9 Ways to Keep Chickens Cool in Hot Weather

Tuesday, August 2, 2016



Baby it’s Cold Outside.   What the heck!!


It’s not cold, it’s HOT, HOT, HOT!!  And, not just hot, but the blistering hot that hangs on you like a heavy wool blanket.

The kind of hot that sees the thermometer hit 70 by 7:00 am, push past 80 by 8:00 am, climb to 90 by 9:00 am and soar over 100 by 10:00 am.


The kind of heat that wilts plants and kills livestock, if you don’t keep them cool.

I was enjoying our fairly mild summer of mid-80’s during the day and mid-60’s through the night, until we were hit with a weather whiplash that swing our temps from seasonably pleasant to scorching hot, like 105+ hot…for days on end. With that kind of extreme heat it’s important to keep a close eye on your critters especially chickens.

We have fairly mild winters here in So Cal, but our summers are a completely different story. Multiple days of triple digit temperatures can exhaust a flock’s ability to cool themselves and you have to be ready to step in and help. It could be the difference between ending the summer with a live flock or a dead one. I much prefer live.

How Chickens Cool Themselves

Mother Nature has equipped chickens to cool themselves by panting and holding their wings away from their body to let the air circulate. Their combs also help release heat, acting like a radiator. Too much panting, though, is a sign of distress.

Signs of Heat Stress

When chickens are having a hard time coping with the heat they will become heat stressed, which presents itself as gasping, panting, listlessness, spreading of wings, not eating or drinking, or diarrhea (if you get to this point your hens in immediate danger).

Did you know that smaller breeds and bantams, large combed breeds or lighter colored breeds are better able to withstand hot weather?

But, in extreme heat most breeds will be affected by the heat in one way or another.


Tips to help your chickens beat the heat until fall’s cool air comes along.


1.  Provide lots and lots of cool water. Putting water bowls in the shade and putting small ice blocks in the water will help keep it cool. (I use small freezer containers to make 1-cup ice blocks) Freeze chopped up fruits and veggies in water to create a refreshing treat!

2.  Limiting corn based feed and supplementing with juicy fruits and veggies will also help keep chickens cool and hydrated. The energy it takes to digest grains heats up a chicken’s body and can cause overheating.

3.  Overripe produce can be frozen and offered “free-choice”, allowing chickens to pick at whatever intices them. Or, cube up and freeze melons for a frozen melon ice cube.

4.  Allowing chickens to free range on hot summer days gets them out of a hot, stuffy coop and into the fresh air where they can settle in under bushes, dig and fluffy in soft  cool dirt or find a breezy place in a shady tree. If free ranging isn’t possible, make sure to provide lots of shade in the chicken run, or fans or misters in the coop. (I planted my peach tree near the coop run so when it got bigger it would give shade as well as peaches)

5.  You can also set a shallow pan of water in the run so the chickens can wade in the cool water. Check it every so often to make sure that it hasn’t gotten too hot.

6.  Chickens will drink a lot of water on hot days, so make sure they will never run out by adding a few more water troughs to drink from.

7.  Laying hens may also prefer nesting in cooler open areas. Providing boxes, crates or baskets out in the open for hens to use will give them a choice between laying eggs under shrubs and somewhere you can find them.

8.  If your coop is set up with nipple waterers, consider putting out a few pans of water as an extra source.

9.  I also like to offer a slightly deeper pan of water so my hens can dunk their heads in it. The cool water on their wattles helps to lower their body temperature quickly.

Hot summer days are not the only time you have to worry about the heat; when night time temperatures are high and chickens are cooped for the night it’s important that the coop is well ventilated to allow the air to flow. As the temperature drops, the air flow will cool off the coop. It may be necessary to install a fan to help move out the hot air. Hanging a frozen –gallon water bottle in front of the fan will help cool the air also.

Prevention of heat stress and keeping chickens hydrated is key, but if weather is extremely hot or your chickens are showing signs of stress you can add electrolytes to their water or give it to individual chickens using an eye dropper or a syringe without the needle attached.


Homemade Electrolytes


1 Cup Water
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda



Place all ingredients into a jar and mix gently until sugar and salt dissolve.

TO USE: use at full strength for severely stressed chickens or mix 1 cup per one gallon of drinking water.


Keeping your chickens cool in hot weather could mean the difference between life and death. Whatever you can do to help keep them cool and comfortable will not only save their life, but their egg production as well. Overheated hens don’t like laying eggs.

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