Although chickens are very adaptable to changes in weather, when extreme heat hits your area, the health of your flock should be a major concern. When temperatures reach the 90s or above, your chickens can be subject to overheating, and may also stop laying eggs. If proper measures are not taken to keep your chickens comfortable in hot weather, they can actually die of heat stress.
High humidity in particular can accelerate the effects of heat on your flock. Chickens can’t sweat like humans to keep themselves cool. Instead, when they’re too hot they pant or keep their wings away from their bodies to stay cool.
To keep your chickens happy—and laying eggs—during the summer, follow these four tips:
Ventilation. Plenty of air circulation is the most important part of keeping your chickens comfortable in the hot weather. Proper ventilation will also keep your coop from becoming too humid. Make sure to keep plenty of windows open in your chicken coop to allow for air circulation. In the hot weather, running a large fan constantly will significantly reduce the temperature and humidity in your coop.
Windows. Make sure your coop has plenty of windows, again, to allow for proper ventilation. If possible, when designing your coop (or if your coop is movable), avoid placing windows in the path of direct sunlight. If your coop has windows in direct sun, you can remove them for the summer and replace them with a screen or treat them with a reflective coating to avoid turning your coop into a greenhouse.
Water. After ventilation, water is of extreme importance for chickens, especially in the hot weather. Chickens can only survive for several hours without access to water, and the length of time they can survive shortens with extreme heat and humidity. Always make sure your chickens have access to plenty of fresh, clean, and preferably cold, water. To keep the water cool longer, use steel watering containers instead of plastic waterers and add plenty of ice cubes.
Food. Chickens create body heat when they digest food. To keep your chickens fed, but also comfortable, avoid feeding your flock during the hottest parts of the day. Instead, feed them in the early morning and evening. Avoid feeding them foods that require a lot of body heat to digest, such as corn and scratch. Feeding them plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable scraps and allowing them to forage will also keep them better nourished and hydrated during the hot weather.