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Keeping Your Chickens Cool

You think it's hot out? Just imagine if you were covered with feathers! Here are a few tips to help your birds beat the heat.

Close up chicken flock thirsty water

Photo: Ben Alford (Earth Eats)

Summer has arrived for your chickens too. They will need you to be extra attentive in the coming months.

When winter’s on the horizon, many chicken owners I know ask the same question: how will I keep my chickens warm in cold weather?

Interestingly enough, though, most chickens can handle low temperatures quite well and usually don’t need extra heat except in really extreme conditions.

Mercury Rising

Actually, the time chickens do have problems is right now, during the hottest months of the year. That built-in down coat’s to blame. A covering of feathers makes getting rid of body heat much more difficult for chickens than for other animals with less covering.

If you find your hens panting with their beaks wide open, you can be sure they’re getting hot.

Here are a few ways to ensure your backyard birds are cool as cucumbers.

Air-Conditioning

No, I’m not really suggesting you install an AC unit in your coop! But you should make sure your coop has adequate ventilation.

Windows covered in a wire mesh small enough to keep out nocturnal predators are a good way to ensure airflow. By positioning your coop in a way that takes advantage of breezes in your area, you’ll be adding some natural air conditioning.

chickens huddled around water dispenser

Photo: Ben Alford (Earth Eats)

It's not unusual for a laying hen to drink close to half a liter of water when temperatures are soaring.

Also, if you have the space and an electrical source, you can try a fan. Just make sure your coop is kept as clean as possible to keep dust to a minimum.

It should go without saying that your chickens need some source of shade. If there aren’t trees near your run, rig up a tarp or other covering above the ground.

High Quality H2O

Because, just like you, chickens are thirstier than usual during the summer, it’s extremely important for your birds to have plenty of water.

Beware of the things that can grow in water dispensers, and make sure you clean them out thoroughly at least a couple of times a week.

I find myself checking and replenishing supplies much more often when it’s hot out, and I’m always gratified to see my birds come running when I’ve replaced old water with water that’s new, fresh and cold.

Less Traditional Tactics

If you’ve implemented all these basic measures but still want to take additional steps to ease the stress of torrid days, here are a few more ideas.

The first is what I call “Chicken Gatorade,” which is an electrolyte mix specially formulated to help exhausted birds recover. I’ll do this for chickens I’m taking to shows, for example. All you have to do is follow the directions on the package. (Don’t add more mix than is suggested!)

watermelon slices

Photo: persocomholic (Flickr)

There's lots of tricks for helping your birds chill out. Tell us about your own in the comments below.

Next, if you’re headed to the fair, you might try freezing small plastic water bottles and putting them in your birds’ cages. I’ve seen chickens drape their bodies over icy bottles in county fair poultry barns!

Finally, in the same way we humans all enjoy a piece of cold watermelon or cantaloupe on a hot summer day, chickens also enjoy pecking at the leftovers and rind of a juicy treat.

Above all, keep a closer eye on your chickens these next few months. A little extra attention will go along way towards making sure everyone endures summer in fine feather!

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Jana Wilson

Jana Wilson lives on 20 acres just outside of Bloomington, IN and writes her blog, The Armchair Homesteader. In addition to the chickens, she has ducks and a border collie named Winnie who helps her with her various efforts at becoming more self-sufficient.

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  • Mjloidolt

    I have an overhead ceiling fan in my coop it works quite well with an open window to keep coop temps about 75. Plus a lot of water and a mister if it gets really hot…

  • guest

    We have our chickens in a chicken tractor and we’ve have just been totally soaking the ground with a hose to cool off their feet and bodies when they lay in it.

  • Mindybobk

    Have you discovered the mister wands  available from home depot?  Shaped almost like a cobra in a basket, it is self supporting, is about 3 feet high and provides a delightfully cooling mist by attaching to a garden hose.  Uses almost no water but the air is cooled.  I tossed scratch grain in the area around the mister and they wander in and out all afternoon and have closed their beaks and no more holding out their wings.  94 degrees today!

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