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Urban Chickens 101: The heat and your chickens

A crowd gathers at fresh icy water.
A crowd of black & lavender Orpingtons around a fresh waterer. Photo by R. Caldwell

It's so hot the chickens are panting. Okay, maybe not right this second, but you know the saying about not liking the weather, right? Then wait a minute and you'll be wondering how to cool your flock.

The flock is walking around the backyard clucking in disgust and dismay, occasionally glancing up at the house, as if they know we have air conditioning. It's really not fair, because I think I'd be pretty irritated if I were wearing a feather boa around my neck right now, much less happy to be covered in a thick layer of the stuff.

A conscientious chicken-keeper will find ways to bring a little comfort to the flock when the weather does this normal Kansas thing...HOT, rainy, steamy, scalding, stormy, HOT...repeat.

I'll give you 5 quick tips for giving your chooks a bit of peace when the heat becomes an issue:

  1. Hillbilly air-conditioners  These are simply made by taking a large plastic bottle, such as a milk jug, a 2-quart juice or pop bottle, etc., and filling it 90% with water. Pop it in the freezer until solid. Now go lay it in a shady area your birds have already chosen as somewhere they cool off- they'll enjoy a few degrees of relief for a couple of hours.
  2. Ice-cold drinking water   Make a wise investment now: extra waterers. Filling and refilling water throughout the day to keep them fresh and cool is about as much fun as doing laundry. Likewise, frozen waters in the winter are just as tedious. If you have extra waterers you can fill them 3/4 of the way and freeze them, so that when you top them off and put them out, the birds have cold water for much of the day. In the winter you can keep some inside and just take out fresh water in the morning, rather than attempt to thaw the reservoirs that froze solid overnight.
  3. Air movement  It's true that draftiness is something one should be concerned about in cold months as the enemy of poultry, but in the summertime, your chickens will fight over who gets the roosting spot right in front of the fan. Mount a fan in the corner of your coop ceiling angled down on the flock or put a box fan in a window to create a cross wind. They'll appreciate you all night long while they bask in the breeze.
  4. Frozen treats  As much as we humans enjoy a frozen treat in this weather, the chickens will adore your ingenuity when you expound on the ideas hereafter: cut melons into quarters (leave in the seeds- that's the best part!) and slip the quarters into gallon-sized zipper bags and freeze. Put out in the heat of the day for much fun. Toss out frozen corn, peas, or berries. Make ice cubes with any of these treats inside for a bit of pecking fun. Use your imagination!
  5. Cool foot bath  The inability to sweat is debilitating for our feathered friends when our humid weather becomes oppressive. An old jelly-roll pan or lasagna dish can become a favorite spot if placed in the shade and filled with ice cubes and water. You'll find the girls will happily walk through it again and again as well as drink from it. If you have room, a tiny baby pool works great, and you only need an inch or two of water!

Keeping the flock cool is crucial when we near the triple-digit heat index. Having a plan and a few things in place keeps you from losing a pet to the climate. Always offer clean, fresh, cool water and shade when temperatures spike.

For related info: Read The cold and your chickens

Comments

  • Ginger 4 years ago

    The frozen fruit is a great idea!

  • Terry Golson 3 years ago

    Just heard from a friend who lost two hens to the heat. Hosing down the chicken run is another trick. Some people set up misters. My hens settle into cool, damp dirt in the compost area.
    Terry from www.HenCam.com

  • Sheri 3 years ago

    Thanks for the timely tips. I'm putting cantalope in the freezer right now.

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