Keeping Chickens in Excessive Heat

The Recipe for Survival, Explained in Detail

Once again it’s that time of year when soaring temperatures raise concern to chicken keepers. For those who can free roam their flock there is less worry. But if you have backyard chickens that are confined to a coop, your worries are quite valid. Here’s what you can do to make your flock more comfortable.

Air Flow

chickens aug 2011 011

There are steps to take that will help your chickens beat the heat, but it will take a little effort on your part.

If your coop is over crowded it’s time to expand, too many birds in small quarters is just asking for trouble.

Air flow is vital. Chicken droppings generate heat, so be sure to clean the coop and lay down fresh bedding. If at all possible provide a fan for ventilation,  if it isn’t… find a way. A fan could be the difference between life and death.

Keeping the Flock Hydrated

There is a pecking order among chickens, so provide extra water sources for those lower ranking birds who might not be allowed to use the drinker.

Chickens will drink more if the water is cool, provide cool water at the hottest time of the day. If you have broody hens, make it easy for them to access water, don’t assume they are leaving the nest… some don’t.
Tip: Full buckets of water will stay cold longer, put out a few. Shallow ground drinkers work nicely for bantams. See pics below.

Electrolites

It’s always a good idea to have electrolytes on hand for those really hot days. Simply add it to your flock’s water source.

Electrolytes for poultry can be found at your local feed store. It comes in many forms, choose one best suited for your needs and the size of your flock.

tbn chicks apr 2011 010

Chickens may or may not like a mist system, my birds hate them, however, I have heard positive feedback from other chicken keepers. So it may be something to consider useful in dry climates.

A more positive approach is to provide your birds with a small flooded area for them to play in. Even if it’s just a a hose allowed to drip, they are magically lured to this life saving man made oasis.

Triple Digit Temperatures …

Gavin Flock, Summer 2011

Here in Phoenix our temperatures can reach 115+ degrees, this is when it’s time to bring out watermelon, cantaloupe, lettuce, or anything that will help hydrate the flock. These foods will be better for them than layer pellets, which contain corn… which produces even more unwanted heat.

During these heat spells, I ration layer pellets, offering it morning and night only, for about an hour or so.

Providing Shade

Shade is essential to the survival of chickens in extreme temperatures, especially if they’re cooped.  Your coop is best placed under a shade tree, but remember the sun moves and may leave your birds exposed to direct sun during the course of a day.

Never use tarps. Shade cloth, mesh tarps, and shade sails are excellent for keeping the sun out, yet they don’t restrict air flow. Shade cloth is cheaper than mesh tarps and available in most garden centers. Mesh tarps might be pricey, but they’re a lot easier to hang. Both, are durable and offer long lasting wear.

Recipe for Successful Chicken Keeping in Excessive Heat

• Offer 1/2 a watermelon or cantaloupe and place it in a shady area.
• Find a way to hang a fan a foot or so feet from the ground.
• Provide an area where a hose is on a slow stream or drip.
• Keep drinkers filled with cool water. Tip: Buckets kept full will stay cool longer!
• Use shade cloth, mesh tarps, and shade sails.
• Electrolytes for Poultry

 

 

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