We are not the only ones that suffer from the heat outdoors, with temperatures soaring into the 100s throughout much of the US many of us are watching as our animals struggle with the heat as well. We can keep our dogs and cats outside but when you have a large flock of birds that is not an option and yet the temperatures that our nation has seen this week can have a serious affect on your flock if you are not prepared.
I have never had to deal with heat and chickens before this week, when I had chickens before I lived in the Pacific Northwest, where the temperatures rarely got over 90 and breaking 100 was even more rare. Here when the temperature hit 102 I began to be very concerned about the possibility that my chickens might need to some help with the heat.
Having never had to deal with the heat before, I did not give much thought to where our chicken coop is, it gets little shade through the hottest parts of the day, and the only real shade it gets come from a couple of bushes and that is only down by the fence. As I watched my chickens panting, I decided that I needed to do some research to see whether they were in any real danger and if so what I could do about it.
Here is what I found
There are 3 keys to making sure that your chickens will survive the heat
- Temperature/air flow
- Providing Shade
- Keeping your chickens Hydrated
Temperature and Air Flow – keeping the temperature of your chicken coop as low as you can is essential. In our case it meant covering the windows that do not open up to block out the sun(may replace these windows next year with opening windows and put some sort of awning on them.)
We also opened the door of the coop to provide as much air flow as possible. If the temperature stays too high we will install a fan to pull the air from one open through the other to further increase the air flow.
One person reported that they put frozen water bottles buried down in their bedding to reduce the ground temperature, and another thing we did was to spray down the roof of the chicken coop several times to keep the temperature in the coop down.
Providing shade – Providing Shade can not only help to keep the temperature of the chicken coop down, but it will offer the chickens someplace to get out of the hot sun. While there is nothing we can do in terms of trees in the short term we could provide shade for them in the way of putting up a tarp. This particular measure was much appreciated by our chickens as it was not long before they were all hiding under the tarp to get out of the sun.
There are a number of ways to provide temporary shade, from taking tree and bush branches and putting them over the top of your coop, to building them a lean to. Simply use whatever items you happen to have on hand to provide them with a small amount of shade.
Hydration – Dehydration is the biggest danger to any animal and making sure that your chickens stay hydrated will also make sure that their body temperature does not go too high. Make sure that your chickens have water at all times, this means checking their water several times a day, not just the one or two times you might otherwise do.
I read that some people were putting ice cubes in their waterer, but my husband came up with an even better Idea, instead of ice cubes we put the frozen bottles of water in their waterer. These are reusable and two or three of these in a 5 gallon waterer will help to keep your chicken’s body temp down. Keep in mind you will need to add water more often though.
Another idea was to give your chickens watermelon, this makes a lot of sense to me, since watermelon is the one thing I crave more than anything else on a hot day. We had some watermelon which we gave to the chickens and they could not eat it fast enough.
Finally if all else fails and your chickens look overheated you can hose down the yard and spray the chickens. They do not much appreciate it, but if it keeps them from getting overheated and dying then they will get over the shock of it pretty fast. Our chicken were quick to take up residence under the tarp after a quick hose down the day it reached 102 and looked much more comfortable once it was done.