Jul 8, 2012

Chicken Heat Stress, Dehydration and Homemade Electrolyte Solution

Heat stress is a very serious situation for chickens and can quickly go from serious to deadly.
Heat stress is a very serious situation for chickens and can quickly go from serious to deadly. Even when pulling out all the stops to keep our chickens safe in the heat, according to Gail Damerow in The Chicken Encyclopedia, "[d]uring long periods of extreme heat, hens stop laying and all chickens suffer stress. When temperatures reach 104° F (40° C) or above, chickens can't lose excess heat fast enough to maintain a proper body temperature and may die."

Among the many ways to combat heat stress that I covered in my blog post Beat the Heat, is supplementing their drinking water with electrolytes. I recommend keeping vitamins and electrolytes handy in a well stocked chicken first aid kit, but in an emergency, it is possible to make electrolytes with ingredients commonly found in most homes. 
Lucy has her wings spread away from her body in an effort to allow air to circulate closer to her body.
Lucy has her wings spread away from her body in an effort to allow air to circulate closer to her body.
In temps over 90°F, keep a bucket of cool water near the chickens at all times for emergency cooling.
The orange bucket is kept full of cool water in case of emergency.
The mister was a bargain at less than ten dollars and keeps the surrounding area cool.

In temperatures over 90° F, keep a bucket or tub full of cool, water (not cold) near the flock at all times. If anyone begins to look overheated, panting, wings away from its sides, droopy, lethargic or pale in the wattles and comb, IMMEDIATELY submerge 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.

A dehydrated chicken may exhibit any or all of the following symptoms, which could result in death:
  • panting or labored breathing
  • pale comb and/or wattles
  • spreading wings away from body
  • diarrhea
  • lethargy
  • limpness
  • unresponsive
  • seizures,convulsions
Heat stress and dehydration deplete the body of electrolytes required for a chicken's normal body functioning, therefore replenishing them is a priority when chickens suffer from heat stress and/or dehydration. The following instructions for making a homemade electrolyte solution can be found in The Chicken Encyclopedia.

HOMEMADE ELECTROLYTE SOLUTION
1/2 teaspoon potassium chloride (Morton salt substitute) (If you don't have it, omit it)
1 teaspoon sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
1 teaspoon sodium chloride (table salt)
1 tablespoon sucrose (sugar)
1 gallon water


ADVISORY: Electrolytes should not be given to healthy chickens who are not suffering from heat stress or dehydration.
While we're on the topic of heat advisories, it bears repeating that while apple cider vinegar is beneficial to to chickens when added to their water most times of the year, BUT ACV should NOT be added to waterers during times of high heat.
While we're on the topic of heat advisories, it bears repeating that vinegar should NOT be added to drinking water during times of high heat. According to Dr. Mike Petrik, DVM, MSc, a poultry veterinarian, 
                    
 "Acidified water affects laying hens by making the calcium in her feed a little less digestible (based on chemistry....calcium is a positive ion, and dissociates better in a more alkaline environment). Professional farmers regularly add baking soda to their feed when heat stress is expected....this maintains egg shell quality when hens' feed consumption drops due to the heat."

In summary, during high heat conditions, baking soda facilitates calcium absorption while vinegar inhibits it.  SKIP the vinegar in the heat, opting for an electrolyte solution instead.
In summary, during high heat conditions, baking soda facilitates calcium absorption while ACV inhibits it.  SKIP the ACV in the heat, opting for an electrolyte solution instead.
 The Chicken Chick is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick®

88 comments :

  1. We have had our share of problems . We raise a batch or 2 of meat birds and this heat is brutal on them. They just can't handle it like our girls. I have a few posts about some of the things we did that saved our meat birds when temps hit over 100 here in MA. There is nothing worse than loosing a chicken to the heat.

    http://aintnobodyherebutuschicks.blogspot.com/2011/07/tips-to-help-your-chickens-survive.html the heat

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  2. crochetforewe7/9/12, 12:24 AM

    Thanks for the info. I didn't know that about the ACV, glad I do now! I was also interested in the electrolyte solution.

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  3. Very good information. It makes me wonder how hard it would be to keep chickens in Phoenix or Las Vegas.

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  4. can you list symptoms of dehydration in chickens? i wouldn't want to give the solution to those who are ok by mistake!
    thanks!

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  5. I'm a HS fan, and I'm sharing the electrolyte info to all my friends and family!

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  6. great info on here and the grit magazine

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  7. Great information; I really appreciate it. I also take back every comment I made a couple months ago when I was complaining that it wasn't hot enough. It's hot enough. UNCLE!!!!

