Northeastern Oklahoma is notorious for its hot summers. It's not unusual to have two weeks of triple digit temperatures. Not only does this weather wreak havoc on the garden and landscape, but it takes its toll on pets and homestead critters such as our chickens. During the summer, keeping our chickens cool becomes a very active part of our daily routine.
Here are a few things that we have found to be helpful, as well as some additional suggestions I’ve gathered from my fellow chicken-keeping friends:
1. Water, water, water.
You need water to stay hydrated, and so do your chickens! Make sure to provide plenty of water stations, and make sure they stay full. If the heat is especially intense, fill them with ice water. To make this important task more efficient, purchase an additional set of waterers and replace them throughout the day.
Heat and sunlight tend to breed a greenish algae build-up inside. A routine cleaning with a scrub brush and some mild dish soap may be necessary. Vinegar will help prevent this build up, but I feel that it tends to dehydrate my chickens so I avoid using it when the temperatures increase.
2. Use a mister.
A mister set up in the chicken run or an area where your chickens congregate provides a steady, light mist to keep them cool. These can be purchased inexpensively through Amazon or any home and garden store. If you don’t want to purchase a mister, you can use a spray nozzle for your hose to gently mist your birds. Take care not to mist your chicks however, as they can easily catch a deadly chill.
3. Provide icees.
“Icee” is the term my husband and I invented for plastic bottles filled with water and tossed into a freezer. We bring them out during the hottest part of the day and place them inside the coop, in the run, or underneath the coop. The chickens stand or sit on them, and peck at the ice that accumulates on the outside. At the end of the day, we rinse them off and return them to the freezer. (Note: We do not store these in the same freezer as our food. We have an older freezer in our garage that we use for garden and pet needs.)
We have found 32-ounce plastic juice bottles work the best, but plastic disposable baking pans with lids work well too. We fill the pans with water the night before and allow them to freeze solid. To use, we simply remove the lid and allow the chickens to peck at and sit on the ice. As it melts it also provides a source of cool water. We provide about one “icee” for every four chickens.
4. Provide lots of shade.
If your chickens free range they will most likely seek out shade themselves. Mine love to congregate on the covered porch, or even camp out underneath our parked pickup truck. If your chickens are confined to a run however, make sure they have a shaded area where they can keep cool. Your coop may not be enough, and it may not provide enough ventilation during the hottest part of the day. Our coops are raised about two feet off the ground to allow the chickens to sit in the shade underneath.
5. Treat them to frozen fruit.
Chickens love melons such as cantaloupe and watermelon. Slice open and serve the halves on the ground of your chicken run. If you have the time to devote to it, frozen melon balls would be a fun treat. Strawberries are another fruit they enjoy. Place them in ice trays, fill with water, and serve strawberry ice cubes to your birds.
- Keep water cool by placing it in the shade.
- Distribute and locate your feeders close to the coop and their run so your chickens don’t have to travel far in the heat.
- Avoid disturbing your chickens during the hottest part of the day.
- Avoid crowded conditions in the coop. Make sure you have adequate housing for your birds.
- Heat causes stress so a hen will lay fewer eggs.
- Keep your climate in mind when selecting a breed. Avoid breeds that do not handle extreme temperatures very well. These include some of the heavily feathered breeds such as Chochins, Brahmas, and Langshans. If possible, purchase your birds from a local hatchery or breeder that can provide birds best suited to your climate.
How do you care for your birds in the summer heat?
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