Chickens with small combs tend to do amazing in the winter making them great for our northern climate but the summer can be really rough on them. Our black Australorp, black jersey giant, and pearl star leghorn are all great birds but they don’t handle heat well so as the summer rolls in we are making a few changes to the coop, run, and our daily treats to help keep them healthy.
If you are one of the many people that have made the choice to start raising backyard chickens this year you may be wondering what you can do to help your chickens handle the summer heat.
Provide plenty of ventilation
Chickens need plenty of ventilation even in the winter or the humidity can kill them. This means we have to be intentional about keeping airflow going. We have plenty of spaces for air to get in year-round but in the summer we make a bit more effort.
We designed our coop to have two areas at the top where we can remove the coverings leaving chicken wire to allow for airflow. We use solar-powered fans to help circulate air through these “windows” to help keep the coop nice and cool.
If things get too bad I can run an extension cord out to the coop with a small wind tunnel-style fan as well.
Provide Plenty of Shade
Ensure that the chicken coop and run have plenty of shade throughout the day. Use tarps, umbrellas, or shade cloth to create shaded areas where the chickens can escape from direct sunlight.
We have tarps over part of our chicken run so they can escape to their run if they wish. Seeing they free rang most of the summer it is not uncommon to find them enjoying the shade of mulberry trees in the yard. We will sometimes pull some of the leaves down and drop them on the ground for the chickens because Mulberry leaves make great chicken feed and they have already eaten all lower leaves.
Provide an abundant supply of fresh, cool water for the chickens to drink. Consider using larger containers or adding ice cubes to keep the water cooler for longer periods. Clean and refill water containers regularly to prevent algae growth or contamination. Consider adding copper wire or blacking out your water container to help with algae.
We are planning to put in a rain barrel system for the chickings but for now, we refill several poultry drinkers and put them around the yard and in the run so our free-ranging chickens have what they need. In the heat of summer, we add one with fresh water directly to the coop at night though we do not put food in the coop at night to prevent attracting predators.
Provide cooking water
Set up misters or sprinklers near the chicken run to create a fine mist or light spray of water. This can help cool the surrounding air and provide some relief for the chickens. Make sure the misting system is not directly aimed at the coop to avoid excess moisture inside.
We have a couple of kiddie pools in the yard with a small amount of water that the animals can splash around in when they get too hot. These fill up from the rain and the splashing waters the area around it where I toss down some chaos garden seeds which grows all kinds of great plants for the chickens to munch on.
Freeze fruits or vegetables like watermelon, grapes, or corn on the cob and offer them to the chickens as a cool treat. They will enjoy pecking at the frozen treats, which can also help hydrate them.
I like to take veggie and fruit scraps and toss them into a bowl in the freezer then add some water. Pop it out and sit in the run or the shady area the chickens are enjoying and let them have some fun with their frozen treat.
Provide a dust bath area for the chickens. A shallow tray or box filled with sand or fine dirt can help them naturally regulate their body temperature. A dust bath with some diatomaceous earth is a great way to control summer pests like mites and fleas for your chickens.
Encourage your chickens to be lazy
During the hottest parts of the day, limit the chickens’ activities outside. Encourage them to stay in the shade or inside the coop where it’s cooler. Reduce their stress by minimizing handling or movement during extreme heat.
Consider adding electrolyte supplements to the chickens’ water to help replenish minerals and support hydration during high temperatures. You can pick up packets of these from your local farm store or order online. Think of it as Gatorade for your chickens.
Freeze Water Bottles
Place frozen water bottles in the chicken coop or run for the chickens to lean against or sit next to. The cold bottles can provide a cooling effect in their immediate surroundings. If you have a larger waterer you can place frozen bottles of water into it to help cool the water container down. This is important for those using very large drinkers made of things like buckets or even trash cans.
Monitor and Adjust
Regularly monitor your chickens for signs of heat stress, such as panting, drooping wings, or reduced activity. If necessary, take additional measures like providing additional shade or misting more frequently to ensure their comfort and safety.
Remember that the better you care for your backyard chickens the better eggs you will get for your family and the more of them your chickens will be able to lay.