Chickens and the Extreme Heat, 110+

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 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 awhile, 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 they 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 is 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.



Why Do Hens Leave the Nest After Laying an Egg?

A Hen Knows Best…

Chickens never lay more than one egg per day. If the eggs are not collected, and a sufficient number of eggs are allowed to remain in the nest, the hen may stop laying eggs and start brooding. When the hen leaves the nest after laying an egg, it cools which suspends the development of the embryo inside. If the temperature remains between 45F and 65F, the embryos will remain viable for as long as two weeks. When the hen becomes broody and sits on her eggs for three weeks, all of the eggs will hatch at about the same time. This is why it is normal for the hen to leave the nest after laying.

Buff Orpington: friendly, docile, excellent layer, has broody tendencies

Remember, not all hens will sit on eggs…ever. However, some breeds have very strong tendencies to become broody, or be inclined to incubate eggs.

Here are a few common broody breeds…

•Buff Orpingtons
• Silkies
• Cochins
• Light Brahmas
• Dark Cornish
• Buff Rocks
• Turkens
•Buff Brahmas
• Cuckoo Marans
• Cochin Bantams
• Cornish Bantams


Picked On, Pecked On Chicks. Why and What To Do?

Let’s start at the beginning with chicks in the brooder. Chicks don’t just peck each other for lack of something to do. There is an underlying problem causing them stress and/or aggravation. As any living creature, the first and foremost necessity for well being is comfort.

Providing chick starter crumbles and fresh water is a given, so we can certainly rule out hunger as the stress factor. It is my opinion there are two other very important factors to consider. Living environment and lighting, with significant emphasis on the latter. Overcrowding may or may not be the culprit in their acquired pecking behavior. However, if ample space is not provided away from a heat source, comfort is indeed compromised.

Always provide more than one feeder so weaker birds are not bullied. It only takes one drop of blood for the pecking disaster to begin, remember chickens are in fact cannibals. Also, by week 3, keep them busy with offerings of green grass, especially when you witness aggression.


Now let’s get to the nitty gritty of the pecking problem. Lighting, lighting, lighting! A brooder lamp is necessary for warmth but it shouldn’t be a blast of blinding light. Especially if you have the chicks in a small brooder and there’s no way to escape the annoyance.

I’m not at all a fan of the clear white bulbs and switched a long time ago to RED. They provide a calming environment, and as a bonus any minor pecking that’s caused an injury is better disguised under a red lamp.

You may want to make the switch from heat lamps altogether and switch to radiant heat from a Brinsea brooder. This will solve your fluctuating temperature problem, and providing you have a good number of chicks, it will be sufficient in keeping them warm.

Note: If it’s brutal cold… you can supplement with a low wattage red heat lamp. Low wattage heat bulbs are sold for reptiles, I usually use a 50, 100, or 250 watt, depending on how cold it is.

For injuries, no matter how slight, I use a product called Blu-Kote. It has healing agents and the purple dye in the treatment hides the battle wounds. You’ll find this product at your local feed store.

I’m convinced that happy and content chickens start in the brooder. It’s easy to tell if the brooder has comfort zones. You should see some birds huddled together under the heat source, some resting alone, some scratching in the litter, and some eating. Watch your chicks, their behavior says it all!

What Are Egg Grades?

There are three consumer grades for eggs: U.S. Grade AA, A, and B. The grade is determined by the interior quality of the egg and the appearance and condition of the egg shell. Eggs of any quality grade may differ in weight (size).

U.S. Grade AA eggs have whites that are thick and firm; yolks that are high, round, and practically free from defects; and clean, unbroken shells. Grade AA and Grade A eggs are best for frying and poaching where appearance is important.

U.S. Grade A eggs have characteristics of Grade AA eggs except that the whites are “reasonably” firm. This is the quality most often sold in stores.

U.S. Grade B eggs have whites that may be thinner and yolks that may be wider and flatter than eggs of higher grades. The shells must be unbroken, but may show slight stains. This quality is seldom found in retail stores because they are usually used to make liquid, frozen, and dried egg products.

Sizing of Eggs
Size tells you the minimum required net weight per dozen eggs. It does not refer to the dimensions of an egg or how big it looks. While some eggs in the carton may look slightly larger or smaller than the rest, it is the total weight of the dozen eggs that puts them in one of the following classes:

Jumbo         30 ounces
Extra Large  27 ounces
Large           24 ounces
Medium       21 ounces
Small          18 ounces
Peewee       15 ounces

Source: United States Dept. of Agriculture, USDA
Food Safety and Inspection Service