6 Ways to Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer
Jessica is an experienced pet mom with dogs, cats, rats, fish, axolotls, a gecko, chickens, and ducks.
How to Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer
Chickens are generally hardy animals, but they can have trouble regulating their temperature in the summer. Chickens are unable to sweat, so sometimes they can use a little extra help keeping cool. Here are six ways to help your chickens stay cool during the summer.
1. Make Sure They Have Plenty of Shade
Chickens love to hang out in the sun, but when it gets hot, it's important to make sure that they are able to have a shady place as well. For chickens in a run, a tarp covering part of their yard works great. I like to make sure that they have a sunny area to dust-bathe and a shady area for when they are trying to beat the heat.
2. Cold Water Is Important
I know this one seems like it could go without saying, but make sure that your chickens have plenty of cool, fresh water. It is easy to underestimate how much water your birds will drink in the 90 or 100-degree weather, or how hot their water will get when it is sitting out in the sun.
If at all possible, change your chicken's water at the hottest point of the day, and continue checking on it during the afternoon. A great way to keep their water cold is to put ice cubes in it in the morning and throughout the day if you can.
3. Give Them Some Cold Treats
I love to make my chickens some frozen treats when I know it's going to be hot outside. An easy way to make a treat for them is to take a can of corn, juice and all, and dump it into an ice cube tray or muffin tins. The next day, the chickens will have a blast trying to peck the cold kernels out of the ice.
Another super easy cold treat is to freeze a bag of mixed veggies. These always seem to cool the chickens down very quickly. If you are like me and can never finish a watermelon, the chickens will love your leftovers. They will be in heaven pecking at the cold fruit, and it will be great for them because it is so hydrating.
4. Give Them a Kiddie Pool
I bought my pool for my ducks, but on hot days, I catch my hens playing in the water, too. This gives your chickens an option to get in if they get too hot. This is also a great thing to have just in case there is a spill/some other accident with their main water source. As long as you keep the pool clean, fresh, and cold, the chickens will have no problem drinking from it.
5. In Case of Emergency, Use a Sprinkler
During my first summer keeping chickens, there were several days where the temperature was over 100 degrees. I had given them frozen treats and shade, but they still seemed hot. I knew my chickens were getting uncomfortable, so I quickly decided that I would set up a sprinkler so it was just barely hitting their yard. This way, the chickens could decide whether or not they wanted to be in the water, but the sprinkler still cooled them off.
6. Keep the Coop Well-Ventilated
Make sure that your chicken coop has windows so it is not too stuffy. If your coop is big enough, you may be able to put a fan in there for them, which would help tremendously. If you use the deep litter method to keep your coop warm during the winter, it is a good idea to go ahead and give your chicken coop a deep clean.
What to Do If Your Chicken Is Overheating
If your chicken is walking around with her beak open, spreading her wings for an extended period of time, or acting lethargic, she is probably overheating. If this is the case, it is too late to use some of the tricks I listed above. Here are some things you can do to cool her down and potentially save her life:
- Fill a bucket with cool tap water. A large Tupperware container or anything large enough to submerge a chicken would work too. Then grab your chicken and submerge them up to their neck in the water. Do not put their heads underwater!
- Get them out of the sun! If at all possible, take them into the house. Putting them in a cool area with an air conditioner or fan should cool them off quickly. Make sure they have plenty of water available during this time.
- Give them something cool to sit by. A frozen gallon jug of water would be great for a hot chicken to sit by. If you don't have a frozen gallon of water on hand, be creative! Even a frozen bag of veggies would be great for an overheated chicken to lay next to.
Know the signs of heat distress, to prevent problems in your flock.
As with all animals, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with the signs of heat distress in your backyard flock so that you can act quickly should a chicken fall ill. Signs of heat stress can vary among chickens, but usually, you’ll notice symptoms such as:
- Excessive panting or labored breathing
- Pale or otherwise discolored combs and wattles
- Seizures and convulsions
- Loss of appetite
- Sharp decline in egg production
- Thinning of eggshells
- Staggering, “drunken” gait
- Feathers erect
If you notice any of these signs of heat exhaustion, provide your birds with immediate medical attention. Failing to act can lead to death.