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  8. Thanks,that is great information and i will share it with others.

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  9. woo whooo chicken outlaw! that is totally what im about to be in about 5 hours! LOL. hope i can bribe the new neighbors with eggs! cross your fingers everyone!

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  10. Love your page, your blogs and all your contests. Keep up the good work!

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  11. Love your page, your blogs and all your contests. Keep up the good work!

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  12. Jessica E.7/9/12, 3:39 PM

    Good info to know. I never even thought about that. My Grandparents had chickens and we loved to feed them when we were little. :D

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  13. Now all I have to do is convince my husband to get HIS electrolytes! Everyone can use them in this heat!

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  14. This is awesome info and since this is my first year raising chickens, we can use all the help we can get. Thank you!

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  15. Thanks for sharing your pictures and helpful hints. We have a variety of feathered friends. They give us so much joy as they wander the yards!

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  16. I will be referring this to my mom for her chickens, so we can help ours out. We can tell the heats getting to them, so I am super excited to try this out!

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  17. Good link! Would love to win the T-Shirt!

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  18. I keep a (chicken) notebook handy to jot down any info regarding the health of my chickens that you post. Thanks again and a shout out to Grit from Alabama.

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  19. Another use for baking soda!

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  20. Great article! You are my go-to for chicken info! Thanks!

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  21. I love reading your blogs. I learn something everytime.

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  22. Our coop is built at the edge of the woods and trees all around. It has mesh to where the air can go through all sides, the top is covered though and lower sides. Plenty of roost space on 3 different level roosts. We've been breaking beans and keep them cool, that seems to help somewhat. Fresh cool water everyday and a good balanced diet.

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  23. Thanks for all the great info! My chickens are in CT...and don't have to worry so often about the heat...but my Mom has some in Phoenix. I'm passing this on to her too! Thanks!

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  24. Used the recipe every day and the gorls dod very well.

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  25. What a great Idea, I live in NE Texas and it gets very hot and dry several days in a row. My 14 girls are at 15 weeks now and not laying yet but we are ready for them. I've just had my inspection and health permit approved for the local farmers market and ready for the fall season for eggs to start rolling in!!! Look forward to reading your blog. Love the site! Beautiful coop. We are building a new portable one in the fall for the girls to go visit other area of our farm so they can have a endless supply of bugs. We have been swamped with grasshoppers this season and it devistated our garden. Looking forward to being a winner, Need a chicken shirt!! XL please. Thanks Marlene and The Girls at Shippy Lane Farm.

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  26. Christine L.7/10/12, 3:04 PM

    I'd definitely go with the bread making book! Thanks for all the great information in your blogs. I enjoy the repeats of certain ones (i.e.: Keeping Chickens Cool) just to re read all the important info.

    (clayne317@gmail.com)

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  27. Not sure if I'm posting this in the right spot, but I'd love to win the Guide to Backyard Chicken magazine from Grit! I read any information I can get to keep up to date on what's best for my chickens!

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  28. Not sure if I'm posting in the right place or nit, but I would love to enter the contest for the Guide to Backyard Chickens by Grit Magazine. I try to read everything I can get my hands on to stay up to date on information to keep my flock healthy and happy!

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  29. We live in Arkansas so last summer heat was up to 111F! We used to set up a water hose with attachment on mist setting. They seemed to like it and gather around it. For electrolyte we gave them whey from cheesemaking. We make cheese from 2 gallons of goat milk 2x week and saved all whey in a fridge for our chickens. They loved cold whey when we brought it out each day. They slowed down with egg production of course, but didn't stop completely like year before when we didn't give them whey. Year before temps were about 105-110F in the summer and coop and run were in complete shade. We moved and coop is in the sun, but there are trees around where chickens go for shade. I've seen big improvement in how they dealt with heat just from this one change in their summer diet.

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  30. good info, thank you. I noticed tonite while putting the girls to bed that my baby (as in lovebug) Minee has lost weight. Minerva is molting still and growing new feathers. Minee doesn't even want to be on the roosting bar but down in the hay at night. They usually snuggle on the bar together.
    Any idea what's up w/ this? They both free range all day in the yard, eat Layena pellets (Purina) and don't like much people food scraps. Below is Minee

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  31. I just noticed tonite my lovebug chicken Minee has lost weight. We've had hot/cold temps here in MT. Egg laying has almost ceased. Minerva, the other one is getting out of her first molt. Minee doesn't want to get on roost bar in coop, laying in the straw. They free range around the yard all day. They drink water from Yellowstone river until it runs out, then bottled water, sometimes w/ ACV in it. They eat Purina Layena pellets, hate most people food. I'm kinda worried - any ideas from this info? They both are rockin' in the yard all day as usual. Crappy system here won't load photo....

