It’s been a rough summer for our hens here in Phoenix. The temperatures have soared to 117 and averaged around 110 for more than 35 days since June. And… only one day of rain, in the last 4 months.
But my hens are doing great! Why, how? Well my girls are in a large 10×10 covered pen inside a covered shedrow barn. They have shade tarps on the south, east & west side for protection from the sun. I hang a simple box fan on their pen, and mist system that is far enough away to keep the pen dry, but cooler.
Here they are today, outside temperature is 110, 108 in the barn, no panting, or holding their wings away from their sides. They are smart enough to find just the right spot where they can catch a cool breeze from the mister, and as you can see, resting comfortably. 🙂
Looking for a treat that’s little out of the ordinary for your flock? We all know scratch is probably a chicken’s all time favorite, but that should be your last treat choice in the summer months. Scratch produces heat, that’s why we feed it in the winter (especially at night) to help keep them warm. Layer feed already has corn in it, so lets not add fuel to the fire by giving them even more.
Try offering them rolled oats, they love it and it’s safe to feed as a treat! It’s super cheap and often sold by the pound in loose bulk feed bins. Hemp is another healthy supplement, but it’s high in protein and fattening, so just give a little. I add Hemp to the rolled oats, mix it all together and toss it to the flock mid day. Hemp is spendy too, another reason to just give them just enough to add that little diamond in the rough among the oats.
Mixture I Use: Find a suitable container and fill it with 3 lbs Rolled Oats and 1/2 cup Hemp Seed.
Tip: Here in Arizona our temps reach 115+ quite often. I find it best to only feed them early morning and again at dusk. Feed actually puts them even more at risk when they are already a candidate for heat stress. A few handfuls of rolled oats keeps them happy during the day when corn is an absolute no-no.
Oh my! 116 today and keeping chickens in this ridiculous heat adds to my chore list when it’s just so hard to be outdoors. But for the love of chickens, I pour on the sun screen, hide from the sun under a giant umbrella, and head out to the barn. By 8AM it’s already in the 90’s and too hot for the flock to be confined. It’s most certainly better to allow chickens to dig holes, seek out shade, and follow their own instincts on ways to best battle the heat. Of course, as a desert dweller, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to help them find relief.
A Few Tips, Create a Cooling Station!
Here’s what I do. There’s a portable mist system in the shade and a low sided shallow pool with a few bricks inside for them to sit on. The bricks stay cool, some use it, some don’t. None of the birds seem to fancy the mist system, nevertheless, it does cool the immediate air by about 20 degrees, so I entice them to the area with fresh greens or fruit.
Layer pellets are available, but kept in their coop where the temperature is undesirable. Considering there is corn in feed, it should be kept at a minimum because corn produces heat. Some chicken keepers will pull feed completely during the day when it’s this hot. But I find this unnecessary, since chickens limit their food intake by choice… at least mine do.
Predators are a worry when the chickens are allowed to free roam, but let’s face it, confined chickens in 116+ temperatures is a death sentence in these parts. I take my chances, keep an eye on them, and hope during the day predators won’t be actively looking for food until sundown.
Chickens like to dig holes, don’t discourage this. It’s their instinct to find cooler ground. They will look for anywhere water has been and choose that spot as the ideal place to settle into. Help them out, dump their drinkers in the same place every day, or leave a hose in the shade on a tiny drip.
Keep the drinkers clean and offer COLD water during the day. Chickens aren’t fond of hot drinking water. Large drinkers will stay colder longer, but I also use shallow buckets or bowls so I can add a chunk of ice during the day. The worst choice for a water source (where it’s super hot) are nipple drinkers, here’s why…
Avoid Nipple Drinkers
Nipple drinkers are neat gadgets, but if you live in an oven, forget using them, especially the type with those tiny drinker cups. The water in the small cups get way too hot and chickens avoid using them. Using nipples are just as useless in my opinion. The water in the container itself may be cool, but the water sitting in the lines heats up fast, and your birds wont drink enough to stay hydrated.
Remember, the sun moves, either you have to move your drinker to keep it in the shade, or provide water in various locations to assure there is cool water throughout the day. Nipple drinkers are not usually movable, they’re meant to be low maintenance, fill ’em and leave ’em… which is exactly why they’re not used on my farm.
Keeping your birds hydrated with cool water is absolutely vital… and just to make sure they have enough fluid intake, offer up some watermelon!
It can sometimes be hard to watch chickens battle the summer heat. You’ve probably seen them holding their wings away from their body, maybe even panting. This is a good time to make an extra trip to the coop during the day to refresh their water and offer a cool treat. Fruit is always appreciated, maybe you have some tomato pieces and lettuce to offer, or grapes!
Watermelon is an excellent source of needed fluids, it’ll keep them plenty busy, and they love it!
Loosen up some dirt giving them a fresh place to scratch around in. Put a hose on a slow drip, it’ll provide a cooler place for your chickens, and it might even might attract a few bugs or worms!