How to Keep Your Chickens Cool in the Summer Heat

Summer heat in the southern United States can be brutal on your chickens, but heat spells in other areas of the country are just as deadly.

In one record-breaking day I lost five of my buff Orpington chickens to the heat, including a broody hen who refused to leave her eggs in the hot chicken coop.

After that day I made a few changes, hoping to keep my "girls" safe in the summer heat. They've been pretty effective changes.

The first thing I did that year was put a screen door on the chicken coop. It doesn't fit correctly, and is taller than the coop is, so it isn't pretty, but I think it's the most effective thing I did. There is now the screen door on the east side, and the sliding chicken-size door on the west side so that there is a strong cross-breeze. 

Of course, in the winter I replace the screen door with the original solid wood door. 

The coop was designed with open space where the rafters meet the walls on all four sides. This allows more ventilation but because it's high up, it doesn't create a draft on the birds where they are roosting about three feet above the floor. That was a design-win.

The window on the south side is a large picture window that doesn't open. In the winter it provides great natural lighting and solar heat but it's not an asset in the summer. That was a design-fail! 

So in the summer I hang a black tarp on the inside of that south-facing window to help bring down the interior temperature during hot weather.

Provide shade for the hens by adding a tarp over their outside run.

I also spread an old comforter over the top of the chicken run on the west side of the coop that summer. This gave the hens an open-air "covered patio."

It's definitely not pretty, unless you take the comforter's pattern and color into consideration. I doubt the chickens care.

I even provide a wading pool for the hens when it's really hot. Their pool is a shallow plastic tray that had been under a rabbit cage. The tray goes in a corner of the chicken run and we fill it with water daily to a depth of about 1.5 inches. The hens enjoy standing in their pool to cool off.

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Caring for broody hens in the summer

If you have a hen that's broody during the hottest part of the summer, it's important to make sure she drinks enough water to stay hydrated, and that she has the opportunity to cool off.

Most broodies hate to leave their nest though, so you'll have to help out a bit.

Keep the waterer near her nest, or provide an additional waterer close by. If it's just a few steps away, she might be willing to hop off the nest for a second to get a drink.

Every time I go in the coop I pick up the broody mama and put her down on the other side of the coop or out in the run. She'll get some needed exercise on her way back to her nest box, and I make sure she'll pass by the waterer on her way, where she will hopefully linger for a few minutes to get a quick drink.

You might have to move the hen and her eggs to a cooler spot, even though she'll be "madder than a wet hen" if you do. She'll probably squawk and peck at you. But if you don't move her, you may lose her to heat stroke.

The safest way to move a broody hen is to pick her up from behind so it's harder for her to reach you with her beak. This can be harder than it sounds. 

You can cover her head with a towel or other covering if needed, she'll settle down when it's "dark" and she can't see.

Treating heat stress in chickens

A chicken's normal body temperature is rather high, and because they have no sweat glands, hot weather can be extremely dangerous for them.

If you notice one of your birds panting or breathing hard, lifting its wings away from its body in an attempt to cool down, acting lethargic or even worse, suffering a seizure or convulsions, you need to act fast.

Move the chicken immediately from the sun or from the hot coop into the shade, and wet her down if needed using cool (not hot or cold) water. This may be enough to help her recover.

Tips to prevent heat stress

  • Locate the waterer in a shady place, not in the sun where the water will heat it up. 
  • Add an additional waterer - or several.
  • Put ice cubes in the water in the heat of the day.
  • Avoid feeding corn during the hot summer months.

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You'll find all of my chicken-keeping posts here.

How to keep your chickens cool in summer - simple, quick ways to help!

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  1. Hey there...
    I'm sorry your chickens are having it so rough. Maybe you can change the water and put ice in it?
    I've read they won't drink water over their body temperature... but will drink down to freezing.

    Maybe that would help them stay cooler... Like a gallon jug full of ice frozen... Just an idea.

    It gets pretty hot here. But we have never lost any birds to the heat, thank the Lord.
    All the steps you have taken are very familiar... all except the bath... we've never done that one. :)

    Please be blessed! Prayin for your birds, and all of you too.

  2. This summer, it has been very hot and dry. I might incorporate this to my chicken coop.


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