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  32. TheChickenChick10/30/12, 10:36 PM

    The seasonal slow-down in laying is totally normal. You can read more about it on my blog here: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/09/supplemental-light-in-coop-why-how.html
     The weight loss could be due to any number of conditions from worms to external parasites or disease. Have you noticed her droppings and whether they're normal or not? http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/02/whats-scoop-on-chicken-poop-digestive.html  If there is any blood, she could have coccidiosis.
     I would start with checking for external parasites (mites, lice) http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/poultry-lice-and-mites-identification.html
    and if nothing is found, check for egg-binding (which isn't that common). http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/07/chicken-egg-binding-causes-symptoms.html
    Then I would call the vet and ask if they will do a fecal float test. It's just a simple stool sample that tests for worm eggs. After ruling all of these things out, diseases must be considered.

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  33. Tracy Schlaud1/19/13, 9:52 AM

    thanks to your sharing this info and directing me to it through facebook, I've mixed it up and am giving it to my little jazmine who has several of the dehydrated symptoms and was apparantly constipated.  Thank you so much for ALWAYS taking a moment to help and answer questions (even if you probably have answered the same question to someone else before!)

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  34. TheChickenChick1/19/13, 9:05 PM

    I hope it helps. Happy to share, Tracy. Let me know how she does!

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  35. Thanks for the list, now i got everything ready for my ladies. Just in case, and (lol) it also helped when hubby had a very bad cut on his hand What i added: Normal saline and a small bowl to rinse a wound.

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  36. TheChickenChick4/7/13, 11:31 PM

    Yvonne, I use Vetericyn on myself and my kids when I'm too lazy to go find the Puracyn bottle. No need to dilute it at all!

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  37. joely pentlow6/8/13, 10:08 AM

    I have a hen who is indoors due to severe beak damage. She is on antibiotics and pain killer, she does seem to be panting. It's not really hot but it is very humid. I noticed on the above blog that you mention not to give the solution to hens not suffering from heat stress, is that just the home made solution? I have some rooster booster electrolyte and vitamin powder for water but I am not sure if I should give it to her? I don't want to overload her system but I want to make sure she is getting everything she needs. Thanks

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  38. TheChickenChick6/10/13, 9:06 PM

    I would only put probiotics in her water to counteract the effects of the antibiotics on the good bacterial flora in her gut and crop. Skip the electrolytes, you want her to drink as much as possible.

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  39. joely pentlow6/10/13, 9:28 PM

    Thank you. I will look in to probiotics. :-)

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  40. love giveaways , love blog more, seem to come to your site dailey! always havw something new!

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  41. Oh wow. Did not know not to put ACV in the water when it's hot. Just went out and replaced the water in my waterers with fresh cool PLAIN water for the girls.

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  42. My girls have FINALLY accepted the chicken waterer. It's so much healthier for them, but they were fine with 'stealing' from the goats until it got too hot around here to do all that climbing (fluttering, whatever). Now, I want to know: the baking soda goes in the feed, right?, not the water?

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  43. Bought this today for my Texas chickens. I think this will help them with our heat.

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  44. Living in Nevada, temps reach 115 daily so I installed an air conditioner in my coop. I keep the doors open and they can come and go as they please but come Noon, I can find them all inside of the coop at one of the hatches staying cool while getting fresh air and monitoring their stomping grounds. I also keep fresh water in all of their favorite places around the yard and put out a slice of cold watermelon on occasion.

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  45. The "Sisters" party of 137/10/13, 1:06 PM

    I bought a box fan yesterday to get ready for the heat here in Ft Worth. I am thinking the Sisters are liking the extra breeze.

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  46. So, what do you think about the baking soda on the food? My chickens won't drink water with electrolytes in it.

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  47. Dorothy Malm (duknuk)7/10/13, 3:00 PM

    I guess I've gotten lazy after 40 years of chickens. I toss them Sugar Smacks when it's hot - puffed wheat w/ sugar, salt and Vitamins & Minerals. They love it and now that I'm thinking about it, I haven't lost a hen to heat stroke since I started with this.

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  48. TheChickenChick7/10/13, 11:52 PM

    I am not inclined to add it to my peeps' feed, Pam. I agree with you that there is the chance that they would reject the feed based on flavor and I'm not that concerned about the strength of my eggshells.

