Learn the signs of heat stress in chickens and over 10 ways you can help your backyard flock beat the heat and keep your chickens cool in summer!
Here in central Texas, the heat and humidity can be a brutal combination. And the “season” for heat and humidity can seem to go on f.o.r.e.v.e.r. So we know all about keeping me from losing my cool…ahem, I mean keeping our chickens cool.
Know the Signs of Heat Stress in Chickens
Some signs of heat stress in chickens are:
- Panting, chickens do not have sweat glands, so they pant to help cool their bodies down through respiration
- Spreading wings, they will hold them away from their body,
- Pale combs and wattles,
- Lethargic behavior,
- Reduction in egg production, including egg size, or poor shell quality.
10 Ways to Keep Chickens Cool in Summer
Here are ten things we do to keep our chickens cool when the mercury starts to rise:
Keep Chickens Cool Through Hydration
Chickens need access to plenty of fresh, clean water all the time, but especially when the temperatures soar. It also helps to keep their water, whatever setup you use, in the shade.
Allow Chickens to Have Access to Shade
Speaking of shade, it’s helpful if they have some. By a pure stroke of genius luck, we ended up building our coop in the center of a cluster of trees. Once the trees are fully leafed out in the spring, their entire coop and surrounding yard is completely shaded (which consequently also gives them relatively good air cover from hawks).
Let Them Get Their Feet Wet
Besides keeping their drinking water in the shade, we also have black rubber shallow feed pans full of water around their yard (in the shade). I’m always shocked by how cool the water stays when it’s blistering hot outside. Another way chickens will cool themselves down is by standing with their feet submerged in water. I swear, we can almost see them hike up their “bloomers” and wade in.
And speaking of standing in water to cool down, chickens love mud puddles. No matter what time of year it seems (mild winters here), if we’re ever out watering trees, the chickens flock (no pun intended) to the water pooling around the base of the tree. Even with five gallons of fresh clean water in the waterer, they’d rather go stand in, scratch around, and drink from a puddle.
Keep Chickens Cool with Refreshing Treats
When we say we spoil our chickens by giving them treats, those treats are fruits, vegetables, and grains. In the summer, items with high water content like cold melons, berries, and lettuces are a great supplement on a hot day.I’m here to tell you, our chickens will knock. you. over. for a cold watermelon or cantaloupe on a hot day!
You can also give them popsicles. No, not otter pops! Chopped fruits and veggies frozen in an ice cube tray (with a little water) make great snacks to beat the heat. Fresh mint is also a good, cooling herb to add to these popsicles.
Provide a Mister
Every year, we string a mister line across their yard. Again, this is in the shade, so it helps minimize evaporation. We come out to the coop in the evenings every day of the summer, we find the chickens in the “wading pools” and digging around in the soil right underneath the misters. It’s not as effective in our high humidity climate, but when I stand in the mist, I can definitely tell a difference in my body temp!
We built our coop with plenty of cross ventilation. There is a huge window in the west people door, one on the south side of the coop and one on the east side of the coop. We also have ventilation “windows” at the very top of our north and south walls, just below the roof.These, coupled with the “summer screen door” for the chickens’ opening to the coop, allows for air movement through the chimney effect.
Place Fans in the Coop To Keep Chickens Cool
Even with all the windows and cross ventilation, we also have fans in our coop. Air movement is key, especially in humid climates like ours.
Taking it a step further, on really hot nights, we’ve even put wet towels (my hubby’s Grandma Jane use to get “tow sacks” soaking wet) and hang them up near fans, but not in front of the fan blocking air flow. And we also recycle juice bottles, fill them with water, and freeze them. We put those blocks of ice in front of the fans. They don’t last all night obviously, but as the chickens are getting settled down for the night, you can feel the cooler temp of the air blowing past the blocks of ice.
Choose Heat-Tolerant Chicken Breeds
Read up on chicken breeds when you’re selecting your chicks. Some folks need cold tolerant birds, and some, like us, need heat tolerant ones. And observe your flock. We have made our own notes about the breeds that seem to do the best at handling the heat.
Adjust Their Diet of Your Backyard Chicken Flock
Add electrolytes to the chicken waterer to prevent dehydration and choose a ration that is more easily digestible, such as corn.
No Deep Litter Bedding
As much as we love deep litter bedding to keep chickens warm in the winter, it will also work to generate heat in the chicken coop during the already blazing hot summer. Keep your chickens cool by regularly removing the bedding from their coop.
Raising Chickens on the Homestead
Chickens are the gateway livestock on any homestead! Learn more about how to care for backyard chickens!
- The Basics of Raising Chickens
- How to Hatch Chicks in an Incubator
- Chicken Breed Egg Colors
- Cardboard Chicken Coop Bedding
- 10 Dual-Purpose Chicken Breeds
- How to Treat Common Chicken Illnesses
- How Do You Keep Chickens Warm?
- 6 Reasons Every Homestead Needs a Rooster
- Reasons to Raise Pastured Livestock
- Save Money Raising Chickens for Eggs
In 2011, when my hubby and I bought our little 10-acre homestead, it started out resembling a moonscape. But it came roaring back to life with some tender loving care and well-timed, much-needed rain. The Pasture, as it has come to be known, is now teeming with life. And we suffer from Pasture Deficit Disorder anytime we’re away from it. Along the way, we’ve added chickens, longhorn cows, and plenty of cats and dogs to the mix! We grow a few veggies, a few peaches, lots of herbs, and harvest native pecans and wild dewberries. We’ve taught ourselves how to install hundreds of feet of water lines, build a chicken coop, build lots and lots (and lots) of fencing, build decks, and we even built a 28 ft. x 56 ft. post-frame barn – all just the two of us! Grab a cup of coffee and join us for our adventures.
Great advice! Thank you. My chickens love their melon. We aren’t as hot as you, but here in Virginia the days can get pretty warm the girls go nuts when they see me coming with watermelon.
Cheryl, this is great. I know nothing about chickens or farming, but it almost makes me want chickens. Thanks! I’ll share this with Grandma
I just want to say thank you for your great advice. I have read a few of your articles now & they are very informative & I am grateful. My fiancé & I are raising chickens & ducks & I have never raised chickens before, so your articles have helped & given me so many great ideas. Tonight I am going to freeze some of their fruit/veggies bc the heat & humidity here, has just been awful. I will also be adding the electrolyte to their water Thanks again!
Crystal, thank you for your comment. I’m always glad when I can help a fellow “chicken mom.” 🙂 This summer has been tough (in Texas) and we’re only about half way through it!