Summer Flock Care: How to Keep Chickens Cool

Summer Flock Care: How to Keep Chickens Cool

Rising summer temperatures can have a dramatic impact on chickens’ health and productivity. Fortunately, it is easy to take steps to keep chickens cool and comfortable even during the harshest heat waves, ensuring a happy, healthy flock all summer long.

How Heat Affects Chickens

Chickens have no sweat glands, and can be very susceptible to heat stress and heat exhaustion. Larger, heavier breeds raised in cooler climates tend to have the greatest problems with high heat, but rising temperatures can affect any flock. As chickens are impacted by heat, hens’ egg production may slow or stop, and eggshells may become thinner or softer, creating difficulties with chick development. Overheated chickens pant or fluff themselves to keep cool, and dehydration is common. The birds will eat less and become listless, may develop diarrhea, and will quickly lose condition. If left unchecked, heat stress can be fatal for chickens.

Helping Chickens Keep Cool

Fortunately, there are many easy ways to keep your flock cool on hot summer days. Depending on the size of your flock, the type of coop you have, and how your chicken setup is arranged, these options can all help chickens stay comfortable in the heat.

  • Provide Shade – Moving a coop to a shadier spot under thick trees is a great way to cool off a flock, or use a tarp, canvas sails, or pergola to introduce a shady area. Try keeping both the coop structure and at least part of the yard or run area in the shade for the best results. Moving the coop onto a grassier area will also be a cooler spot for chickens to live during the summer.

  • Provide Water – As temperatures rise, chickens naturally drink more. Be sure there is plentiful cool water available by placing several bowls or drinking containers in the coop, yard, or run. Multiple containers will ensure there is room for all chickens to drink, and containers should always be clean. Adding a block of ice to each container in the morning will keep the water cooler and help keep the container filled.

  • Create a Dust Bath Area – Dusting is another way chickens try to keep cool, and having a large dusting area to accommodate several birds is helpful. The dirt should be finely broken up and without other debris or rocks so it is easily flung as dust. Adding cooled ashes to the area can make it even more attractive and encourage chickens to use it.

  • Add a Wading Pool – Chickens will happily stand in a shallow pool or puddle to cool off as heat more easily evaporates from their featherless legs and feet. Adding a small kiddie pool or wading area to the coop in the summer will give the birds an easy place to chill out, and positioning several stepping stones in the water will give more birds places to wade.

  • Offer Hydrating Treats – Choosing water-rich treats for chickens on hot days is another way to be sure they are staying hydrated. Chunks of watermelon, cucumbers, or split grapes are ideal, or freeze treats into blocks of ice for the chickens to peck. Frozen peas or corn are other easy options.

  • Ensure Adequate Space – An overcrowded coop is a hot coop. There should be adequate perches for all chickens to spread out, and floor space should be enough for the flock size. The outdoor yard, particularly shady space, should also be large enough for all birds. If necessary, reducing flock size before summer can help be sure the coop is not overcrowded.

  • Improve Coop Ventilation – A well-ventilated coop will be naturally cooler for roosting chickens. Adding a small, screened window is a great choice, or increase under-eave ventilation. A small solar fan can encourage more air flow as well, but be sure it is not in a position where birds could get stuck or injured by spinning blades.

  • Repaint the Coop – A new layer of pale, light-colored paint will reflect sunlight more efficiently and keep a chicken coop cooler. This is especially effective on the roof, or if the roof is shingled, consider covering it with a light colored tarp or cloth for the summer.

  • Feed During Cooler Hours – Chickens will have a better appetite during the cooler hours of the day, and shifting feeding times to those cooler hours will not only encourage better feeding but will also avoid getting the birds more excited and overheated during hotter times.

  • Avoid Mid-Day Disturbances – Keeping chickens calm and relaxed during the hottest time of the day will help the flock stay cooler. Avoid disrupting the birds when it is hottest, and keep other animals or loud noises away from the flock during the heat of the day.

  • Hose Down the Coop – When it is blisteringly hot, wetting down the coop can provide temporary relief through evaporative cooling. Wet down the roof and sides thoroughly, and also wet down part of the yard or run to provide chickens a cool place to rest.

  • Reduce Coop Litter – While the deep litter method of coop cleaning can be convenient and helps insulate a coop, as the litter breaks down, it produces internal heat. Reducing the litter during the summer can help more heat escape and keep the space cooler.

For the best results and the coolest flock on the block, use as many different tactics as possible to keep chickens safe from the summer heat. With care, even the hottest temperatures won’t be a bother, and your flock will remain healthy and productive all summer long.