Ultimately, keeping your chickens cool in the heat comes down to exercising a bit of common sense and good animal husbandry. Summer won’t last forever, so make sure you take the extra time now to keep your chickens healthy and happy.
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I luckily live in a cool weather state because I seem to attract pets that don’t do well in heat. My cat has often been known to get sick from getting over heated. Plus a few years ago we got a Sheltie, and with her thick fur coat she’s panting before temperatures hit the 70’s.
Turning on the A/C when it gets hot out is a great way to help everyone cool down, but that isn’t always enough for furry friends. Plus not everyone has air conditioning to turn on. Our first house didn’t any air conditioning, and there were times I had to get creative to keep us all cool.
Whether you don’t have AC in your home, or you’re just looking to keep your pet from overheating, here are some ideas for how to keep pets cool in the summer.
Keep Them Hydrated
We hear all summer long about how we need to keep ourselves hydrated. It isn’t any different for our furry friends. When the temps start to rise to make sure that you keep their water bowls filled.
If you have a pet that is picky about where they get their drinking water from (I’m looking at you cat!) than you may need to try different options. One of our cats wants to drink straight from a faucet, but I’m not always home to turn it on for him. I was able to get him to start drinking from a bowl again though when I bought him a fountain drinking bowl. After trying different fountain bowls out my cat has made it very clear that he likes this one best.
The important thing is that your pet is getting enough water every day. Whatever you need to do to get them to drink, do it!
Help Them Cool Off
When it comes to keeping pets cool we often have to give them a little help.
One way is by giving your pet cold water to drink. Keeping your pet hydrated is very important, but a bowl full of cold water can also help your pet stay cool. You can easily keep the water in their bowl cool by adding ice cubes to it.
For dogs that enjoy getting wet (ours is not one of them) you can fill up a child’s wading pool with water. Letting them play in the water is a great way to keep pets cool in the summer. You actually can even get pet wading pools on Amazon that are designed with dogs in mind.
Years ago when we didn’t have any air conditioning I created a system that I called Air Cooling (Disney fans might recognize this from Carousel of Progress). I would take plastic cereal bowls, fill them with water, and freeze them. Then I’d pull them out, one at a time, and set them in front of a fan on the floor. I liked using our portable space heater on the fan setting for this. The fan blowing on the ice would create cool air that my cats (and us too) loved. They’d lay in front of those ice bowls for hours. Once a bowl was fully melted I’d put it back in the freezer and bring a different frozen bowl out.
Give Them a Cool Place to Sleep
Another way to keep pets cool in the summer is by giving them cool places to lay. Our dog especially likes to seek out areas in the house that don’t have carpet to lay down on.
There are also different types of pet bedding out there that you can buy. One option is an elevated pet bed. These type of beds are raised off the ground. Since it’s raised off the floor it allows air to flow all around which helps keep your pet cooler.
Another bedding option are pet cooling mats. These mats are really neat. You don’t need to put them in the freezer, and they don’t use electricity. They have a special gel inside that keeps the mat at a lower temperature than your pets body temperature making them feel cool. The mats come in lots of different sizes in order to accommodate different sized dogs.
Trim Their Hair
Sending your pet to the groomers for a trim or a shave is another way to help keep them cool. This isn’t an option for all pets though.
Our Sheltie is one of the types that aren’t supposed to be shaved. She has such long fur, but her coat adjusts for different temperatures to keep her warmer or cooler. We do make sure to keep her trimmed though so she doesn’t have any more fur than she needs to.
If you’re not sure whether your pet can benefit from a trip to the groomers do a quick Google search or contact a dog groomer and ask them.
Keep Them Out of the Hot Sun
Being outside in hot temperatures is not good for your pet. You can help them by taking them outside during cooler times of the day.
One thing that helps is taking them for a walk in the morning before the heat of the day arrives or once it has started to cool off. Not only can walking in the hot sun overheat them, but their paws can be hurt by the hot pavement. It’s also a good idea to take a water bottle for your dog on your walk as well as for you.
You should also try to keep them inside during the hottest parts of the day as much as you can. When they are outside be sure that there are shady areas in the yard for them to lay in. If you don’t have much tree shade in your yard you can create some by putting out a large umbrella or a tarp.
