As temperatures rise during the summer months, it's important to take extra care of your backyard chickens to ensure they stay cool and comfortable.
From providing shade to ensuring they have access to plenty of water, this guide will give you all the tips you need to keep your feathered friends healthy and happy during the hot weather.
Table of Contents
Offer Plenty of Fresh Water
Water is the most essential factor in keeping your chickens cool in the summer as it is needed for their internal temperature regulation to function properly. It is important to make sure the water is clean of debris, dirt, and rodents or chickens can get sick from it.
We handle this by using a sealed container with chicken nipples that we keep in the shade. This is not only for temperature, but it reduces the likelihood of algae and other bacteria that grow faster in the sun.
Another important factor for chickens staying cool in extreme heat is adequate shade. The source of shade can be trees, a tarp, bushes, a roofed run or any other resources you have that provide some reprieve from the hot sun.
Our set-up includes a fully roofed run which keeps the sun off of our chickens for a majority of the day. We also have rain barrels to catch water from the roof that offer some additional protection from the morning rays.
Avoid Overcrowding & Vent the Coop
Hens will spend a good amount of time in the coop while they lay eggs each day. We ensure our ladies stay cool by adding frozen water bottles to our nesting boxes.
It is also important to make sure it gets proper ventilation and does not remain too hot. Furthermore, proper ventilation will allow the coop to cool down overnight.
Each breed of chicken has different requirements for space in the coop or in a run. It is vital to have adequate space in the coop for your chickens to sleep comfortably and for their internal temperature to decrease.
Clean the Coop
While in the winter the deep litter method keeps your chickens warm, this method will increase the heat of a coop in the summer. As noted in venting the coop, ensuring this space is cool is critical because hens spend time in there laying eggs.
A clean coop is optimal for hot weather to ensure it remains cool and comfortable for your chickens. We keep our keep clean and with minimal manure during the summer months to reduce the amount of heat our coop produces.
If your coop has electricity, a fan can be a great way to circulate air and keep your chickens and other farm animals (such as goats) cool.
Some farmers install misters in their run or simply use the mist feature on a hose to keep their chickens cool. It is important not to spray chickens with a hose, as they are sensitive to rapid temperature changes, and it can do more harm than good by putting their bodies into shock.
Moisture on the ground of the coop as well as the area surrounding it helps to keep chickens cool in extreme heat.
Dust baths not only allow your chickens to keep up their hygiene, but also cool them off. Dust baths can be made such as a tub with food grade diatomaceous earth, dirt lime, sand, wood ash. Or chickens can simply dig holes in the dirt, which in my experience they do often and in the most inconvenient places.
Offering Frozen Treats
Frozen fruits and vegetables are a great way to keep chickens cool in the summer heat. Frozen Peas, watermelon, strawberries make for delicious treats. Many chicken owners make frozen treat blocks. Which is putting fruit and veggies in a container and freezing with water.
For a complete list of what chickens can eat read our guide.
Frozen treats can not only help keep chickens cool as mint helps to naturally reduce a chickens body temperature. But these treats can also provide enrichment and stimulation for your chickens.
Some treats such as scratch (cracked corn) will increase a chicken's internal body temperature due to how it is digested. Due to this, it is recommended to offer frozen fruits and veggies over scratch in hot weather.
Giving chickens a source of water to get their feet in, such as a kiddie pool, can be a great way to cool them down and regulate their body temperature on hot days.
Based on experience and research the breed and personality of chickens will impact if they utilize the pool. We have found that our chickens are more interesting that drinking the water than standing in it. Note we have only had our up for a few days, but another longer-term concern is the cleanliness of the water as everywhere is optimal dumping grounds for chickens.
Note our small tub does have bricks in it for our chickens to perch on, while still keeping their feet in the cool and refreshing water.
Heat stroke, often called heat stress, is when an animal is unable to regulate their internal temperature to safe levels. This can lead to organ failure and death.
A few symptoms to look for to diagnose heat stroke include:
Decreased egg production
Pale comb or wattles
Panting (open beak breathing)
Wings held away from body
Note that a few of these symptoms indicate heat stress. Our chickens have reduced from 12- 14 eggs a day to 9 eggs. Also, we have noticed them panting occasionally, but it is the combination of several symptoms that indicate heat stroke.
Our chickens have always still been alert and mobile, but we continue to keep a close eye for any progression to more than 2 symptoms.
If you suspect your chicken has heat stroke it is important not to dramatically change their body temperature by bringing them into the air conditioning as this can shock their system.
Recommended actions include:
Move them to shade
Place them somewhere with good airflow
Give them time to rest (2 to 3 days)
Provide electrolytes such as Gatorade
How Do Chickens Keep Themselves Cool?
Chickens with large (often floppy wattles) have an easier time keeping themselves cool in the summer heat. This is in part due to the large wattles and floppy comb that allows body heat to cool down when exposed to the air when circulating through their system.
While each breed of chicken has their limits, it is generally agreed that over 90 degrees Fahrenheit becomes cause for concern. For larger or cold hardy chickens, the threshold is 85 degrees.
Prolonged exposure to these temperatures can be dangerous and fatal.
Heat Tolerant Breeds
Heat Intolerant Breeds
How Long Do Eggs Last in Hot Weather?
Based on our research there is not a definitive (too hot) for eggs before they go bad. However, the warmer it is, the quicker the eggs spoil. The consensus is in extreme heat they will be good for 2 to 3 weeks and avoid them being in direct sunlight.
The other scenario is that if an egg is fertilized and kept in extreme heat it will begin to incubate in the coop.
Due to the above, it is recommended to collect your eggs 1 to 2 times daily.
Chickens with proper accommodations such as cold clean water, a clean coop with adequate space, and a pool or dust bath station to cool down generally stay cool in extreme heat.
Heat stroke is a concern in much of the world, either due to extreme weather, or cold hardy chickens acclimating to the heat.
We have covered not only how to keep any breed of chicken cool based on our research and experience, but also top tips from chicken owners around the world (including Australia).
The Lifespan of Chickens: How Long Do They Live and Produce Eggs? Curious about the lifespan of chickens and how long they produce eggs? This informative guide has all the answers you need!
Raising Chickens 101: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners: Ready to embark on your chicken-raising adventure? This comprehensive guide is tailored for beginners, covering all the basics of raising chickens and ensuring a successful and rewarding experience.
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.