How to keep chickens cool in the summer

Free range chickens will find a way to get into the shade.
Free range chickens will find a way to get into the shade. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Just like most animals, chickens can become over-heated when it gets hot in the summer. Modern-day chickens are descendents of the Red Asian Jungle Fowl. Being descended from a jungle animal, chickens have the ability to cool their bodies when necessary by puffing up and allowing trapped hot air to escape. Keep your flock cool in the summer by incorporating the same methods you would use to keep any other animal cool.

Things You'll Need

  • Fans
  • Cool, fresh water
  • Misters, if needed

Prepare ahead of time. Keep an eye on the weather and know when a heat wave is expected. Most chickens will adapt quickly to the conditions around them, but during those times when the temperatures outside suddenly spike-up, it's good to know what to do.Watch your birds for signs of heat exhaustion ("panting," wings held away from body, lethargic), and keep your birds out of the sun.

Feed a summer diet. Avoid corn, cracked corn, or scratch when it's hot outside.....birds create more body heat digesting these types of feed. Do not add to the problem and add to the heat if you don't have to, and feed them only their normal layer pellets/crumble. Wait to feed them the corn and scratch when it's cold outside, and they need the extra warmth.

Provide plenty of fresh fresh, clean water and change it at least once daily and many more times if needed. Use poultry electrolytes (chicken "gatoraide" you can buy in powder form from the feed store) when it's really hot, but remember to change the water every 24 hours (the water can go bad with the electrolytes mixed in). Follow the directions and check the conversions on how to mix it in smaller amounts (such as a gallon).

Set up a fan on low to keep the air circulating in the coop and keep your chickens a little cooler. Watch for cooler night-time temperatures, as you might need to turn the fan off it gets too cool.

Use misters if the humidity is low and you need something as a last resort. There are easy-to-use stand-alone single misters which connect to your garden hose but beware of pooled water or puddles, as these can make chickens sick if they drink the water.

Turn on artificial lighting around 2:00 am to allow chickens to feed when it is cooler outside. Use this only in an emergency or your egg-laying cycle will be distrupted.

Tips & Warnings

  • Find out what other chicken fanciers in your area do when it's hot - they can often provide some tips you might not have thought of.
  • Check on your flock often, and make sure they have what they need.
  • Because a chicken's comb is it's body's temperature regulator, the chickens affected by the heat the most are those which are dubbed (their combs are removed). Next comes the large breeds, and it's the bantam breeds which handle the heat the best.
  • Remember the basics - shelter, weather, predators - when it comes to managing the heat.
  • If you have a chicken who is sick from the heat, get her into a cool area immediately. Gently place her on a damp towel and dampen the skin under her wings. Mist water on the comb, as this is the part of their body which helps to regulate body temperature. Offer water with electrolytes. This chicken may be a sign that others are also over-heating as well, and if you can't save this one, you might be able to save the others if you react quickly enough.

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