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  49. the salt substitute is potassium chloride.. foods high in potassium: potatoes and bananas, as well as lemons, watermelon & its seeds, carrot juice , yogurt, raisins .Don't know if chicken have a list of food they should not eat.. Might want to try some REAL SALT , it is loaded with minerals great for people and animals , it has a marvelous taste too. No, I don't sell it. lol

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  50. hello we have chicks i would say 30 or 40 about 10 are older chickens but they lay eggs. But the younger ones abou 35 that are older then 12 weeks are not laying!!!! we get 3 or 4 eggs a day !!!!! And we feed them layer food!! do you have anything that could help us thanks so much. Another thing is we had 16 baby Guineas but the mother killed 8 of them so i took the other 8 babies. But all of a suddend all of them died but 1 !!!!! And right now we have only one !!! And he is doing great but i can not find out why the others died!!! Can you help me??! Thanks!!! Another thing how do you keep your baby chickens alive or any kind?! We have a big farm Thanks again!!!! :)

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  51. Have a listless, unresponsive bantam rooster. He tries to flap his wings and breathing is shallow. The only thing I can think of that caused this is a reaction to the vet prescribed Ivomec, for his scaly leg mites, that was injected 5 days ago. How do I administer the solution for electrolytes, without possibly getting it into his lungs?

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  52. TheChickenChick1/10/14, 9:17 PM

    CALL YOUR VET, DEB!

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  53. It was too late. He passed in my arms last night. It's a total mystery. He was such a sweetie and I'll always wonder what I could have done differently. Thanks though!

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  54. TheChickenChick1/11/14, 11:02 PM

    I'm very sorry to hear it, Deb. I would STILL call your vet to discuss your questions.

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  55. Jigger Me Fingers1/13/14, 6:53 PM

    Sweating - which leads to a gradual depeletion of mineral salts, in the face of lots of sweating, only fresh water, and lots of heat..... creates a need for potassium and sodium chloride in people...

    Since chickens don't sweat... and any cooling is via panting - or internal evaporation, so why the need for electrolytes?

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  56. Abbi Beuby Auger5/23/14, 5:59 PM

    Lost my sweet girl, Bernadette, today due to heat exhaustion. Very sad. Thanks for writing this so I can prevent anymore of my Chickiddos from suffering like she did. I also talked to my vet about ER care for them. :(

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  57. Sorry to hear it, Abbi. Most people do not realize how dangerous heat is for chickens.

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  58. Abbi Beuby Auger5/26/14, 1:18 PM

    Thanks, Yes, it's terrible. :( I'm making sure everyone is drinking well now.

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  59. Living in the high desert, I get a lot of questions about how the chickens put up with the cold here (gets down in the negatives each year) but no one seems to think about how they put up with the intense heat- easily up over 100 degrees each year. It has been a struggle to keep them cool enough and makes the laying seasons pretty short.

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  60. E Hollandsworth6/2/14, 2:36 PM

    Quick cheap do it yourself air conditioner.......$15.00 for materials.... http://blog.petflow.com/how-to-make-a-450-homemade-air-conditioner-for-only-15-so-easy-and-so-useful/#8wBejIvsBMCVdUeR.01

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  61. For turkeys, same concentration?

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  62. I don't keep turkeys, so I can't answer that, sorry.

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  63. Hi , I am Julie from Queensland Australia. I had a baby with straddle leg and did what you suggested and it worked!! thank you so much as I paid $24.00 for 1/2 dozen fertile eggs and only 3 hatched.. They are Buff Orpingtons... I also have 3 Light Sussex, 1Silver Sussex, 2 Aruncanas, 2 Creoles and 1 silver Silky!!! I love every one of them...

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  64. Happy to hear it, Julie! Glad I could help. :)

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  65. Beverly Robertson6/22/14, 2:19 PM

    What was your suggestions on straddle leg? I lost a chick with that and would like to know what to do if it happens again.

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  66. http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/02/spraddle-leg-in-baby-chicks-what-is-it.html

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  67. Callie Smith Godwin6/29/14, 1:56 PM

    The temps here in Oklahoma are starting to rise and I am getting prepared to help my girls make it through Sept. Thank you for all your information.

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  68. Hi, Just wondering how you get a hen that is suffering to dring as quick as possible? Can I use an eye dropper?

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  69. You can, but be very careful not to drip it down the wrong pipe.

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  70. Thanks so much. So you can make this without the salt substitute?

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  71. Paul Shepard7/16/14, 2:08 PM

    That is good info.

