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HOT HENS!

Broiled chicken? Sure - that's fine at a restaurant or in the kitchen. But when it's your backyard flock, it's not okay! In Southern California, it can get really hot, and between raising chickens here and in Texas, we had to learn some valuable tips on how to keep our chickens cool when the weather is way too hot!

 

How do you know it's too hot for your chickens? The first thing you'll notice is that they will be panting. You will probably notice your heavily feathered breeds struggling more with the heat. You'll also notice that chickens with larger combs will handle the heat better than your rose comb chickens. The comb acts as a heat regulator and those breeds with bigger combs tend to deal better with hotter temps. 

What do you do when your chickens are overheating?  Here is a list of great things that most of us already have at home that can be used to cool your peeps:

  • Ice - we like to put it in their waterers, and even put it in a small tub for them to lay next to it or drink from it. We'll find our younger chickens laying and roosting on it for a bit. 

  • Frozen or cold fruit - we give them watermelon and frozen strawberries to name a few, and it helps keep them hydrated during the hot weather.

  • Gatorade in a bowl - or some sort of electrolyte that they can drink to rehydrate.

  • Shade - we have used sunshades (tarps too) to create shade when the temperatures soar. And if your chickens are hiding out in the shade (away from food and water), BRING a water bowl to them. They won't leave the shade to get water (even if they are thirsty). So make sure they have water next to them in the shade.

  • Fans and misting/sprayers - in Texas, it would get so hot and humid we would actually have fans running outside to try and give them some cool air. We also used a swamp cooler in the coop to lower the temps at night. Some people go so far as adding an A/C unit in their coops. 

Things to watch for:

If you have any chickens that are panting AND lethargic with their combs/wattles pale, now is the time for action or they may die due to heat illness. You can carefully dip the chicken halfway into a bucket of cool (not freezing cold) water to try and lower their body temperature. And try to get them to drink some electrolyte water (or even Chick Saver). Keep them in a quiet space (with good air circulation) where they won't be picked on and can rest. 

 

What to avoid in hot weather: 

Do NOT give them corn, or even scratch (because it usually has a lot of corn). Corn and scratch digest slowly which can heighten a chicken's body temperature. In cold winter climates (snow/ice), scratch and corn are used to help chickens stay warm. But in hot weather, it can be life-threatening if they aren't able to cool themselves down. 

Anything else?

Don't panic if they stop laying eggs for a bit (or you have far fewer eggs). They need to rest and regulate their body temperature and the stress of the heat takes a toll on their egg-laying.

By paying attention to the signs of heat illness, you can make it through the summer successfully! Cool chicks are better than hot chicks!

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