Keeping your chickens cool in extreme heat is vital to keeping them happy and healthy.
When the summer months come, the heat is on. The heat and humidity can make being outside nearly unbearable.
A lot of us will be able to escape the summer heat and humidity by cooling off in a lake, or inside an air conditioned home.
However, chickens aren’t so lucky. A chicken or turkey can get heat stroke and even die if they get too hot.
What is a Chicken’s Heat Tolerance?
Understandably, chickens do not fare well in extremely hot temperatures. When the thermometer rises above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius), chickens start to suffer from heat stress.
This is because chickens are not able to cool themselves off with sweat like humans can. Instead, they rely on panting and flapping their wings to try and cool down.
If you live in an area where the average temperature is higher than 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) during the summer months, then keeping your chickens cool should be a top priority for you.
When temperatures reach over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) for extended periods of time, chickens start to become vulnerable to health issues such as respiratory problems or even death due to heat exhaustion or stroke if immediate steps are not taken by their caretaker(s).
How Do Chickens Cool Themselves?
Chickens don’t have sweat glands like we do as humans. Instead, they lose heat through their wattles and combs.
While this helps, it’s only effective to about 75 degrees – after that, chickens start feeling the heat.
Fortunately, they do have a few other mechanisms that help relieve some of the heat stress.
One is the feathers. Chickens have two types of feathers—down feathers and contour feathers. Down feathers are short and fluffy and act like insulation by trapping air close to the chicken’s skin.
Contour feathers are longer and stiffer and can be used like tiny little fans to help circulate air over their bodies and cool them down as it evaporates water from their skin.
The follicles that grow the feathers also play an important role in cooling down chickens.
When exposed to heat or UV rays from the sun, these follicles open up slightly, which allows for increased circulation of air around the chicken’s body—effectively acting like tiny little radiators for your feathered friends!
In addition to relying on its feathers for cooling, chickens also use panting as an effective way to lower their body temperature on hot days. Panting involves rapidly breathing in and out while opening your mouth wide (like dogs do!).
This helps rid your body of excess heat by allowing more air into your lungs which can then be exhaled back out again and away from your body. This process is known as evaporative cooling since excess heat is taken away when moisture evaporates off your skin.
As such, it’s important that chickens always have access to plenty of fresh water during hot weather so they can replace any lost moisture!
Signs of Heat Stroke in Chickens
- heavy panting
- wings extended out from body
- listless, droopy behavior, even if you pick them up
- pale comb and wattles
- decrease in appetite
- loss of weight
- increase in cannibalism
- chicken laying spread out with feet in one direction, head in another, staying that way
- chicken will feel hot if you pick them up
- drop in egg production.
If you suspect heat stroke in your chickens, you need to act fast. Cool them off by running cool (not cold) water over their legs and body.
You want to do this a little at a time, to avoid shock.
Keeping Chickens Cool in Summer – 14 Tips
Here are some easy ways for keeping chickens cool in summer.
Add a shaded area if there isn’t enough already.
Add a large tarp in their run area, and make sure there is plenty of dirt bath “dirt” available in their dust area under the shade for them to cool off.
This will allow the chicken to cool their body temperature more easily.
Provide fresh, cold water, changing it often.
During the hottest part of the day, add fresh water every 2 hours to keep it cool. You can also add some ice to the water to cool it down longer.
When a chicken goes without water for as little as 6 hours, it can decrease egg laying production by up to 2 weeks. Keep fresh eggs coming daily by offering fresh water at all times.
You will also want to add electrolytes to the water. Add 1 teaspoon each of baking soda, salt substitute (such as No Salt), and 1 Tablespoon sugar to each gallon of fresh water. This will help the chickens maintain their electrolyte balance in extreme heat. Add this in for 2-3 water changes daily.
Add a sprinkler by their water to wet them down a bit as they get a drink.
A sprinkler on low during the hottest part of the day will allow your flock to get a cool, refreshing mist as they get a drink of water. As a bonus, ducks will LOVE playing around it, too. This will also serve to cool off all your flock, turkeys included.
