7 Tips to Protect Your Chickens from Heat (and Heatwaves)

 Episodes of extreme heat are becoming more frequent and intense, putting all organisms to the test, including animals. Chickens are particularly vulnerable during these very hot periods. Unlike us, they cannot sweat to regulate their body temperature.

7 Tips to Protect Your Chickens from Heat (and Heatwaves)
7 Tips to Protect Your Chickens from Heat (and Heatwaves)

 The body overheats, and this is heatstroke. This state of extreme hyperthermia occurs suddenly and can be fatal. I have seen many social media posts from owners who have unfortunately lost their chickens during the recent heatwave in June (2022).

 Therefore as soon as the temperature is 30°C  or over you should take certain precautions and you must be vigilant in the event of hyperthermia and heat waves. Here are 7 tips to help your chickens get through the summer comfortably:

Provide Shade in the Chicken Run

 Chickens spend all day in the run, so it is essential that they can shelter from the sun when they need to. Make sure they have enough shaded areas throughout the day. Be aware that the shaded area in the morning will be in full sun in the afternoon!

 Ideally, your chicken run has several low, naturally shaded areas, such as hedges, bushes, or shrubs, which retain coolness at their base.  If this is not the case, and you need to add more shaded areas, plant a parasol or install a suspended sheet or awning in an area of the run where the air circulates well. You can also regularly water the ground in the run to cool the soil.

Ensure that your chicken coop has an efficient ventilation system

 It is essential that your chicken coop has a ventilation hatch in addition to the door. This creates natural ventilation, which is essential for air renewal. In the summer, this air circulation will also help limit the increase in temperature inside the chicken coop.

 Wooden chicken coops usually have a mesh hatch that can be opened and closed. It should be kept open all day during the summer.

 As for natural ventilation in plastic chicken coops, it depends on the model. Some plastic chicken coops have a specific ventilation system that allows for air renewal without creating drafts.

Protect your chicken coop from the sun

If you have a mobile chicken coop

 Move it to a cool spot, under a tree or against a shaded wall, for example. It is preferable to make this change gradually, over several days if possible. Chickens can be stressed or disoriented when their habits are changed too suddenly, and there is no need to add stress to them when they are already struggling to manage the heat.

If you have a fixed chicken coop

 If you have a fixed chicken coop you should find a way to bring shade to it! Like with the chicken run, you can install a parasol or suspended canopy over the chicken coop.

 You can also regularly water the roof of the chicken coop to lower the temperature inside the shelter. This will make the night more comfortable for your chickens. However, be careful to water the roof with the doors closed to avoid wetting the bedding.

In hot weather, adjust your chickens' diet

 In hot weather, chickens tend to eat less, because the heat causes in reducing their appetite. However, they still need sufficient energy intake to be able to fight the effects of excessive heat.

 So,  if you notice that your chickens are eating less than usual the best way to feed your chickens is before the sun rises (during the coolest parts of the day).

 As for the food itself, provide your chickens with freshness by offering them fresh, water-rich pieces of food. Some examples are:

  • Lettuce
  • Fresh grass
  • Watermelon
  • Cucumber
  • Melon
  • Zucchini

 Be careful not to give your chickens any toxic food, and do not let food spoil in their enclosure. Fresh food rots faster in hot weather.

It is also recommended to increase the calcium intake by adding crushed eggshells, for example, to the chickens' daily diet.

Make sure to provide enough water for your chickens

In hot weather, chickens drink an average of 50cl per day, which is twice as much as usual. Your waterer must therefore have sufficient capacity for your chickens to have enough water available throughout the day.

This water must also remain cool: place the waterer where it will remain in the shade all day. You can also place ice packs around or below it, depending on the model of the waterer.

Do not forget to change the water more often than on normal days, because heat encourages the growth of bacteria in the water.

Monitor the daily health of your chickens

During heat waves and hot weather, increased vigilance is necessary during your visits to the chicken coop.

Several times a day, take the time to observe your chickens. It is normal to see them panting with their beaks open and their wings slightly spread. They regulate their body temperature in this way.

Your chicken could be suffering heat stroke if doesn't eat or is sitting on the ground with spreading its wings out or doesn't react to any of your stimulation.

In this case, separate her from the rest of the group and delicately mutilate her using a moist serviette or a torchon. Place it in the shade and cool and monitor it for a few hours before reintegrating it into the group.

Note: Be sure never to use a hose to cool down your chickens, as this could cause a thermal shock. Conversely, use a much lighter water outlet like a misting system.

Clean the chicken coop and pen daily

During hot weather, the bacteria contained in our chickens' droppings tend to multiply, intensifying the unpleasant odor of the feces.

Beyond the olfactory nuisances for us, these strong odors attract insects that can at a minimum bother your chickens, and at worst be vectors of disease.

Therefore, it is essential to maintain the chicken coop and pen more regularly than usual in the summer.

Remove the droppings from the pen daily, and ensure that the litter inside the chicken coop always remains clean and fresh.

The summer months are undoubtedly the months that require the greatest attention from us regarding the health of our animals. Here are 7 tips that I hope will be useful for you to limit the effects of heat on your chickens.

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Islam Khennoucha

Islam Khennoucha is an Australian author and chicken farmer who has dedicated his life to the study and care of these fascinating creatures. He was born and raised in Algeria, where he developed a love for nature and animals, especially chickens. After moving to Australia, Islam purchased a farm where he could fulfill his passion for raising chickens.
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