Never Leave Them Somewhere They Could Overheat
If you’re reading this post I think it’s safe to say that you care a great deal about your furry friends and that you want to do everything possible to help keep them comfortable during the hot summer months. Still I think it’s important to add a reminder that you don’t want to leave your pet anywhere that they could quickly become too hot without any way to cool off.
This is especially true in a hot car. Temps in a car, even with the windows cracked, can escalate quickly. It doesn’t take long for a pet to overheat in such a situation.
1. Provide a cool supply of fresh water
The most important thing when it’s hot is that your chickens have a clean supply of fresh water in their chicken coop. They drink more than you’d expect in summer (around 500ml) which can be twice as much as in the cooler months. If you think about the water component in eggs (75%) and how moist their manure is, it’s no wonder that water is so important. Chickens also need water for regulating body temperature and for their digestion. A lack of water can result in stress for your chickens, which will then impact their egg production.
Make sure your chicken drinker or waterer has a nice wide opening at the top. You can then insert a freezer block or a frozen soft drink bottle filled with ice to keep the water cool. The freezer block can be replaced daily. If your chickens are allowed out of their chicken coop to free range in your yard, position your drinkers as close to the area where they tend to sit in hot weather. In our case that would be their favourite bush outside our bedroom window, where there is shade and the soil is cool.
How to Keep Hens Cool on a Hot Summers Day
Here in the Northeast, we have been blessed with seemingly unending hot, humid days with little to no rain. For us humans, we simply retreat to the air-conditioned house, but what about your flock?
Chickens can’t sweat like us, nor can they remove their feather jackets, so what can we do to help them keep cool?
A hens’ normal body temperature is between 104-107F which helps them to be more resistant to cold- the heat is another matter.
High temperatures will lead your flock to become cranky, they won’t eat as much, will drink more, lay fewer eggs, have thin, watery diarrhea and lowered fertility rates in both roosters and hens’.
We have come up with a few ideas to help the ladies stay cool in this killer heat. We must mention here that the heat we are referring to are the sudden heat waves that we experience from time to time. A hen raised in a hot climate will acclimate to their environment although it should be common sense to provide shady areas for them to lounge around in.
A shallow pan of cool water placed in a shady area is great for them to dip their feet into. The feet and legs of the chicken are one of the areas that they have to reduce their internal temperature. Once you have shown them how, they will be happy to cool their feet off.
If a hen is looking listless, pale and is panting, she may be getting heat stroke.
Pick her up and dunk her in some cool water. You can submerse her up to the neck if necessary. Do this for a couple of minutes then remove her from the water and put her in a cool place, gently towel the feathers- though be sure to leave them damp.
If she is lying unresponsive and doesn’t move when you prod her, you need to cool her down immediately.
Try the cool water bath making sure you get water between the feathers and onto her skin. Use cool water not iced water- you need to bring the temperature down steadily but slowly, especially if she is an older hen.
The shock between being very hot to very cold might be too much for her and cause failure of her heart.
Chickens dust bathe to keep down external parasites and also to cool themselves on a hot day. In an extended amount of days with no rain, even the lower layers of dirt will be dry and dusty.
In the morning just before you let them out, gently water their dust bath area so it will be cool and damp later on.
Alternatively, you can make a temporary dust bath in a shady area for them.
If you aren’t sure how to do this, check out our DIY dust bath article. It really is very easy and quick to do and the girls will thank you for it I promise!
Our recent article on chicken shade ideas is more comprehensive, but you can create a shaded area by using sail cloth, tarp or similar. You can make a tent like structure or extend from your run to make an awning.
If you are using a tarp, this can be firmly attached to the run at the coop end.
It is amazing just how much this simple measure will reduce the temperature and not only will it protect from the sun, but the snow too.
Bushes and shrubs provide shade for your hens too. If you don’t have many around, try planting some by the run. You will need to keep them protected for the first year as the chickens will want to sample…
I allow wild cat mint to grow around the coop. It keeps insects down, provides cover for the chicks and hens and makes the coop smell clean and fresh.
Grow vining plants on and over the run, the girls will not only benefit from the shade but may enjoy nibbling the leaves and flowers too. Make sure that whatever you plant isn’t poisonous for them.
Using a misting system can cool the girls down gently.
