Heat Stress in Chickens Can Be Serious
This summer we have experienced record-high temperatures which causes heat stress in chickens. Although chickens are adaptable to weather changes, they usually perform at their best around 75° Fahrenheit and below, according to research at North Carolina State University Poultry Science Extension. Consistently high summer temperatures causing heat stress in chickens can halt their egg-laying or even lead to death. Although chickens will pant like dogs to dissipate heat, it’s important for the flock owner to provide cooling options for backyard birds.
Help Chickens Beat the Heat with 7 Summertime Hacks
Here are seven ways to help your flock during hot days:
- Provide Multiple Water Sources for Hydration. Always have fresh water available for your chickens. The water will help regulate the chickens’ body temperature, keeping them cool. A raised cement bird feeder in the shade provides an insulated source of cool water and is a favorite place for the hens to congregate and stay cool.
- Mist Water Around the Coop to Dissipate Heat. Spraying around the coop and the roof can result in evaporative cooling for your chickens. You can also create small pools of water for the chickens to wade in and keep cool.
- Use Ice Blocks. Fill a large metal bowl or similar container with water and place it in the freezer. In the afternoon, turn it upside down to cool off the water in a bird bath.
- Feed Frozen Treats for Cooling. In addition to layer feed, add fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables. Avoid treats such as corn and scratch, which require longer digestion processes and thus create more body heat.
- Offer Shade for Chickens. Install a shade awning from roofing material or shade cloth. If your chickens roam freely make sure there are shady trees, shrubs, or other areas of refuge. Inexpensive “found” items such as leftover weed block fabric placed on top of chicken wire and sprawling potted plants (like bougainvillea) can provide excellent sources of shade. In extreme heat, any small difference helps.
- Pay Close Attention to Broody Hens. Some hens go broody in the summer and simply won’t budge from the nest box in the heat. My solution has been to physically remove the broody hens from the coup a couple of times a day to ensure they take a break and hydrate and eat. They seem to be in a hormonal trance but will respond to my efforts, actively drinking and eating when I step in to provide mid-day relief in the heat.
- Use your Phone Alarm to Put the Chickens to Bed at Dusk. Adjusting your alarm to account for longer days and changing dusk times sensitizes us to shifts in lengths of days. Try to let chickens out in the morning at sunrise at a somewhat consistent time. Consistency is key.
The Small Laying Flock from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
Managing extreme summer temps with backyard chickens from The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension
Poultry Housing from University of Kentucky Poultry Extension
Hot Weather Management of Poultry from North Carolina State University Poultry Science Extension
Travis County Agriculture and Natural Resources
About Susan Wozniak
Susan has been a Master Gardener since 2008 and has specialist training in composting and propagation. She is animal-obsessed and has been playing with animals in her backyard since early childhood. Known as “Austin’s dog whisperer,” she is often found training large groups of dogs in Zilker Park. She has trained a pack of six large dogs to protect her free-ranging backyard chicken flock. Susan holds a BBA in Business from Southern Methodist University and a JD from St. Mary’s University.