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 a mist system far enough away to keep the pen dry, but cooler.
Here they are today, the outside temperature is 110, and 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, they are resting comfortably. 🙂
Looking for a little out-of-the-ordinary treat 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, so let’s 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 give them enough to add that little diamond in the rough among the oats.
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 sunscreen, hide from the sun under a giant umbrella, and head out to the barn. By 8 AM it’s already in the 90s 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 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, and 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) is 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 gets way too hot and chickens avoid using them. Using nipples is 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 won’t 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!