Your growing flock can be severely impacted by the high temperatures and humidity that summer brings, affecting their performance and health. During summer months, it is crucial to keep an eye on the temperature and heat index and to make the right adjustments to keep them healthy and comfortable.
How Heat Affects Chickens
Heat index, the real-feel discomfort that is the result of the combined effects of humidity and air temperature, is often ignored or underestimated. A high heat index can easily make an already oppressive 95-degree day feel more like 120 degrees with the right amount of humidity. In conditions like these, dehydration and heat exhaustion can easily occur in your flock. Because chickens are very sensitive to temperature, seeing to their comfort isn’t just a health concern: overheated chickens won’t eat, sleep, drink water, or lay eggs. For optimal production, follow these tips for keeping your flock happy and healthy during the hot, humid summer months.
Tips for Cooling Your Flock During the Summer
1. Keep Them Hydrated
Out of all our suggestions, providing plenty of cool, clean water is the most important tip to follow. Chickens don’t sweat; their internal body temperatures are regulated by panting. Just like sweating, panting results in a tremendous loss of moisture, which can be harmful for young chicks.
Fresh water seems simple enough, but mistakes based on misconceptions are common. Even when water is available, it may not be suitable for your flock if the water has become dirty or even warmed to room temperature. Cool water can really be the defining factor in regulating your chicken’s internal body temperature. High heat indexes accelerate evaporation and turn recently replenished reservoirs to tepid or even bath-like water very quickly. Replenishing your birds’ drinking water twice a day may be sufficient during the other three seasons, but in the summer months you should consider increasing the frequency that you resupply your chickens with clean and cool drinking water.
2. Provide Adequate Shade & Ventilation
Like water, proper shading can be easily overlooked. Barns, coops, and trailer covers all provide protection from the oppressive heat and sun while your chickens are on the farm or in transit. However, the real key here is ventilation.
Chicken tractors can be covered by a tarp or canvas, but make sure plenty of fresh and flowing air is also accessible by large open airways at the front and rear of the trailer.
Coops and barns should be kept as open as possible during the daytime and installing fans for increased airflow is a good idea. Chickens do have very sensitive skin, especially the exposed skin on their feet. Keeping cool air flowing around them can really impact their comfort and help prevent excessive panting. Airflow also helps prevent drinking water from getting warm and stagnant.
3. Supplement their Feed
Do you supplement your chicken’s water? Preventing dehydration isn’t just about replenishing your water. It’s also about maintaining essential vitamins and minerals that assist healthy bodily functions. Adding supplements with vitamins and electrolytes to your chicken’s drinking water is no different than an athlete needing a sports drink after excessive sweating.
We recommend supplementing your chicken’s drinking water with a livestock-friendly, and agriculturally approved, formula. This may already be a familiar concept for you, and often DIY solutions are implemented in these types of situations. Even though store-bought supplements can be expensive, homemade supplements like apple cider vinegar mixtures often simply aren’t as effective as an approved formula found at your local farm supply depot.
Observe Your Flock
Regular observations of your flock will give you the best indications of how they are responding to the temperature. Monitor their activity level and behavior to see what changes you need to make. If your chickens are panting excessively, refusing to eat or drink, or not performing to your standard, you’ll want to make a change to keep them cool, comfortable, and healthy this summer.