter. Air movement will help with evaporative cooling for chickens, just like it does for you.
If you have a way to get electricity to your chicken coop, you can add a box fan to the coop during the summer to help with proper ventilation. Don’t turn it up very high or it will just stir up a bunch of dust and that could lead to respiratory issues.
And unless it is a fan suitable to handle the elements (do they even make such a thing?) be sure the fan is placed IN the coop but well out of reach of your chickens.
I have also heard of making a “homemade” air conditioner of sorts by freezing water in a gallon milk jug and placing it in front of a fan. As the air blows across the frozen jug, it provides cooling to the air. Of course the frozen bottles will need to be replaced regularly to keep the air cool.
Provide Plenty of Cool Water
An adequate water supply is THE most important aspect of keeping your chickens cool in the summer. Do not let your chickens run out of fresh water for any amount of time. Chickens who lack water can have heat stroke or die in a matter of hours.
Chickens drink a lot more water in the summer months so it may be necessary to add an extra waterer to your coop or run. They will drink at least twice as much water when the weather is hot as when it is cold.
Several sources have said a single bird can drink up to 3 cups of water a day when it is really hot outside. While my hens don’t seem to consume quite that much, I do recommend a gallon of water for every six birds.
If the water is hot, you can add a handful of ice cubes to each waterer to help cool the water too.
You can also provide your chickens with a shallow pool of water to wade in. Since chickens get rid of body heat through their combs, wattles, and legs, wading in a shallow pool of water can help them cool down quickly.
Another way to help cool your chickens is to use a mister in their run. This will cool the air temperature and provide some relief to your chickens.
However, don’t use a hose to wet your chickens down. You’ve probably heard the saying “mad as an old wet hen?” Well chickens don’t like to be soaking wet. Use a mister or don’t wet them down at all!
A Few Other Quick Tips For Keeping Chickens Cool
Use only a shallow layer of bedding in the coop. If you cleaned your coop in the spring, you shouldn’t have too much extra bedding in the coop.
As the bedding decomposes from the chicken poop it produces heat. So the less bedding and poop to decompose, the better.
A Few Things I Don’t Recommend
Feeding Mint to Chickens
Mint is usually thought to be a cooling herb but chickens have very few taste buds. It is not likely that eating mint will cool a chicken off.
However, if you have plenty, it makes an excellent herb to add to the coop to repel flies and other insects. (And it won’t hurt them if they do eat some.)
Feeding Frozen Treats
I also don’t recommend feeding frozen treats to your chickens. During the summer I actually don’t recommend feeding many treats at all.
Chickens will eat less in the summer since the process of digesting food raises their body temperature. They need their layer feed to provide balanced nutrition. Eating too many treats can mean your chickens don’t get the nutrients they need.
An occasional cool treat is fine like garden scraps or a few pieces of fresh fruit like watermelon that have a high water content anyway, but skip the scratch.
And please, please, please skip the frozen corn! I see frozen corn recommended often for chickens in the summer. This is not a good choice because corn raises a chicken’s body temperature since it takes a while to digest.
Save the corn and scratch grains for the winter months when chickens need the extra heat they produce through digestion.
Signs of Heat Stress in Chickens
While I don’t want to scare you, it is a good idea to know the signs of heat stress and heat exhaustion in chickens. Oftentimes, the first sign is pale combs and wattles and general listlessness. A heat stressed chicken likely won’t be moving around much.
If you notice a chicken in distress, grab a bucket or kiddie pool and fill it with cold water. Hold the chicken’s feet in the water for several minutes to allow the chicken’s body temperature to return to normal.
So hopefully these tips will help you help your backyard chickens beat the heat this summer. If you have any other tricks that have worked to keep your flock cool , I would love it if you would share in the comments.
- 5 Best Herbs to Use in the Coop
- Benefits to Free Ranging Your Chickens-and why it may not be best for your flock.
- 7 Chicken Predators you need to be prepared for
What do you recommend feeding chickens during the summer months instead of scratch? We’ve always fed ours scratch in warm months and whole corn in cold months.
If you are raising your chickens for eggs, you should be feeding your flock a layer feed every day, both during the summer and winter. Scratch is just a treat. You shouldn’t give them more than a small handful of scratch a day for 6 chickens. Your flock will probably eat less during the summer months because of the heat anyway.