Summer is upon us, and if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, “Heat is far more detrimental to chickens than the cold ever will be.” Every fall and winter, I receive a countless number of emails from chicken owners about adding heaters to their coops to keep their chickens warm and toasty, but I have not once had a chicken owner send me an email about adding an air conditioner to their coop to keep their chickens cool and comfortable in the summer.
To be honest, I have no idea why our human thought process considers it important to keep our chickens warm and toasty in the winter, but not cool and comfortable in the summer, but I do know more chicken owners need to be educated on the challenges the summer heat brings to their flocks.
Not once have I had a chicken owner send me an email about adding an air conditioner to their coop
First and foremost, chickens need access to cool fresh water all the time. During the hot summer months, chickens will drink more and eat less, so access to cool fresh water is at the top of the list. The challenge for most backyard chicken keepers is how to keep the fresh water cool all day.
As the water temperature rises during the day, chickens will drink less, and if the water temperature approaches their core body temperature, they may not drink at all. Keeping their water in the shade helps, but there are other things we can do to help keep their water cool throughout the day.
If you’re on a budget, you can freeze 20-ounce plastic water bottles and then drop them into the three-, five-, or seven-gallon chicken waterer before you leave for work in the morning. These won’t last all day, but it’s a cheap and easy way to cool the water down for a few hours, and it’s better than nothing.
If you have a small budget to work with, there is a pretty cool waterer on the market called the BriteTap Chicken Waterer. At $29.95, It’s a device that you install on an Igloo type water cooler in place of the water valve. It’s a very simple install, and the idea is to fill the Igloo type water cooler with water and ice, and it will keep the water insulated and cool all day. I really like this waterer for the summer months, but if you live where the temperatures are below freezing in the winter, you will want to use a different waterer in the winter.
Lastly, if you have access to a reliable water source near your coop, a constant flow waterer will keep the water cooler during the day. However, if the watering system has any type of reservoir you don’t want it to be too big because you want your flock to be able to use the water in the reservoir frequently to guarantee they have a consistent supply of fresh—and not stagnant—water.
Just like home?
Having shade around the coop and run is a plus, but placing your coop and run directly under trees or in a wooded area can have possible implications like predators that may call that wooded area home, and biosecurity risks from wild birds roosting over the area where your birds live and roam.
If you don’t have any shade in your backyard for your flock, you can create a shaded area using shade cloth installed on a frame. Many who use this system claim their birds can almost always be found under the shaded area during the day. It seems to work for a lot of chicken keepers.
Some chicken keepers have misting systems to lower the temperature in a certain area around the coop and run, but I have found that there are just as many people that have bad experiences with these systems as there are people that praise them. One common complaint is the high maintenance these systems require.
If you have a safe power source around the coop and run, inexpensive box fans can be used to provide some airflow in and around the coop and run. Just be aware that there should not be a constant breeze/draft directly on the birds while they are on the roost overnight.
Too hot to eat?
In the heat of the summer, chickens will eat less and drink more. Your chickens probably get most of their required nutrition from the feed you provide them, which should be a nutritionally balanced feed. Because they eat less in the summer, they may not be getting all the required benefits they need from their feed, so you might consider providing your flock with a vitamin-electrolyte solution added to their water. It’s comparable to a human drinking a sports-drink and taking a multi-vitamin.
Poultry experts seem to agree that this will help with the stress of the hot summer heat, which in turn will help maintain some egg production in the hottest part of the summer months.
While it’s recommended to have feed available for your flock all day long, in the hot summer months, it might be a good idea to only allow feed during the cooler parts of the day like morning and evening because after eating the chicken’s metabolism increases which will increase their internal body temperature.
Finally, a cool summer treat can’t be overlooked like cold watermelon, cantaloupe, and other melon, but treats and special snacks should still not be more than 10 percent of their daily ration.
Hopefully, some of these suggestions will help you keep your flock cool and comfortable this summer.
Until next time,
Power to the Poultry!
Written by Andy Schneider, aka The Chicken Whisperer
- Andy Schneider
- Chicken Whisperer
- Summer Heat