It’s best to set it up in a shady area for them since the ground will retain some of the moisture which will cool their feet. On a normal day hens’ don’t really care to get wet, but in the heat they will tolerate wetness because it cools them down.
Using the mister two or three times a day will cut back on the amount of water you use and be less likely to create a muddy mess in the coop.
Remember, you want them cool but you don’t want to create a breeding ground for mosquitoes and disease.
Cooling the Coop
Inside the coop you need to keep the poop under control. In hot weather it pays to remove it daily- Why? There are a couple of reasons:
- Decomposing materials create heat.
- Poop attracts flies and other insects. Flies in the coop can quickly lead to ‘flystrike’ on a hen if she has a poopy back end.
- The ammonia fumes can become intolerable very quickly.
Change out the nesting box materials and coop bedding frequently during hot weather and try to keep the bedding to no more than a couple of inches deep.
Do you have any lights in your coop? Be sure to turn them off during the daytime, they contribute to the heat inside the coop.
Make sure there is sufficient ventilation to your coop. Is it stifling when you go in? Improving ventilation is a good idea for both summer and winter.
If you have a small coop that has a lift off lid, open it part way with a small wooden wedge or similar. There are other simple fixes for coop ventilation depending on your type of coop.
Feed and Water
In really hot weather a hens’ feed intake will diminish as will egg laying. The fluid intake will go up however as she tries to keep hydrated.
Cooling Their Water
When filling the drinkers, add ice cubes or chunks to the water, they will help it stay cool for longer.
Even better, fill the drinkers to about one third full in the evening and put the drinkers in the freezer. In the morning- fill up the drinker with fresh cold water. The large chunk of ice will keep it cooler longer.
Needless to say, place the drinkers out of the direct sun no-one likes to drink warm or hot water. If the water becomes too warm, they may not drink and get dehydrated, so check the temperature of the water frequently.
In hot weather they will drink much more, up to three cups of water per day each. This leads to diarrhea which sluices out the unabsorbed vitamins and minerals in the food.
To help them maintain healthy levels of these, add vitamins and electrolytes to their water. There are several different brands out there, the choice is yours. If the heat continues unabated for several days or weeks you should add them to the water daily.
You can also add probiotic powder too if you wish. This will help the gut in trying to maintain good bacteria to aid with digestion. This is especially good for the very young and elderly chickens.
A favorite treat for those hot days is watermelon! Watermelon is cool and refreshing it contains lots of water and natural fruit sugars for the ladies. You can feed it whole or make a watermelon slushie.
Watermelon Slushie Recipe
You can also make a watermelon ice pop!
As much watermelon as you can spare, put in a blender until pureed. If it’s a bit thick, add some more water until the consistency is that of liquid gelatin.
You can either make ice cubes of the mixture or put it in a plastic bag in the freezer.
When semi-frozen, remove and feed the ladies. Honestly, I have a lot of fun watching them devour this!
Move the Coop for Better Ventilation
If your coop is mobile, move it to a shaded or breezy area. Improving ventilation and airflow will be beneficial in especially hot and humid climates. You can move the location of your chickens temporarily and put them back in their winter homes later on.
If you’re just starting your flock, it’s helpful to keep in mind that some breeds fair better in hot climates than others.
If you live in a hot climate, it may be wise to consider starting your flock with chickens that are going to thrive where you live.
Chickens with tight feathers do very well in regions that are warm as opposed to bigger, fluffier, chickens who are better insulated.
If you’re purchasing from a hatchery, you can often find information about how different breeds perform in hot and cold weather. Most hatcheries supply this information, but if you can’t find it on their website or in their catalog, a quick internet search should help you find what you need.
There are several ideas here, perhaps you will only use two or three for your particular situation, but every little helps.
Whatever you decide to do, keeping your interactions with the flock brief will help them to conserve energy and beat the heat.
Please don’t try to entice them to eat by giving scratch or corn, remember those two items can raise the metabolism of a hen and cause her to become even hotter.
Heat stroke can overtake a chicken very quickly. If you don’t take immediate measures your hen will most certainly die. If you have tried all measures that you can without any improvement in her condition you should talk with your veterinarian.
So, watch the weather forecast closely for heat and humidity and take action accordingly, your girls will be silently grateful!
Let us know in the comments below how you keep your chickens cool during a heat wave…
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