Cooling Your Flock

Today in Sauk Prairie, we are expected to reach a high of over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Considering just a few weeks ago it was awesome to reach 65 degrees and walk around in just a sweatshirt, hot weather hit hard and fast in my neck of the woods.

Keeping your chickens, and other poultry, nice and cool in hotter months can be the difference between a flock thriving, and a flock dying. Let’s start with some basics.

Signs of Heat Stroke

  1. Seizures and convulsions
  2. Lethargy
  3. Separating their wings from their body
  4. Panting, rapid breathing and/or other signs of labored breathing
  5. Decreased food consumption
  6. Pale combs and/or wattles
  7. Diarrhea
  8. Significant egg production decrease
  9. Loss of electrolytes
  10. Drinking large amounts of water

Some birds are better equipped to deal with hot weather, such as:

  1. Easter Eggers
  2. Welsummer
  3. Leghorns (white and brown in particular)
  4. Novogen Brown
  5. White Plymouth Rock
  6. Naked Neck

So how hot is too hot? Even for heat hardy birds such as the ones listed above, when the temps soar above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, all birds are at risk for heat stroke and exhaustion. Here are some of our favorite ways to keep your chicks cool and comfortable as temperatures rise all over the United States:

Top 7 Cooling Ideas

  1. Shade.

    Make sure your chicks have a place to escape the broiling sun at all times. This can be as easy as putting a couple umbrellas around their pen, or as complex as building a lean-to. Chickens will try to fend for themselves and will begin to dig in the dirt around existing structures to gain a little cooling comfort. Take this as a sign that there’s simply not enough shade. 
  2. Ventilation.

    This is generally simple enough but often overlooked in the construction of new coops and pens. Your enclosure should have airways on every side to allow for a fresh flow of air in the hot months. Using a box fan or some other type of fan to circulate air can also help keep them cool. 
  3. Clean cool water.

    You may need to fill and change out the water a couple times a day to keep your chicks at their coolest and healthiest. Oftentimes people will put ice cubes in the water to keep it cooler longer. Make sure the dishes and waterers are placed in shaded, cool areas to extend the life of the ice cubes. Adding additional waterers will ensure everyone gets a cool drink when needed.
  4. Don’t overcrowd.

    Just like humans pick up heat from each other, so do chickens. Make sure there’s plenty of room for everyone, especially in cool, shaded areas. You’ve heard the saying, “Birds of a feather will flock together”, right? It’s true, especially if cool space is limited. 
  5. Electrolyte supplements.

    You can buy these at just about any supply feed store. Make sure to follow the instructions as each brand can vary a little, but this is a great way to make sure they are replenishing those ever important electrolytes. 
  6. Frozen fruits and vegetables.

    It may seem like a silly idea, especially to new homesteaders and flock wranglers, but birds love them and they can be healthy for your flock. 
  7. Add a mister.

    No, no, no — not a rooster, but a water mister. This can help keep the chickens and most poultry cool. These can range in price from adding an attachment to the end of your garden hose to more complex systems. Fortunately, Google can help you with DIY misters easily enough. 

The key in any case is to act quickly and efficiently. Don’t wait until your chickens are visibly uncomfortable — be proactive and you’ll have less to worry about. Basic rule of thumb…if you’re hot, they’re hot. Providing essentials like shade and clean, cold water will go a long way to keeping your flock in tip top shape during the summer months.