Though delightful, the arrival of summer days heralds the return of heatwaves that our feathered friends, chickens, find hard to bear.
If you spot a frantic chicken, mouth open, panting with wings spread along its body… no doubt about it! She’s trying to overcome heatstroke… Dive into our tips to shield chickens effectively from scorching heat.
Spotting a heat-stricken chicken
A panting chicken, unresponsive, lying on the ground with spread wings has the symptoms of one suffering from heatstroke. To save her, gently moisten her with a sprayer or damp towel. Let her dry in the shade away from other chickens. Provide her with cool water and a juicy treat like a fresh slice of watermelon or a strawberry.
An outdoor space that fits the bill
Whether they’re penned in a designated area or roam freely in the garden, our clucky friends love having a spot of cool shade.
- Tall, dense hedges block out sun rays.
- Low evergreen shrubs or bushes offer shelter.
- Consider a rest area with a wooden roof. Why not repurpose pallet boards or vegetable crates as handy sun shields?
A well-thought-out home
Positioned ideally behind a wall or hedge, your chicken coop needs careful planning.
- Wooden construction ensures proper insulation, unlike metal.
- Windows and doors promote airflow.
- Include multiple air vents, but make sure you can close them at nights and during winter for predator protection and cold resistance.
- Ensure it’s waterproof. Moist, wet places are deadly to chickens.
Give the coop a cool-down by sprinkling the roof or setting up a fan during the hottest hours. Change the straw often. Cleanliness matters!
Despite the heat, never deny these ladies their daily dust bath. It’s vital for pest control and feather care. Make sure the dust bath box sits in the shade and is about 12 inches (30 cm) deep, filled ideally with fine sand, sifted ash, and organic pyrethrum powder or diatomaceous earth. Refresh it often!
→ A patch of thick, dry soil does the job just as well.
During extreme heat, chickens sip about 10 fl oz (300 ml) of water each day. That’s twice their usual thirst! Plan for multiple watering spots so they can avoid crossing over scorching runs. Make sure their volume is enough to meet their needs.
- Refresh water spots several times daily to keep bacteria and algae from developing.
- Shade is key. Throw in a couple ice cubes or cooler packs to further help the chickens fend off excess heat.
To max out your chickens’ hydration, throw water-rich fruits and veggies into their daily menu.
- Watermelon, cucumber, tomato, cherry, melon, zucchini, and so on.
Get rid of any stale snacks every other day. You can decide to wet your chicken feeds or not, or look into giving them fermented slush.
Best is to feed them in the evening, since cooler temperatures boost their appetite.
And egg laying?
Heatwaves put a damper on egg production. Eggs come out smaller, with brittle and lumpy shells.
- Here’s a pro tip: crushed oyster shells in their diet will help solve this problem, as will limestone grit. High in calcium, they increase eggshell strength and lend the surface a smoother finish.
- Feel they need a little more? You’ll find vitamins and trace elements at pet stores, ready to mix into your chicken’s water. It’s like giving them an energy drink during those rough days.
Chicken breeds that struggle more in heat
Orpington, Brahma, Cochin, Faverolles, and Bourbonnaise (just to name a few) aren’t big fans of summer. Their fluffy and abundant feathers combined with their large size make them a more heat-sensitive.
On the flip side, bare-neck breeds with scanty plumage, and dwarf breeds tend to deal with scorching weather much better.
Spray down the coop roof during peak heat hours for a cool and moist treat for your chickens.