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.
Summer is coming, is your chicken yard and coop suitable to sustain the well being of your flock? It’s important to prepare for extreme heat or your birds may suffer from heat exhaustion. Sun is the #1 enemy to chickens that are confined, especially in small quarters. Here in Phoenix, extreme temperatures will reach 115+ degrees, and we must take special precautions to help our chickens fair well.
Remember, happy chickens fill the egg basket, agitated chickens acquire behavioral issues, are low producers, or may stop laying altogether. Here’s what you can do to keep your chickens happy and healthy this summer…
It’s not that hard to accommodate the basic needs of chickens in hot weather, with a little effort on your part they will fair well. First of all, cramped housing, even in partial sun can be a death sentence. If your coop is too small, the easiest way to give them more room is to build a large enclosure around the coop. I can’t’ stress enough, the more space the better.
Coop Location / Shade / Natural Behavior
Your chickens need a shady place, watch the sun, make sure their coop and play area has morning AND afternoon shade. Keep water out of direct sunlight and refill drinkers with cold water in the afternoon. You can also freeze a chunk of ice and put it in a shallow water container on those really hot days.
Get acquainted with artificial shade products such as shade cloth, shade sails, and my favorite, grommet shade tarps. Never use waterproof tarps, they inhibit airflow, which is crucial to your birds survival.
Chickens stay cool by digging holes in the dirt. It’s imperative they have a natural earth area to do so. Chickens may or may not appreciate a nearby mist system. If you choose to experiment, place it where it won’t interfere with their drinker or food source.
A wet area under a shade tree or low bush provides an ideal oasis for chickens. Dig a shallow hole large enough for your flock to enjoy the benefits of a hose on a slow drip. On really hot days, you can offer your birds relief by flooding that area about an inch deep. They will stay quite busy looking for worms and insects while they cool down.
Warning Signs of Physical Heat Distress
A common sign is a change in behavior, such as bullying, pecking each other, or pacing. When uncomfortable from the heat your chickens will hold their wings out from their body, pant, or both. Extremely dangerous signs of heat exhaustion is when your chickens become lethargic, pale, disoriented, or are stumbling.
This is when you must act quick. At this point, it is best submerge the bird in a large bucket or tub with WARM water. Place the bird in a shady, preferably grassy spot SEPARATE from the other chickens. If at all possible a fan is very helpful. I do NOT suggest bringing the bird into the house where it is cooler.
Quick Fix Fluids
An excellent source of fluids on a hot summer day is watermelon! If you have a large flock, simply cut a watermelon in half, set it on the ground and let them feast. They will pick it clean and love every minute of it!
Another option is adding electrolytes to your chickens water sources, you’ll find this product at your local feed store.
Feed & Diet
Scratch feeds should be avoided altogether in the summer. Corn is a hot feed, and that’s the last thing chickens need during the summer months. Instead, a bit of crimped oats will be accepted by your birds as a suitable treat. Feed in general produces heat, so on days that reach 115-120 degrees, I ration all feed, offering small portions a few times a day.
Hay and straw hold heat, a better choice in summer is shavings or sand. Keep the coop and nest boxes clean, chicken droppings also produce unwanted heat.
If you have broodies, make sure there is a convenient water source nearby her nest and plenty of ventilation. A fan to help move the air around your birds is extremely beneficial.
The rule of thumb is starter crumbles or pellets until the first egg. Young birds are often uninterested in table scraps, but there are a few other nutritious feed sources they will eat… and actually like. After the first 3 weeks it’s just fine to introduce a bit of grass, this is a good way to keep chicks busy, especially if they are beginning to peck each other. Just make sure to sprinkle grit around to help with digestion.
At about 4 months old, I introduce hemp seed and rolled oats just to add a little extra nutrients to my young pullets diet. For no particular reason other than they like chicken scratch, I add that too. I don’t recommend adding this mix to their starter feed, they will only make a mess trying to pick out all the good stuff. I always feed supplements and treats in a separate hanging feeder.
Liquid supplements mixed in their feed is certainly a plus, and I do use them for my Silkies, but they definitely like hemp seed better and it’s a great source of protein containing a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. However, it should be feed sparingly because of the high fat content.
As a feeding guideline, I feed four young pullets hemp seed, rolled oats, and scratch in these amounts…
2 heaping tablespoons of rolled oats per day 2 heaping tablespoons of scratch per day 2 tablespoons of hemp seed every other day.
Hemp Seed is usually sold by the pound at feed stores that sell lose bulk feed, rolled oats too!
My pullets are now 7 months old and laying daily. This is the only flock I’ve supplemented with hemp seed and the first time I’ve had flawless perfect first eggs.