Chickens and Heat Distress, What to Do

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!

Electrolites
Electrolytes

Warning Signs Heat Distress

  • Panting
  • Holding their wings away from their body
  • Combs and wattles a deep red
  • Restlessness

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
  • Pacing
  • Disoriented
  • Wobbling
  • Lethargic
  • 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.

More Information…

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Here’s the Scoop on Electrolytes for Chickens

Buy it… or Make Your Own, Here’s How…

When temperatures reach 100° F  or above, chickens have difficulty maintaining proper body temperature. Heat stress is dangerous and could even take the life of your chickens. Here’s how to help them beat the heat using electrolytes.

Option 1:  Buy it…

Mix this in with your flock’s water during periods of stress, high heat, or reduced feed intake.
Not only does it contain vitamins and electrolytes, but also the beneficial probiotics Lactobacillus acidophilus and Streptococcus facium.
One package is enough for a whopping 128 gallons of water! 4 oz.

Directions for Use…
WATER: 1/8 tsp per gallon of water for daily use, and up to 1/4 tsp per gallon when flock is stressed and needs an extra boost, such as in illness or in heat waves. The solution must be tossed after 24 hours. Use for a period of 3-5 days.

Option 2: Make Your Own / Home Remedy Electrolytes Recipe

1/2 teaspoon salt substitute
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon sugar
√ Mix in a 1-gallon water container.

This recipe is for dehydrated chickens only and should be given during extreme temperatures a few hours during the hottest part of the day for a period of 5 to 7 days.

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Keeping Chickens Happy in Hot Weather

Help Your Chickens Beat the Heat

Is your chicken yard and coop suitable to sustain the well-being of your flock during the summer months? It’s essential to prepare for extreme heat, or your birds may suffer from heat exhaustion. Sun is the #1 enemy of confined chickens, especially in small quarters. 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…

Suitable Housing

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 the 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, and 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. They must 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 are when your chickens become lethargic, pale, disoriented, or stumbling.
This is when you must act quickly. At this point, it is best to 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 chicken’s water sources, you’ll find this product at your local feed store.

Feed & Diet

Scratch Feed

Scratch feeds should be avoided altogether in the summer. Corn is a hot feed, which is the last thing chickens need during summer. 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.

Bedding

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 and plenty of ventilation. A fan to help move the air around your birds is extremely beneficial.

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