It’s actually hot in Seattle! Yes, I know that you folks in other parts of the country have had many 90+ days, but for us Pacific Northwesterners, it’s rare–our bodies aren’t used to it, and neither are our chickens! I’ve noticed the girls are panting a little, and seeking shade. Here’s one from the archives on caring for urban chickens in strong heat.
This post originally appeared in August, 2011:
Chickens need a little extra attention in the heat, just as they do in the extreme cold, but they’ll be completely fine as long as a few simple needs are met. Like all birds, chickens can regulate their body temperature with some efficiency. Remember that birds have a higher body temperature than humans, so they don’t have to shed heat as soon as we do when temperatures rise. They don’t have sweat glands, so when they do need to cool, chickens will pant, and maybe flutter the flap of skin beneath their chin–a spot with lots of tiny blood vessels, so heat is exchanged quickly. Sometimes chickens will lift their feathers to air their skin. These behaviors might make your hens look as if they are about to keel over from heat exhaustion, but they are perfectly normal things for hot chickens to be doing.
To keep summer chickens happy and healthy:
–Make double-sure they have constant access to shade.
–Give them fresh cool water every single day (even if you are usually too lazy to do it daily, as I sometimes am…). Not only is cool water refreshing to the chickens and good for their bodies, but any potentially harmful bacteria in the water grows more quickly and easily in the heat.
–If you normally keep water in the coop, consider it leaving it in a shady spot in the run/yard, so they will see it more often, and be reminded to drink.
–Make sure the nesting area is well ventilated. Open all doors and windows, and if it’s stiflingly hot, consider wetting down the outside walls and roof with a hose to provide evaporative cooling.
–Make sure the girls have plenty of dry, loose dirt for dusting their feathers, which they like to do more often in the heat. This helps cool their skin, comforts them, and as always, keeps parasites at bay.
–Chickens do not like to have water sprayed on them, but if temperatures are very high, and the chickens seem worrisomely stressed, go ahead and give adult chickens a light misting with the garden hose or spray bottle. If you leave a low sprinkler in a corner for awhile, they might even explore it and play in it on their own.
May all humans and chickens enjoy the relaxed beauty of the season!