September 27, 2023

As temperatures continue rising during the summer, it’s important to remember to be protecting chickens from heat and exhaustion. Chickens are incredibly resilient animals, but extreme temperatures can be a real danger to their health. Overheating can lead to dehydration, stress, and even death if proper measures are not taken. How can we ensure our chickens are healthy and comfortable during extreme heat waves? In this article, we’ll review the essential tips for keeping your chickens healthy, happy, and cool when temperatures soar amidst the summer heat. From providing shade to ensuring adequate hydration, we’ll cover all the bases so you can rest easy knowing your feathered friends are safe.

If you haven’t already started your backyard chicken journey, please see my article on how to get started raising chickens in your backyard

What is Extreme Heat?

Extreme heat refers to temperatures that are significantly higher than average and can profoundly impact animals. High body temperatures can cause animals to become dehydrated, leading to heat stress or even heat stroke. Some animals, such as those with thick fur or limited access to clean water, are more vulnerable to extreme heat. To survive extreme heat, animals may find shade, burrow into the ground, or alter their behavior to avoid direct sunlight. As global temperatures continue to rise, it is increasingly vital for us to understand the effects of extreme heat on animals in order to protect their wellbeing and survival.

Importance of Protecting Chickens During Heat Waves?

It is important to protect chickens during extreme heat waves because they are highly susceptible to heat stress, which can lead to decreased egg production, poor egg quality, and even death. Chickens pant to regulate their body temperature, but when the air temperature is too high, panting is not enough to cool them down. As a result, their body temperature can rise rapidly, leading to heat stroke. Monitoring their behavior and health can help detect any signs of heat stress early on, and taking necessary actions to protect them can improve their overall welfare and productivity.

Signs of Heat Stress in Chickens

Temperature Ranges

Heat stress can have a significant impact on chickens, particularly during the summer months when temperatures can soar. Chickens are most comfortable when temperatures range between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. However, when temperatures exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit, chickens can experience heat stress symptoms such as panting, drooping wings, and reduced feed intake. It’s crucial for chicken farmers to monitor the temperature in their coop and provide adequate shade, ventilation, and cool water to prevent extreme heat stress and maintain health and keep their flock cool.

Common Symptoms to Look Out For

Heat stress is a common problem among chickens, especially during the hot summer months. Some of the common symptoms of heat stress in chickens during heatwaves include panting, open-mouthed breathing, wings held away from the body, lethargy, decreased appetite, and reduced egg production. High temperatures can also lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which can cause further health problems.

How to Check Your Chicken’s Body Temperature

As a chicken owner, one of the most crucial things to do during days of extreme heat is to check their body temperature. The normal temperature for a chicken ranges from 104-107°F, and it’s essential to know how to take it accurately. To check your chicken’s temperature, you can use a digital thermometer and insert it gently into the bird’s vent, focusing on the distance up to the second joint. Make sure the thermometer is clean and disinfected before and after use to avoid any potential infections. By regularly monitoring your chicken’s temperature, you can catch any health issues and signs of heat stress early and take the necessary steps to keep your birds healthy.

Preventing Heat Stress: Essential Tips

Provide Plenty of Fresh Water and Shade

Water intake is one of the things to keep track of during hot months. One of the most important steps in preventing heat stress is to provide plenty of cool water and shade for the chickens. Adequate hydration, especially with cool water, is essential for regulating body temperature, so make sure there are plenty of water sources available throughout the day, such as a chicken waterer, and if the water comes from an outside source make sure the water cools off first before providing it to the chickens, and consider adding electrolytes to the water to help the birds stay hydrated during hot weather. Plenty of shade can also help to reduce the ambient temperature in the chicken coop or run, so be sure to provide sheltered areas where the chickens cool off and rest during the hottest parts of the day. By taking these simple steps, you can help to prevent heat stress and keep your flock healthy and happy.

chickens cooling off in a pool of water

Cold Treats

High temperatures can cause immense stress to chickens, which affects not only their wellbeing but also their productivity. Keeping them cool is essential during hot weather, and one effective way to do this is by providing frozen treats. These can include frozen or fresh fruits such as berries or watermelon or even ice cubes and ice blocks. Cold or hydrating treats help regulate a chicken’s body temperature and keep them hydrated. By preventing heat stress, chickens can maintain their health and continue to lay eggs regularly. 

