How to Deal with Summer Heat and Your Flock
Ahh, summer! The long, warm, sunny days are here. While many of us relish the warmth of the summer sun, your poultry flock may suffer from the its ill effects unless you plan ahead. Here are a few tips on dealing with summer’s heat and humidity in caring for your chickens.
There are two “must-have” items for your chickens to thrive in the heat. First, plenty of cool, clean, fresh water is necessary. Water is the most important nutrient and it’s important that your hens want to drink when it’s hot outside. Make sure that your waterers are not located in the direct sun. Your hens will drink more water in the hot weather than they do in more moderate temperatures, so checking and refilling waterers as needed is important. I like to use an automated watering system I built using the watering cups and these PVC fittings so my flock never runs out of water. If your laying hens run out of water for even just a few hours, their laying ability may be affected for the following few days as they try to recover from mild dehydration.
The second important item to ensure your hens have in extreme heat is plenty of shade. Animals of any kind need to be able to escape the direct sun when temperatures soar, and poultry is no exception. If your run area does not have adequate shade from trees or bushes, you may need to consider building some sort of temporary structure to provide shade. I have used cattle panels formed into an arch with shade cloth stretched over the top. The chickens will lay under these shady areas and dust bathe.
You may also find that your hens may spend more time inside their coop if there is not enough shade in the run. That’s OK if you only have a few hens and a large coop, but if you have a large flock and many of them gather in the coop to find shade, they put off body heat and that may cause the temperature inside the coop to rise. Since I have a large flock (currently 75 laying hens), I hang an inexpensive box fan in my coop to keep the air moving inside and help the heat dissipate.
Another tip to help your flock with a hot summer is to offer electrolytes in their drinking water. If I see my chickens panting with their wings held out, I immediately mix some Vital Pack in their drinking water to help support them nutritionally during stress. I also like to give them frozen fruits and vegetables. I will often cut a whole watermelon in half and freeze it, then let the hens pick at it all day long as it thaws to help them cool off. They also enjoy frozen raspberries, blueberries, green beans, spinach and corn.
I hope you find these tips useful as you plan a safe summer for your flock. Don’t forget, the Meyer Hatchery team is here to help you with any questions you have when dealing with your flock. Call, chat or email us anytime! Happy summer!