In most parts of the country keeping chickens in the summer heat is merely keeping them comfortable. But not here, in Phoenix, Arizona it’s a matter of keeping them alive in temperatures that can easily exceed 115 degrees… for months. Keeping chickens in extreme heat is serious business and I’ve got all the information you need HERE to keep your flock healthy during this difficult time. Do I know what I’m talking about? You bet, my flock has experienced temperatures in the 120s. Any fatalities? Zero in the last eight years. In my novice years as a chicken keeper, I lost birds when the temps were only in the 90s… now I share what I’ve learned to help others avoid this tragedy.
When Should you Supplement your Flock with Electrolytes?
In the heat of summer there’s warning signs when chickens are suffering from heat distress. Once you recognize these signs, consider them as reason to add electrolytes. Electrolytes are available in feed stores who carry retail poultry products, even Amazon will have it. You’ll find easy to follow instruction on the back label informing you how much to put in their drinking water. Simple!
Warning Signs Heat Distress
Holding their wings away from their body
Combs and wattles a deep red
Signs of Heat Stress | What to Do
Much more dangerous is Heat Stress. Below are the signs your chickens are in great danger and could possibly even die if you don’t act quick.
Not eating or drinking
Dark reddish-purple wattles and combs
Submerse chicken in warm water (a 5 gal. bucket from Home Depot works nicely) and move bird to a shady spot. Don’t bring the bird indoors, it will only cause more stress when returned outside. A fan nearby would be ideal. Don’t try to force water, when the bird cools down it will drink on it’s own. Chicken feed is not important at this point, don’t push it, offer watermelon instead.
Forget the ice cubes and frozen water bottles, if your chickens live in triple digits, ice is going to melt in minutes and be of no help at all. In Arizona, we have to be much more clever than that!
Mist systems aren’t always helpful because some chickens will avoid them, but I still use them. The best way to help your chickens survive the heat is to give them a more natural way to keep cool. Dig them a shallow pond and put a hose on a slow drip. This will bring up worms, and that’s a sure way to keep chickens interested in staying right where you want them. You don’t have to go through a lot of trouble, keep it simple. Watch the sun, and make sure your little oasis will be in the shade during the hottest part of the day.
Put a drinker in different places so there is always water in the shade. If you can’t find suitable shade, make some. Make use of mesh shade tarps, shade cloth, shade sails, etc. Be creative, I found an old pallet, covered it with shade cloth, leaned it up against a fence, and put a drinker under it.
Today it is 107, and by the end of the month it will be 115+, these are brutal temperatures and can be fatal to chickens. With something as simple as a shallow pond, they will be fine. Wherever you live, there is dirt, water, and I’m guessing you own a shovel… it’s that easy!
Tip: if you have bushes or trees by your chickens, spray them with water during the day. Your chickens will be drawn to the cool air around the trees and have a chance to recover from the heat.