Run an additional sprinkler on the coop roof, cooling the entire chicken coop.
We did this especially when we had rabbits in the same barn with the chickens to keep them all cool. It worked by allowing the top to cool off, and letting more heat escape.
Make frozen “treat pucks”
Placing kernel corn, blueberries or other garden veggies in a muffin tin. Cover with water and freeze until solid. The chickens will peck at it, get a cool drink and then a frozen cooling treat as a reward..
Add a frozen watermelon 1/2 to their run to allow them to peck at the frozen treat.
This is also a great treat for helping turkeys to stay cool in the hot summer weather. All poultry loves watermelon and frozen watermelon is such a nice treat for them. Don’t have watermelon? Frozen strawberries make excellent treats, too.
Use a fan in the coop, if possible.
You want the fan to be blowing the hot air OUT of the coop, not in the coop. This means facing the fan toward the outside, not at the chickens. This was especially nice at night, when you can get a chance to “catch up” with the heat.
You’ll want to be sure to keep the extension cord and any electrical cords off the ground and away from water.
Frozen water bottles in the nesting boxes.
On a hot day, placing a frozen water bottle in each nesting box allows the chicken to cool off as they are laying their eggs.
We change them out 2x a day to keep them nice and cold. Make sure that you are collecting eggs more often in the summer, as they can spoil faster when it’s hot out.
Remove extra manure, as it composting can cause more heat.
This is important especially if you use the deep litter method. Consider removing some of it to allow the coop to remain a bit cooler.
Add ice cubes to the water
As with most animals, hydration is key for keeping chickens healthy. To keep their water cool throughout the day, add a few ice cubes each morning to the waterer before they begin drinking. They will love you for it!
Make sure chickens always have a dust bath in hot weather
Allowing chickens to roll around in a dirt bath is not only fun for them, but it also helps keep them cool as well!
Make sure there is always dust available in their coop if possible; otherwise, use sand or straw as an alternative. Bonus points if you add some herbs like lavender or rosemary which smell great and have cooling properties too!
Add more coop ventilation
Good ventilation is essential for keeping chickens cool in summer heat. If your coop doesn’t already have windows or screens installed, consider doing so now before temperatures hit triple digits.
You can also install shade cloth over their run area as well which will help keep them cooler while they are outside playing during the day.
Cool them down with the garden hose
Just like us humans enjoy a cold shower when it’s blazing hot outside, chickens need some relief too!
Give your flock a quick spray down of cool water from the garden hose once or twice per day during extreme heat waves and they will be forever grateful (or at least until the next round of treats).
Avoid treats that make chickens hotter, like scratch grains
Scratch grains might seem like an obvious treat option for your flock but believe it or not, these types of treats actually make chickens hotter!
Instead opt for fruits and vegetables such as melon chunks or cucumber slices which will provide added hydration without increasing their body temperature too much.
Which Chicken Breeds Do Best on Hot Summer Days?
If you are a chicken owner, you know how important it is to select a breed that can withstand the weather.
On hot summer days, chickens need to be able to handle the heat and the humidity so they stay happy and comfortable.
Some chicken breeds are better at staying active despite the intense temperatures, while others may choose to just sit in the coop until cooler weather returns.
When selecting your flock, take into consideration which ones do best on hot summer days. Opting for breeds from warm Mediterranean regions is ideal if trying to keep your feathered friends as cool and comfortable as possible.
Try out a breed like the Sicilian Buttercup for reliable laying performance in quartering temperatures.
For those more adventuresome, consider a jungle fowl breed like the Red Jungle Fowl; these birds are hardy and can handle drier conditions than most breeds.
And while there’s no single answer when it comes to what size chicken does best on hot days, keep in mind that smaller chickens often fare better than their larger counterparts due to their bigger body-to-wing ratio.
Summer can be rough on our feathered friends but with a few simple tips and tricks, you can ensure that your chickens stay healthy and happy all season long!
What are your tips for keeping chickens cool when the heat is on? Be sure to pin this for later!
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.