Summer finally feels like it’s on the way in these parts. After cool, rainy days, a couple of sunny days inching close to 90 had my hens wondering what hit them. As a general rule, hot weather is harder on the average backyard flock than cold weather. And even more so, during the change of seasons when it could be 50 one day and 90 the next, your flock might need some extra TLC. (Of course, the same TLC and planning is necessary for those long, hot mid-summer stretches as well.)
If you happen to live in a warm summer area, here are some ideas to help keep your flock cooler and happier this summer:
Provide shade. Give your birds a place to escape the sunshine. If they don’t have natural shade available to them, create some artificial shade (put up a big beach umbrella, for instance).
Keep them supplied with cold water. Not only will cooler water help cool your birds, chickens don’t actually like to drink warm water. On hot days, change water frequently. Add ice to help keep it cold longer.
Provide dirt bath areas. Giving your chickens a good space to ‘bathe’ is essential for many reasons, but when it’s hot, it’s a good way for them to cool off by rolling in the dirt.
Add electrolytes to their water. This will help keep them from getting dehydrated in the heat.
If you keep lights on in the coop, turn them off!
Increase the ventilation in your coop to help the hot air escape.
Place reflective foil insulation on roof of coop in the morning and remove it at night. This will help keep the coop cooler.
Fill a shallow pan or dish with cold water (like a cake pan or plant tray). Some chickens will hop in and cool off by standing in the cool water.
Install a fan in your coop. Just make sure to keep it from blowing DIRECTLY on where they roost at night. And keep it out of their way so they don’t get hurt with moving blades.
Give them cold (or even better, frozen) fruit and vegetables. Eating them will help them cool off. My girls’ favorites are watermelon and grapes.
Don’t feed them cracked corn during the summer. It heats up their body temperature (which is a good reason to give it to them in the winter, especially right before they go to bed at night).
Dig a shallow pit and spray it lightly with water (make it damp, not muddy). Hens can lay in this space to cool off.
Freeze water bottles or milk jugs with ice. Place the frozen bottles in the coop, or around the run for the chickens to sit on or lay by.
Leave them alone. When it’s really hot, it’s not a good time to play, chase or harass them. Let them lay around, stress free, and try to stay cool.
Put sprinklers on the coop roof. The water will evaporate and carry the heat with it, greatly dropping the heat inside the coop.
Decrease the litter inside the coop. Because both litter and chicken waste generate heat, it’s best if there’s no more than 2 inches of litter in the coop during hot days.
Mist them with cool water, or stand them in a bucket of water that covers their feet and legs if you have a hen that’s really struggling.
Maybe you have a good idea that I didn’t list above. If so, please share it with us.
PS: Although I’ve bathed my girls before (because of lice, see story here), I’ve never taken them swimming. However, here are some amazing pictures of some girls swimming with their hens. They claim the birds loved it, and it cooled them down. I personally didn’t even know hens would swim…so you just never know what might work.