How to Keep Chickens Cool in Summer

Keeping your chickens cool in summer is a must-do. There's nothing we can do to stop the heat, but we can help our chickens beat the heat.

With the mercury rising, it's important to remember that high temperatures can be harder on a flock than the cold temperatures of winter. The effects of heat are cumulative and can be enhanced by high humidity, so be sure to keep vigilant during heat spells. A temperature of 80 degrees with high humidity can bring on heat-related problems.

How Do Chickens Cool Themselves?

When we're hot, we sweat. Yes, it's uncomfortable, but it is a cooling mechanism for humans. Do chickens sweat? Nope. They rely on both adaptations and natural behavior to cool themselves.

Adaptations — Chickens, especially Meditteranean breeds like Leghorns, put their combs and wattles to good use in warm weather. As blood circulates through their combs and wattles, heat is released, cooling the chicken. The larger the combs and wattles, the more surface space is available to release heat.

Behaviors — Chickens naturally know what to do to assist their bodies with the task of staying cool.  They will spread their wings and lift their feathers to let heat escape. Chickens will start to pant when the temperature reaches 85 degrees. They can also vibrate their throat muscles which allows warm moisture to evaporate. In the heat of the day, free-range chickens look for an undisturbed shady, cool spot to rest.

How We Can Help
  • We can provide these cool spaces throughout the yard with garden plantings, awnings, umbrellas or whatever it takes to get out of the sun.

  • Water is crucial during the summer's heat. Adding more water containers, keeping them filled, and locating them in shady spots is helpful. 
  • Adding some ice to the water hits the spot, just be sure not to add too much. We don't want to shock our chickens with frigid water, just cool them off a little. 
  • Provide some chilled treats like watermelon or blueberries. The chilled food is a nice break from the heat and the extra water inside helps your chickens stay hydrated. 
  • Consider adding a shallow pool of water where your chickens can stand in the water to cool off their feet. 
  • Don't coop up your chickens during hot weather. The inside of a coop can be much hotter than outside and more intense. If you're considering where to place your coop, keep summer's heat in mind. Locate your coop where there is relief through the shade, such as the edge of a tree line. When your chickens do go inside at night to roost, make sure the coop is well-ventilated by leaving windows open and having a fan running to increase air movement.
  • Check on your chickens often during the summer heat. If you have kids, be sure they don't run around and try to play with the chickens. Increase activity equals increased body heat. Keeping your birds comfortable and undisturbed will help them avoid heat stress and enjoy the summer.

Heat-Tolerant Chicken Breeds

Although it’s easier to keep chickens warm vs. cool, it’s important to choose the correct breed for your location, whether that be a cold-hardy chicken or a heat-tolerant chicken breed.

Popular Heat-Tolerant Breeds:

Black Australorp
Easter Egger
New Hampshire Red
Plymouth Rock
Rhode Island Red

Every year there are stories of folks that bought the wrong breed for their climate and experience losses, have unhealthy chickens, or end up bringing their birds inside where the climate is more moderate. Don’t let this happen to you! Make sure to pick a breed that will live comfortably in your climate. Your birds will thank you for it!

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