Frozen Feed

Heat stress in animals is a serious concern in hot weather conditions, and preventive measures are necessary to ensure their wellbeing. Frozen feed is one such method that can help in reducing heat stress. When animals consume frozen feed, their body temperature decreases as the feed is digested, thereby reducing the risk of heat stroke. This method is commonly used in poultry farming, where chickens and other birds are given frozen water or feed during hot summers. It is an effective way to keep the animals cool and hydrated, preventing heat stress and other related health problems.

Coop Ventilation

Proper ventilation in a chicken coop is essential in preventing heat stress in your birds. During the hot summer months, chickens can easily succumb to the heat, which can lead to dehydration, lethargy, and even death. In order to prevent this from happening, it is important to provide adequate ventilation in your coop. This means ensuring that there is enough airflow to keep the space cool but not so much that it creates drafts or exposes the birds to extreme weather conditions. Good coop ventilation can be achieved through the use of vents, windows, or fans and should be a priority for any chicken owner.

Maintain Coop Cleanliness 

The buildup of dirt and debris can create a humid and uncomfortable environment for chickens, leading to an increased risk of heat stress. A dirty coop can lead to poor air quality and high levels of ammonia, which can exacerbate heat stress. Regular cleaning of the coop and proper disposal of waste, such as making sure their drinking water is still clean and cleaning the coop floor, is essential to keep the chickens healthy and comfortable. 

For people using the Deep Litter Method (this is a popular way of managing chicken coops. It involves letting bedding materials accumulate over time, with periodic additions of fresh materials. This method creates a deep layer of compost that provides insulation, absorbs moisture, and controls odor.) in managing chicken coops, it’s important to know that during heatwaves, the deep litter method can pose some challenges for chicken owners. The high temperatures can cause the litter to break down faster, producing more heat and ammonia. This can be harmful to the chickens’ health and wellbeing. Therefore, it is important to monitor the temperature and humidity levels in the coop and adjust the amount and type of bedding materials accordingly. Providing adequate ventilation and shade to keep chickens cool can also help mitigate the effects of heat waves on the deep litter system. 

Kiddie Pool/Mud Puddles

Heat stress is a major concern for chickens during months with hot temperatures, and providing them with a means of cooling off is essential. Some chicken owners swear by using kiddie pools as a way to provide hot chickens with a place to cool down. Others prefer mud puddles, which the chickens can not only use to cool off but also to bathe in and clean their feathers. Both options have their pros and cons, and it ultimately comes down to personal preference and what works best for your backyard flock. In any case, ensuring that your chickens have access to a way to keep cool during hot weather is crucial for their health and wellbeing.


chickens playing in a misting sprinkler

Another way to prevent heat stress in their chickens is for farmers can use misters or sprinklers in their coops. Misters spray a fine mist of water into the air, which can cool the surrounding area and keep chickens from overheating. Sprinklers, on the other hand, spray water directly onto the chickens, which provides a more direct cooling effect. Farmers must pay attention to the humidity levels when using misters and sprinklers, as too much moisture can lead to respiratory problems for the chickens. Overall, misters and sprinklers can be effective tools for preventing heat stress in chickens and ensuring they stay cool during the hot summer months.

Dust Bath Space

Providing an adequate dust bath space for chickens is an important step in preventing heat stress. When temperatures rise, chickens will instinctively seek out a dusty, cool spot to help regulate their body temperature. A good dust bathing area should be at least 2 feet by 2 feet and contain a mixture of soil, sand, and other fine materials such as wood ash or food-grade diatomaceous earth. This allows chickens to scratch around and coat themselves in the dust, which helps to remove excess oils and parasites from their feathers. By providing this necessary space, chicken owners can help ensure the health and comfort of their birds during hot weather and avoid severe heat stress. Cat litter for dust bathing is also an effective and cheap material to use, not just because of its affordability but because it is easy to find as well! 

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