Help your Chickens Beat the Heat This Summer

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!

Randi 6-2015

Mist systems aren’t any good either, because chickens usually avoid 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 to a lot of trouble, keep it simple. Watch the sun, make sure your little oasis will be in the shade during the hottest part of the day.

Create a cool spot

Put a drinker in different places so there is always water in the shade. If you can’t find find suitable shade, make some. Make use of mesh shade tarps, shade cloth, shade sails, etc. Be creative, I found and old pallet, covered it with shade cloth, leaned it up against a fence, and put a drinker under it.

shade cloth

Today it is 107, 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.

cool the air

Advertisements

Hello Summer

We’ve had a pleasant spring, but it looks like our normal May temperatures have arrived. By Sunday it’s expected to reach 107, and then the real heat comes by the middle of June!

My ladies are ready, there’s plenty of shade in their new housing, and they’ll have the option to free run all day. I’ve let a creosote bush grow big and bushy all year just so they’ll have shade.  A hose on a slow drip beneath it will also give them a place to cool off… and a place to keep them busy looking for worms.

These girls have there own covered play area to hang out in, but of course they insist on being in my space. This is the feed room, and where I raise young pullets. It’s supposed to be the clean area… oh well, guess not anymore.

Silkies 5-29-15

115+ Degrees and Chickens

Act Fast, or Else… Here’s How

When it’s 115 in the shade, it  means the thermometer in full sun will register 120 or more. It also means that your chickens are in distress and could face death if you don’t have a plan in place.

First of all, if they are caged or in a small coop they will not survive. I know that’s pretty harsh, but it’s true. So if you don’t want fried chicken for dinner tonight I suggest you find a way to free them where there is some shade, dirt, and water. Shade is a no brainer, but that’s not enough when the heat is this brutal. They need soft dirt where they can dig a hole to stay cool. Get a shovel and the hose and start prepping an area for them, their instincts to dig will continue from there.

Leave the hose on a slow drip in the area where the chickens are, and if possible, securely hang a box fan on the fence any way you can. Put full buckets of cold water somewhat near the fan, this will help cool the immediate area.

Make sure you keep their water sources cool, if their water gets too hot they want drink it. They may drink water from the mud holes you are providing them with, that’s ok, assuming you’ve kept up on your housekeeping chores. If not, get busy because there’s no time to waste.

Managing the Feed

If you free feed your backyard flock, don’t.  In extreme triple digit temps it’s better to feed early morning by 6AM for about two hours, and again an hour before sundown. Food produces heat causing even more heat stress. It’s also very important to not offer any scratch feeds. However, you can give them beneficial food like lettuce, fruit, and especially watermelon. Cut a watermelon in half and set it in the yard during the hottest part of the day, it’s a great source of fluid and they love it. When is the hottest part of the day? If you’re in the desert southwest, it’s between 3 and 6pm.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? More articles & tips on this subject:
Keeping Chickens Cool

Chicken Keeping in Triple Digits

 

orphington & sliver laced polish

Surviving Phoenix, Arizona

Shade is hard to come by in Phoenix,  but not impossible if you’re creative. If your chickens are in a small coop they are unlikely to survive triple digit temperatures, I know that sounds a bit harsh, but it’s true.  June will most likely exceed 110, that means 120+ in the coop, and that’s a death sentence.

TBN Ranch, Phoenix, AZ

Your birds will fair well in temperatures up to 105 if they are not confined, have shade, and a place to dig a hole in the dirt. Make sure they have cool water available, if the water is too hot they won’t drink enough to stay hydrated. Make it easy on yourself, use buckets instead of those chicken drinkers that are impossible to clean and a big hassle to fill.

When temperatures reach over 105 in the shade it’s time to introduce a fan to the chicken yard.  I don’t use anything fancy, a $15.00 box fan will do the trick. Hang it from a fence (wreath hangers work nicely) or anyplace where it won’t tip over. Your birds will stand in front that fan like they were watching a movie!

Gavin Flock, Summer 2011

June and July are the worst months for excessive heat, 110 -115+ and this is when you really have to stay on top of your chicken keeping responsibilities. Mist systems help cool the air, especially with a fan to keep the air moving. I like the standing misters ($10.)  that attach to a hose. Place it right in the chicken yard, dig up a small area near it so the moisture forms a little mud pool for the birds.

If you free feed your chickens, don’t in summer.  Feed produces heat, so feed early morning and just before they return to the coop at night.  Never offer scratch feed in summer, it’s a hot feed and completely unsuitable  for your feathered desert dwellers.

During the afternoons, offer your flock a watermelon, or a head of lettuce, this will help keep them hydrated.

Danger Signs of Heat Exhaustion

Pale comb and wattles is the first sign of trouble. As their condition worsens they will become unstable on their feet, lethargic, wobble, even fall over and lie lifeless. They will die quickly if you don’t act fast.

Note:
• Heavy or Meat Birds such as Orphingtons are the first to show signs of heat intolerance, watch them closely.
• Chickens will hold their wings out from their body,  pant, and lay in holes on their side  – all normal behavior when they’re hot.

What to Do

Submerge the chicken in a 5 gal. bucket of warm water and place the bird under a shade tree.  Don’t bring the bird indoors to air conditioning, this will only make matters worse when you return the chicken to the outdoors. A fan on low will help cool the bird quickly, they usually recover within 15 minutes.

Ideas for Providing  Shade

Shade Cloth
Mesh Tarps
Lattice
Palm Fronds
Shade Sails