We are having record breaking heat here in North Texas. Technically, a massive blob of high pressure called a “heat dome” has settled in over us and isn’t moving. We’ve broken records in place for almost 100 years within the last week.
High summer temperatures are hard on our girls. They can get heat stress just like you and I would if we were covered in feathers and forced to be outside all day. They can slow down or stop laying, or they can even die from it. The heat is no joke, so what can we do for our chickens?
Here are the things I have done with the girls this week. I’m not sure if I needed to do all of it, but I’m going to keep it up until at least we are down in the 90s.
Ice Water: When I was preparing to get chickens, I bought a five gallon poultry waterer. I did this thinking it would reduce the amount of work I would have to do on a daily basis. Then when the girls stopped laying, I did some research and found that chickens don’t drink as much water when the water is warm, and when they don’t drink enough water, they don’t make eggs.
So, I bought two one gallon waterers. Every day, I fill one of them about 3/4 full with water and put it upside down in the freezer. Then, the
next day I top it off with water and and put it out. It stays cooler at least most of the day so they drink more water and lay more eggs. Everyone is happy.
Electrolytes: On really hot days, I add this electrolyte and vitamin mixture to their water. It helps keep them hydrated. It seems to help.
Shade: My coop is an Omlet Eglu Cube. It is a chicken tractor that easily moves around the pasture. There is a row of trees on the west side of the pasture and I try to keep the coop parked in the shady area. If you don’t have trees around you can put a tarp on one side of your run to create some shade.
Ventilation: The Omlet Eglu Cube has a coop door, and also a run door. I have been allowing the girls to free range all day in the pasture, then when they come in at sunset, I close the run door behind them, but I leave the coop door open. I just think the more ventilation the better.
Frozen Food: Frozen melon chunks or freezing corn in water in muffin tins are two examples of ideas you’ll find online for treats you can give the chickens that they will love and that will cool them down.
No Scratch Grains: It is generally accepted that corn and scratch grains in general raise the body temperature of the chicken. Some people dispute this belief, and I don’t really understand the science behind it, but they don’t need scratch grains anyway, so it won’t hurt anything to leave them out of the girls diet during the summer on the off chance it does heat them up.
Baby Pool With Ice: This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve been doing for my chickens in the heat. I bought a baby pool and I’ve been filling it with ice every day. I realize that I have gone completely ’round the bend. The first day I bought 60 pounds of ice at the 7-11 across the street from my pasture. The next day I found an ice vending machine attached to a car wash nearby where a 16 pound bag is only $2.50. I also noticed that if you bring an ice chest, that same 16 pounds is $2.00. So, my ice expense that first day was $16.00, and now I have it down to $4.00. I am also freezing two large mixing bowls full of water each night. The larger chunks of ice last longer into the day. Yesterday on Sunday I was at the pasture about 5:00pm and the water in the pool was still quite cool even though there was no visible ice.
I think the pool filled with ice does a couple of things. For one thing, I think it creates somewhat of a small microclimate that is somewhat cooler than it would be without the ice pool. The other thing is that the chickens drink out of the pool. I think they drink more than they would if it weren’t there. The bees also like the ice pool, but that’s the subject of a completely different post.
With the exception of one day last week when I got only three eggs, I have gotten four eggs from four chickens every single day for a few
weeks now. This during a time when I’m told that many people who routinely sell eggs at farmer’s markets aren’t selling right now because their hens aren’t laying.
I realize that some of these tips aren’t scalable to a large flock and that it doesn’t make financial sense…but when you’re a new chicken person like me and you just want to do things as well as possible (not to mention that you feel bad for the girls out in the heat) these suggestions may help you out!