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  72. Patty Dottavio7/22/14, 6:32 PM

    Good info abt water in summer heat. It gets to 100 and higher several days thru the summer months, and we're putting in 2 misters for the hirls. They like hanging out in the chicken garden where it's tall and cool#

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  73. Tina Edwards7/24/14, 1:11 AM

    "ATET submission" Melinda is a reformed egg eater. She claims it was peer pressure that drove her to try the delectable liquid from that first cracked egg. Having undergone a rigorous therapy program designed to break the habit, Melinda contemplated a more pious career in a convent. At least there she might be safe from temptation and that wicked Liza!
    ~Tina E. aka nuzzymom1

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  74. BG's Studio 137/24/14, 9:56 AM

    ATET Submission by Bettie Gordon



    Melinda’s deep dark secret is that she fell in love with a
    Leghorn.

    Yes it’s true; I fell in love with a big, handsome, white Roo that I saw on the television one day as I peered in the window (sorry for being a snoop Kathy). He was magnificent and oh so dreamy. They called him Foghorn Leghorn, and I knew right away that I wanted to be Mrs. Foghorn Leghorn. I dreamed of the wedding and how we would gaze in each other’s eyes and say I DO.

    Then one day I saw him again and much to my dismay there he was courting another chick. He was in love with Miss Prissy! My hopes and dreams shattered forever. Feeling quite dejected I trudged back to the henhouse where I just wanted to bury my head for the rest of my life.

    Then, in came Kathy, she said we’ll have none of this broodiness Ms. Melinda my lovely, and she picked me up tenderly, took me outside in the bright beautiful sunshine with all my home chicks and said these are the ones who love you, beak up and carry on!

    Yes, she’s right I thought I need to just ‘Get Over It’, after all I would never meet him and I really need to stay with my flock in this beautiful backyard, so now he is but a fading memory, one I really don’t care to remember and don’t want anyone to know about.
    My secret (or is it).

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  75. Um, I just get them to open their beaks by touching the back of the jaw w/ my syringe. (has long, curved end) I put it at the back of the tongue. Is this a problem ?
    I lost 1 hen 2 days ago & 1 came down ill this AM. Heat Stress or Cidicios sp?

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  76. Thank you for addressing the ACV solution in summer heat! I'm a first time chicken momma in N Florida where the temps are 90+ most days. Although my flock is healthy, I add ACV to their water about twice a month. The water is changed out daily, but I would hate to encourage dehydration.

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  77. My pleasure, Jessi. Welcome to chicken keeping!

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  78. Tina VandenHeuvel8/8/14, 11:06 PM

    So our chicks will be three weeks old Sunday and have been giving them ACV it's like 80* some degrees and humid. What I am understanding from the reading is I should be is this correct? I also give them garlic once a week one clove for the four of them is that ok. New to all this. Also is it to earl to figure out if they are hens or roosters? 🐔

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  79. Because it will alter the normal electrolyte levels.

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  80. I have a Nankin Bantam hen that has injured her wing. We brought her into the garage when it was in the low 20's outside last week (it is in the 40's now). I finally found info on helping her wing, but she is getting weaker by the day. She is lethargic, has her beak open to breathe, and laying in runny droppings. I don't think it is a problem with heat, but should I give her electrolyte solution??

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  81. If you can't get her to a vet, I suggest putting her down. She is clearly suffering.

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  82. Feeling Bad Chicken Momma1/1/15, 10:17 AM

    I made a TERRIBLE mistake. I have been raising healthy, happy chickens for four years. Three weeks ago, when giving my chickens new water I forgot to take the nozzle off the water that lets the water out. I realized this 5 days later when I went to refill. My chickens had no water for five days. UGH. I feel really lucky that they didn't go into convulsions or die. (I think only because they were already incredibly healthy). Now, they are still not laying eggs and one is going into molt. Do you have any advice on how to get them laying again or halt the premature molt. Of course, now they are back on their regular watering schedule. Any help would be greatly appreciated because I can't find advice on this anywhere. Thank you!!!

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  83. Feeling Bad Chicken Momma1/6/15, 6:22 PM

    Thanks for the info. They are happy and healthy now. Let's hope they somehow turn around and start laying again. Fingers crossed.

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  84. Hannah Giandomenico2/7/15, 5:56 AM

    Hi, I have two broody hens, and it's going to be 40 degrees celcius tomorrow. They r both in a wire cage, Im trying to break their broodiness. Im worried that the metal will heat up quickly, and because they r broody, they will really feel the heat. What can I do to make them more comfortable until they've been broken from their broodiness?

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  85. Broody hens MUST be protected from the elements. If you cannot bring them into cooler temps, let them out.

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