10 Ways to Keep Chickens Cool
Did you know that chickens can’t sweat? They have no external sweat glands so they have to find other ways to get rid of excess body heat in the summertime. Chickens can begin to overheat in temperatures higher than 85 degrees F (depending on the breed). Because of this, it is imperative for you as a chicken owner to take steps to help keep your chickens cool in the heat of summer.
Keeping Chickens Cool in Summer
The first step to keeping your chickens cool is to be able to recognize the signs of an overheated chicken. If you are able to tell when they are too hot, then you will be able to adjust your cooling methods accordingly.
How to know if chickens are too hot
- Pale or floppy combs
- Lifting wings away from body
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased egg production
Chicken Breeds and Heat
Some chicken breeds do better in hot climates than other breeds. Heavy breeds with dense feathering may have more trouble tolerating extreme heat than lighter breeds.
How to Keep Chickens Cool
1. Make sure they have access to shade.
Shade is extremely important especially during heat waves. You can provide shade in the form of a structure (a coop, lean-to, etc.) or you can put up a shade cloth for your animals.
My chickens are free range so they find shade wherever they feel like it around the property. Sometimes that is in their coop, sometimes it is under the crepe myrtle, and sometimes it is under the rabbit lean-to.
2. Provide a constant source of cool water.
Automatic watering systems are great to ensure that your animals don’t run out of water, but you may need to refill during the day to keep the water from getting too warm. You can also fill up a smaller waterer and refill it as needed throughout the day.
The birds are less likely to stay hydrated if the water is warm, so be sure to keep the waterer in a shady area so it stays cool longer. You can even add ice cubes into the water to help out with this.
3. Give them more space if possible.
Free ranging is great for chickens during heat waves because they can move around as needed to find new sources of shade and hydration. If you can’t free range them, make sure that they are at least in a ventilated area where they can move around.
4. Provide good air flow.
You can add a small fan to the chicken coop if there is not already airflow moving in and out. Make sure that the birds can move in and out of the breeze from the fan as needed.
If the coop doesn’t have proper ventilation, make changes before the next heat wave hits. You could add a screened opening and a built-in fan to the coop wall to keep chickens cool the next time around.
5. Give occasional frozen treats.
You can freeze fruits, veggies, and herbs in ice cubes for your small livestock. Ice cubes with treats inside can help the animals to cool off for a bit and stay hydrated as they have to peck through the ice to get to their treats. You can also freeze fresh fruit or give cold watermelon as a special cooling treat.
Only give these treats occasionally or they can cause the animals to have trouble naturally regulating their body temperatures.
6. Keep bedding clean.
It is not recommended to use the deep litter method when it is hot outside. Having too much manure or litter in the housing area can increase the temperature significantly.
Clean the bedding often to help keep chickens cool and strong odors.
7. Provide dust or dirt.
If your chickens are in an area where they have no access to dust or dirt, provide some. They need to be able to take a dust bath in cool dirt to rid themselves of mites and to lower their body temperatures.
8. Add electrolytes to the water.
Electrolytes help to regulate fluid levels in the body so they aid in hydration. You can find livestock electrolytes to add to your waterers at your local farm & feed store.
9. Avoid overcrowding the birds.
More birds equals more heat. If you have too many chickens for the space they are in, they will overheat much more quickly.
10. Mist the chicken area with water.
Chickens cool themselves by panting and holding their wings out away from their bodies. Spraying water directly on them can decrease their ability to naturally cool off, BUT misting the air around them can be beneficial.
Misting around the chicken area cools the air through evaporative cooling. The chickens can walk through the mist if they choose to, but they shouldn’t be sprayed straight on.
If you have taken all reasonable steps to keep your chickens cool and they are still too hot, you may need to bring them inside to the air conditioner to wait out the heat wave. I have never had this happen (and our heat index has been between 100-110 degrees F recently), but it is a last resort option.