What steps can you take to keep your flock healthy and happy during the dog days of summer?
Chickens are highly susceptible to variations in temperature and the heat is much more dangerous than the bitter cold.
What will heat stress look like? A chicken who is having a hard time maintaining their body temperature will begin to pant and spread their wings out away from their body. Excessive panting is especially dangerous because it releases water particles out into the air. This can lead to dehydration. Prolonged heat stress can lead to reduced feed consumption, weakened immunity, lowered hatchability, egg production and quality along with lowered growth rates and death.
What steps can you take to help your feathered friends?
1. One of the best ways to help keep them cool is by making sure that they have fresh, clean and cool water at all times. Keep the water supply in smaller containers that can be easily exchanged during the heat of the day. You can also add ice cubes or a frozen bottle of water to the container to help it stay cold.
2. Another way is to feed during the morning and evenings when it is the coolest. Assure that they have adequate shade and that there is good ventilation in the coop. It takes a good breeze (approximately 10 mph) to be able to feel a difference in the temperature and humidity inside the coop. If you aren't able to get that naturally through ventilation you will need to provide it with fans.
3. Freeze the food - frozen fruits and vegetables will help them stay cooler. I love to give them frozen corn ice cubes.
4. If you don't have sufficient shade in the area you can put up a couple of the parasol type umbrellas around the coop.
5. Hang a mister from a tree limb or the run fencing. They will flock to be under the water when it's really warm. If you don't want to do a mister, you could also put just a couple of inches of cold water in a baby pool and put that in the run. It won't stay cold terribly long, so I would suggest that you save this for the middle of the day when the heats at it's worse.
Some additional tricks to help with the heat include adding fresh mint to the water source, installing a shiny roof to the top of the coop to deflect the sun and heat and making sure that the run has grass and not bare dirt (dirt will absorb the heat while grass will deflect). Keeping the coop clean will also help lower the humidity inside.
If you have any other favorite tricks to help keep the girls cool in the summer, we'd love to hear them!