Boy is it hot outside! I don't know about you, but I would HATE to be in this summer heat with a down blanket on. Sounds terrible doesn't it? Well that is exactly what our poor feathered friends must endure.
To make matters worse, chickens (and all birds for that matter) are unable to sweat. I'm sure you've seen your flock standing there, panting with their wings opened up to let in a little breeze. Not only are the birds just miserable, but temperatures can easily become fatal.
When are chicken in danger?
"Air temperatures that cause heat stress and mortality are considerably below broiler body temperature. Broiler surface temperatures typically range from 95-100°F, with skin temperatures warmer than feathers. Air temperatures in this range can virtually stop heat loss from the broiler and accelerate heat prostration. For this reason, an important goal for hot weather ventilation systems is to keep air temperatures below 95°F."(1)
Depending where you live, 95°F is not that unheard of. Since this is rapidly approaching the fatal limits for poultry, it is important to help them cool off. Here are a few ways you can help keep your birds safe and comfortable:
Shady ares are an around 28° cooler than in the sun.(2) If nothing else, provide your birds an area to get out of the beating sun. Tarps or shade cloth are great options.
This is my favorite chicken cooling technique. Pick up one of these misters and weave it in the chicken pen fence. Turn it on and you could drop temperatures as much as 30° .(3). I have mine set to spray in the shade under their elevated coop, so they have the best of both world.
If you are out watering your garden, don't forget about the chickens! I like to give them a puddle to play in. They will happily wade in it and scratch the mud. You could also give them a shallow pan with a concrete block in the middle. The chickens can stand on the block cooling their feet. Make sure you don't give chickens an actual pool or anything more than a few inches deep. They can't swim and could easily drowned.
If your birds are confined to a coop with no run or free range options, make sure windows and things are open to allow for ventilation. If you can safely do so, a fan or roof turbine vent are good things to add. We all appreciate a nice breeze when the mercury rises.
I offer the flock two kinds of frozen treats in the summer, ice blocks and frozen melon wedges. Use one of your old tupperware containers or pie pan, fill with water and add various fruits and veggies. The resulting ice block gives them something to pick at and frozen delicacies for them to devour. Now our flock, their favorite is frozen melon wedges!
Scratch is predominately corn and other grains that increases body temperature as it is digested. Since we want to cool the birds, raising their internal temperature should be avoided.
Most importantly, be sure your chickens ALWAYS have access to fresh, clean water. Multiple sources is recommended so that everyone can get a drink when and where they need it, and is helpful in the event of a broken or spilled waterer. This ensures the birds are never without another option. I personally use these waterers specifically. They don't leak and the chickens always have clean water. We also sell 5 gallon waterers for your convenience.
It doesn't take much to lower temperatures down to a safe and comfortable level for your birds. So the next time its hot outside, don't forget your birds and help keep them cool.
Another great addition is electrolytes. Think of it as Gatorade for chickens. Adding an electrolyte solution to your birds water will help rehydrate them more efficiently than water alone. This is what we use and it works great. Make sure you mix it according to the directions and change it daily.
(2) http://actrees.org/news/trees-in-the news/newsroom/it_really_is_cooler_in_the_shade