Surviving Phoenix, Arizona
Shade is hard to come by in Phoenix, but not impossible if you’re creative. If your chickens are in a small coop they are unlikely to survive triple digit temperatures, I know that sounds a bit harsh, but it’s true. June will most likely exceed 110, that means 120+ in the coop, and that’s a death sentence.
Your birds will fair well in temperatures up to 105 if they are not confined, have shade, and a place to dig a hole in the dirt. Make sure they have cool water available, if the water is too hot they won’t drink enough to stay hydrated. Make it easy on yourself, use buckets instead of those chicken drinkers that are impossible to clean and a big hassle to fill.
When temperatures reach over 105 in the shade it’s time to introduce a fan to the chicken yard. I don’t use anything fancy, a $15.00 box fan will do the trick. Hang it from a fence (wreath hangers work nicely) or anyplace where it won’t tip over. Your birds will stand in front that fan like they were watching a movie!
June and July are the worst months for excessive heat, 110 -115+ and this is when you really have to stay on top of your chicken keeping responsibilities. Mist systems help cool the air, especially with a fan to keep the air moving. I like the standing misters ($10.) that attach to a hose. Place it right in the chicken yard, dig up a small area near it so the moisture forms a little mud pool for the birds.
If you free feed your chickens, don’t in summer. Feed produces heat, so feed early morning and just before they return to the coop at night. Never offer scratch feed in summer, it’s a hot feed and completely unsuitable for your feathered desert dwellers. Offer your flock a watermelon, or a head of lettuce instead, this will help keep them hydrated.
Danger Signs of Heat Exhaustion
Dark red, then a pale comb and wattles is the first sign of trouble. As their condition worsens they will become unstable on their feet, lethargic, wobble, even fall over and lie lifeless. They will die quickly if you don’t act fast.
Note: Heavy or Meat Birds such as Orpingtons are the first to show signs of heat intolerance, watch them closely.
Chickens will hold their wings out from their body, pant, and lay in holes on their side – all normal behavior when they’re very hot.
What to Do
Submerge the chicken in a 5 gal. bucket of warm water and place the bird under a shade tree. Don’t bring the bird indoors to air conditioning, this will only make matters worse when you return the chicken to the outdoors. A fan on low will help cool the bird quickly, they usually recover within 15-20 minutes.
Ideas for Providing Shade
- Shade Cloth
- Mesh Tarps
- Palm Fronds
- Shade Sails