It’s tough trying to keep chickens cool in this heat, but I have a few tips I’d like to share. Chickens’ body temperatures are about 106 Fahrenheit and they keep their temperature steady by converting energy that comes from feed into heat. In other words the less heat they need the less food they need to eat. However, the effect of reduced food consumption combined with excessive heat often causes a radical drop in egg production. In some cases, they may quit laying altogether.
Heat stress is a serious matter, once birds are observed as lethargic, no clucking or preening, and just lay around is when death often follows.
Chickens do acclimate after a while, in layers, there is scientific evidence that their temperature will stabilize a few degrees higher three to five days after the initial exposure to heat. Meaning, if a chicken goes through repeated heat exposure it will adapt and be able to survive at five degrees higher than before acclimation.
Chickens don’t have sweat glands so they can’t perspire, instead, they pant like a dog. Dehydration or heat stress is the number one cause of death, so cool clean water is vital to their survival. They do not like hot water so drag yourself out into ovenland armed with a garden hose and change the drinkers at least twice a day, or more! Use buckets, or large bowls, keep it simple so it’s not such a big ordeal.
As water evaporates it actually cools the air, so many buckets of water scattered around the yard are extremely beneficial. Hose down the roof and any walls that might surround the enclosed area the birds are in, this will help cool their environment as the water evaporates.
Layers upon layers of chicken droppings hold heat in. Clean the yard up and keep the ground footing to a minimum of one inch.
Mist systems are used by some poultry keepers but my success rate is rather low with them. The birds don’t like them, plus the pooling of water beneath them creates humidity. Humidity in high temperatures is a deadly combination. Fans on the other hand are an excellent source of relief, either in the coop or yard – better yet, both.