If you have raised chickens before, you should have already seen them breathing more heavily when the weather is hot. This is one way for them to cool themselves down, especially when temperatures reach 75˚F and the humidity is high.
Although chickens can adapt to changes in the weather easily, they perform much better when the temperature is just right. Remember that consistently high temperatures like in the summer can cause chickens to succumb to heat stress, which can either stop or slow down their egg-laying.
How hot is too hot?
Generally, any reading that is 90˚F and above will increase the risk of heat-related illnesses and heat stress in chickens. This can even lead to death. Prolonged heat and high humidity is a deadly combination that will affect the chickens you own.
The level of heat stress depends on several factors, the most common of which are the habitats of the chickens, their breed, and diet. For instance, heavy breeds may experience overheating when the temperature reaches 85˚F, whereas small or light breeds can tolerate higher temperatures.
Also, remember that chickens cannot sweat to cool themselves down. In lieu, they get rid of excess heat from their feet, wattles, combs, beaks, and any surfaces on their bodies that aren’t covered with feathers. This means that chickens with bigger wattles and combs can cool themselves down more readily compared to chickens with smaller ones.
Signs that your chickens are heat-stressed
Heat stress in chickens is a condition caused by low airspeed, high temperatures, and high relative humidity. There are also other factors that may contribute to this condition like feather cover, genetics, heat acclimation, and the availability and temperature of drinking water.
Also, heavy breeds, broilers, and older chickens are more at risk for heat stress. Severe heat stress can cause a decrease in production efficiency and an increase in mortality rate. The effects of heat stress usually manifest in slower growth rates, reduced egg production, a decrease in hatching rates, and changes in the egg quality, which means thinner shells, poor internal quality, and smaller eggs.
The most common symptoms of heat stress to look out for include panting, labored breathing, pale wattles or combs, always lifting their wings away from their bodies, diarrhea, lethargy, and convulsions, or seizures.
How to keep chickens cool in summer
First, you must provide adequate shelter for your chickens. This is a simple but essential step. Make sure that they have a shady place to retreat to when the days get hot. Even the shadows under big trees can help. If your chickens are the kind that enjoy running around even when the sun is up, create more shade by draping black shade cloth over the area. You can also string one cool shade canopy between fences, trees, or posts.
You must also provide your chickens with a constant supply of fresh cold water. Make it a point to refresh their water a couple of times a day. You can even add ice to keep your chickens cool.
You may also use frozen treats like vegetables or fruits. Just make sure that you place their water and treats in accessible locations. Adding electrolytes to the water can also help your chickens stay healthy and hydrated.
Pay attention to your chickens
To make sure that your flock stays alive when temperatures start soaring, you need to watch out for the symptoms of heat stress. Also, when you notice that the temperature rises between 75˚F to 80˚F, you need to start cooling your chickens off.
Chickens usually get rid of body heat through conduction, radiation, evaporation, and convection. During comfortable temperatures, they lose heat through their body parts. But when the temperatures rise, they need to find other ways to cool themselves down. If not, long periods of panting could lead to an electrolyte imbalance.
Many chicken raisers know the different ways to keep their chickens cool during days with high temperatures. You only need to make minor interventions. For instance, you can set the coop up with cooling measures. Or if the coops are already in place, make the required modifications. These simple tips and the others you have learned in this article will help you make sure that your chickens remain healthy and safe.