Signs of Heat Stroke
Basic Hot Weather Care Tips
For most animals, hot, steamy days can spell trouble. Chickens are no exception as they cannot sweat, making them very susceptible to overheating. Chickens normally lose heat as warm blood flowers through the comb, wattles, and limbs to cool and then returns to the body's interior. Problems occur in extreme heat, when the chicken's temperature cannot be reduced by this method. Without ways to relieve the heat stress, heat stroke, low egg productivity or death can happen.
A hydrated bird is able to regulate its temperature more efficiently - and keep its egg production up. An egg is almost 75% water, so keeping this nutrient available is essential for egg production. A fresh supply of cool, clean water is a necessity year-round, but especially in the heat of summer. Have more than one source of water, so chickens don't have to move far or fight to get it.
Coops and runs should be partially shaded if possible, even if it's just a simple shade cloth. Use caution with heavy tarps in that they may impede air flow and be sure the provided shaded areas are large enough to prevent the birds from huddling. Chickens without shade tend to stay inside, away from cooling breezes. Because darker birds don't reflect light like lighter birds, they need more shade to stay cool and reduce fading. Conversely , white birds may take on a brassy appearance from having their feathers exposed to too much sun. Also, hot, dry climates, strong sun, combined with high heat and low humidity, dries out feathers which can become susceptible to breakage.
Proper ventilation is a core requirement. It provides comfort by removing moisture, ammonia and other gases and provides and exchange or air. Mesh-covered windows let air in and keep predators out. A wire mesh screen door helps keep the coop cooler at night. If increased circulation is needed, consider adding a fan, but be careful to secure power cords and keep them safe from curious birds. Consider installing a reliable thermometer to accurately monitor temperatures, but also remember to take humidity and wind flow into consideration.
Ideally windows on a coop should be south facing. This will help with warmth in the winter and less dampness and rot the remainder of the year. If you live in a hot climate, consider painting your coop a light color to help reflect sunlight and retain less heat. For more coop design tips, visit here.
Chickens love taking dust baths to help clean themselves and to work cool dirt particles into their feathers. Most chickens will simply roll around in a dusty spot in a garden bed or raw dirt patch. Soil, mulch and sand will also work. If your chickens are confined to a hard surface where they cannot dust bathe, you can create a dust bath for them by filling a shallow container such as a feed pan or cat litter box with the content of your choice.
Keep stress levels down. Minimize interaction, loud noises, startling movements (such as cleaning coops) and unfamiliar interactions with things such as other animals. Also avoid treating birds on hot days for things such as mites and infections unless absolutely necessary.
Provide chilled or frozen summer treats. Create your own giant ice cube filled with fruit by floating fruit in a bowl of water and freezing. Chickens also love fresh fruits and vegetables, which can be water-filled, but don't overdo it. Feed no more than 10% of the total diet in treats and make sure a complete balanced ration is the main food source. Also, be sure to avoid high starch grains such as corn, which heat up a bird's body temperature to digestion. Click here for a list of suitable food snack.
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