|I bought this mister at Lowe's for $7.00|
In temperatures over 90° F, keep a bucket or tub full of cool, but not cold, water near the flock at all times. If any begins to look overheated, panting, wings away from its sides, droopy, lethargic or pale in the wattles and comb, IMMEDIATELY dunk it in the cool water up to its neck to bring its body temperature down. This simple measure can be lifesaving. Even if chickens are not in danger, this can be a welcome relief to chickens that would not voluntarily wade into water.
|I hose down the coop and areas around the coop in the heat|
of the day while replenishing waterers.
|It was 15° hotter outside than in the coop, which is located in the shade.|
The normal body temperature of a chicken ranges between 104°-107° F; it regulates its body temperature by the amount it eats and by panting. In cold weather, a chicken will eat more to convert the energy in feed to body heat. In hot weather, a chicken will eat less to avoid increasing it body temperature. Since a chicken has no sweat glands to cool its skin, it depends on evaporation from panting for cooling. A panting chicken is cause for concern and immediate remedial action.
Since a chicken will eat less feed in the heat, a change in feed from layer feed, containing 16% protein, to grower feed, containing 18-20% protein, will help chickens get the protein they need. When feeding laying hens grower feed, oyster shell should be provided free-choice (as always) since grower feed does not contain the calcium that they need. Oyster shell should never be added directly to feed. Each chicken has different calcium requirements and excess calcium can cause organ damage. Without adequate calcium, weak egg shells and brittle feathers can result. A chicken will eat the calcium it needs when it is made available to them free-choice.
|My homemade oyster shell dispenser. DIY instructions here.|
TIPS TO BEAT THE HEAT
It is critical to provide clean, cool water to chickens in hot weather. Keep waterers in shady locations and supply additional water sources wherever possible. Refresh them often throughout the day with cool water. If at all possible, set up a poultry nipple watering system to ensure a clean, fresh, cold supply of water at all times.
|This particular poultry watering system is The Chicken Fountain.|
Add electrolytes to the water to help with heat stress and replace those lost from panting. It is simple to make an electrolyte solution, click here for Gail Damerow's recipe and instructions.
Provide additional shade wherever possible by using tarps, shade cloth, and reflective film on coop windows.
Try to interact as little as possible with chickens on a hot day. The more active they are, the higher their body temperatures climb.
Freeze various sizes of water bottles and jugs. Add frozen water bottles or ice to waterers throughout the day.
|This waterer has a bottle of ice in it.|
Employ misters and sprinklers in shady areas. Misters work by "flash evaporation" to cool the air. The lower the humidity, the COOLER the air, the higher the humidity, the less relative cooling but the air will still be COOLER in the misted area and the surrounding area than without a mister. You can expect a temperature drop of 10-20° F in 40-80% humidity with a mister.
Prop open all doors and windows, including the egg door, to promote airflow throughout the coop.
Steep lemon balm and/or mint in water, then chill or freeze and serve as a refreshing, calming treat.
Place a plastic bucket or trash can on its side in a shady spot, adding frozen water bottles/jugs inside it for chickens to rest alongside.
Add fans to the coop and run. Place a frozen jug of water between the fan and nest boxes.
Add frozen water bottles to nest boxes, especially those containing broody hens (position bottles next to them, not under them).
Reduce pine shavings to two inches or less and keep it as clean as possible as both retain heat.
Replace deep litter in high-heat conditions with clean, shallow bedding.
Substitute sand instead of any other litter type.
Tuck frozen water bottles into bedding, particularly at night.
Provide a wading area with a kiddie pool, sled or shallow pan of water for chickens inclined to use it. For those not partial to wading pools, flood areas of high-traffic so they have to walk through it.
|Phoebe scooting into the run.|
|April, wading in the puddles.|
Spray the run with water often throughout the day.
Frequently spray the roof of the coop with water to cause evaporative cooling.
As a general rule, avoid giving chickens treats when it's hot outside so as not to encourage increased internal body temperatures due to digestion. An exception is frozen fruit and vegetables (blueberries, strawberries, corn, squash, etc.) that can help cool and hydrate them. Watermelon is particularly helpful towards this end.
Provide access to dust bathing areas in shady spots. Chickens cool themselves by digging down to cooler spots in the earth.
It's not easy caring for chickens in high heat conditions, but a few, simple measures can make a big difference in their comfort level and their very ability to survive.