Although some of the country is still living in a deep freeze, there are plenty of places that are seeing warm or even hot temperatures. Summer may be down the road a bit, but 80 degree days are very much present in some parts of the country. Depending on where you live, you may not be thinking about sweltering heat just yet, but you might as well start preparing to face that reality, especially in the case of keeping chickens cool.
Although chickens are pretty hardy, they are still susceptible to heat stroke and ultimately death as a result. With this in mind, chickens need to be accommodated in the warmer months to keep them happy and healthy and your farm supplied with eggs. In order to keep chickens comfortable in the heat, here are some steps you can take.
1. Cool, fresh water is essential. Water will warm up quickly when outside in the heat, so refreshing water frequently will help give chickens access to something cool to drink. You can take this even further by freezing bottles of water and placing them inside of your water source to create an ice cube effect, keeping water cooler for longer periods of time. Utilizing shade will help as well as well spraying things down with a garden hose for additional cooling.
2. Although it may not always feel that way, it is actually several degrees cooler in the shade than direct sunlight. Hang sheets or tarps to create a barrier from the sun’s rays under which chickens can take shelter. A nice, shady spot feels great to everybody on a hot day.
Photo: Eden Hills
3. Nutrient loss can be a problem during hot weather. To prevent dehydration, add electrolytes to water sources. This can help give your chickens a much needed warm weather boost.
4. A gentle breeze feels good to not only us, but also to our chickens on a hot day. Increased air flow and ventilation will help chickens beat the heat, so open coop windows and doors during the day when possible. Just beware of any predators that may find their way in and be sure to check for such unwelcome visitors before closing the coop at night.
5. Freeze treats, such as fruits and vegetables, and give them to chickens. Freeze loose pieces of food or freeze in a block of water. Either option will make for a refreshing, invigorating treat.
If you’re sweating and hot when working outside on the farm, expect that your chickens will feel the same oppressive sense of warmth. Keep an eye out for signs of heat distress such as panting and birds that hold their wings away from the body as these animals may need to be cooled off quickly such as by dipping in a bucket of cool water. Other signs of heat intolerance include pale combs and wattles or lethargy.
The normal body temperature of a chicken falls between 104-107 Fahrenheit but they can easily overheat on days much cooler than this. Keeping an eye on chickens and having plans in place to keep them cool is vital to their health and continued usefulness on the farm. An ounce of prevention goes a long way to ensure your chickens will remain healthy enough to live productive lives providing fresh, delicious eggs for your family every day.
Learn more about raising chickens at: http://www.beginningfarmers.org/information-about-raising-chickens/