If you own chickens, you know that keeping them cool is just as important as keeping our other pets cool during hot weather. Still, it's easy to forget about keeping your chickens comfortable since they're usually troopers about the hot weather. While hot weather isn't necessarily dangerous for chickens, our favorite fowls will voice their displeasure with the heat in other ways; when chickens are not kept cool enough, egg production will drop, temperaments will seem off, and they might even succumb to heat stress or other critical illnesses.
If you've tried a few options and can't figure out how else to keep your chickens cool in the summer heat, worry no longer. Here are our favorite ways to keep chickens cool, even when the mercury is soaring high.
How To Keep Chickens Cool With DIY Solutions
1. Keep Chickens in the Shade
Shade is the number one thing chickens need to keep cool in hot weather. Summer heat is no joke when you have a full set of feathers. Just imagine how you would feel wearing a down-filled coat in summer!
In an ideal situation, your chickens should have natural shade they can cool off in. This natural shade can come from trees, plantings, or other vegetation lining the coop run. If you don't have shade from trees or plantings in your coop run, you'll need to provide it with tarps or a roof over the top and side of part of the run. The tarp you use should be lighter in color to reflect heat.
Another option is shade cloth, which despite the name, lets sun through, but will reduce the amount of sun beneath it to create a somewhat shady area. Shade cloth also is porous, so it will let water through.
A well-ventilated coop can also provide shade. Put an easy-to-read thermometer inside so you can monitor the heat and adjust ventilation if needed during heatwaves.
2. Use Water Wisely
Chickens need plenty of fresh water no matter what the weather. In hot weather, place buckets of cold water in the shade instead of the sun and consider adding ice cubes. Set out multiple freshly filled buckets in the shade, and create several watering stations if possible.
In really hot weather, hose off the coop roof to lower the temperature. Consider a baby pool with a couple inches of water in it for chickens to wade in.
Another option is a water misters. A water mister will cool the air around it by 10 or more degrees, and will make nearby ground moist and cool. Bonus: moist ground is good bug hunting ground for chickens. Another bonus: humans love misters on hot days too!
3. Become a Fan of Your Chickens
If you have electricity in your coop you can hang an electric fan off the run fence or inside the coop to provide a cooling breeze. Just keep in mind that chickens and their coops are dusty. Dirt and dust can cause motors to run hot, and even to catch fire, so keep any electrical items well maintained.
Always be careful when adding any electrical appliance outside because of the risk of electric shock. Consult a professional to make sure motor housings are okay in dusty areas and that everything is properly grounded to eliminate fire and shock hazards, and keep electric cords safe from pecking.
A well-ventilated coop with good airflow will allow hot air to rise and will have enough openings for fresh air intake. Ventilation is important in summer and winter. As always, openings should be screened with hardware cloth for safety (not chicken wire and not window screening).
What about air conditioning in your backyard coop? An air conditioner might be a solution in a really hot climate or for super hot days. Of course, this solution is much more expensive than the others, but if you've got the money to burn, go for it!
4. Offer Dust Baths
Dust bathing in shade is one way to for chickens to keep their cool in summer heat. A foot or so below the surface, the soil is cooler than the air temperature.
You might have noticed this effect at the beach, where the sand is hot at the surface and much cooler below when you dig. Chickens will use the soil to dust bathe, and a spot in the shade where they can get down to cooler soil will make them happy in the heat.
If you don't already have dirt bath areas in the shade, create a way for chickens to dig down in a shady place. Besides water and shade, this is one of the best ways to keep chickens cool.
5. Make Use of Water-Filled Treats
Chickens love cucumbers, and this water-filled treat is perfect for summer consumption. Cucumbers are a hot weather treat, but one of the best ways to keep chickens cool in the summer is to slice open a watermelon and watch them devour it.
Watermelon (as you probably know) is mainly water and works to hydrate chickens as well as distract them from the heat. Chickens also love other types of melons. No matter what option you go with, tasty fluid-filled treats are a great way to keep chickens cool.
6. Frozen Foods are Your Friend
Have you considered icy treats for your chickens? You can freeze a bowl of water with frozen fruit or red raspberries in it, then hang in a hanging basket holder or place in a shallow pan for the chickens to peck at. The red of the berries will attract them to the ice and pecking the ice will keep chickens cool.
Frozen bottles are another cooling treat. Freeze water in one-liter soda or small milk jugs, and then place them in nesting boxes to keep chickens cooler while they lay eggs.
If you have the freezer space, freeze water in a few gallon jugs and hang them near a roost from an overhead beam or fence space by looping rope through the handles, or set the frozen gallon jugs in the ground in the shade. These frozen water bottles will temporarily create a cooler space for the chickens to hang out near.
Signs of Heat Stress in Chickens
A chicken having a hard time from heat stress or heat stroke will breathe or pant through an open beak, hold wings low and away from the body, and have loss of appetite. If you see signs of heat stress, your chickens are working too hard to lower their body temperature and you need to act fast to help them.
Heat stress is a definite sign you need to keep your chickens cooler.
Keep in mind that chickens with darker feathers will get hotter much faster than lighter chickens. If you have a flock of varying colors, you should keep an extra eye on your darker chickens for signs of heat stress.
How to Cool Off a Chicken Quickly
To cool off a hot chicken quickly, put its feet and legs in a bucket of cool water (keeping its feathers dry since that is how they regulate their body temperature). Keep a five-gallon bucket filled with cool water handy in case of signs of heat stress.
With this list, keeping chickens cool and happy has never been easier! And as we all know, happy chickens are the best chickens.
This article was originally published June 26, 2019.
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