Chickens and Heat

With this mini-heat wave we’ve been having, I’ve been getting questions about chickens and heat.

When temperatures reach the mid-80s, your birds will probably start panting. In temperatures above 100, your birds may suffer heatstroke.

Chickens don’t have sweat glands, so they have different ways of releasing heat from their bodies. Combs and wattles serve as radiators to release heat. Their feet also provide a cooling mechanisms. Chickens will pant, releasing heat through their mouths. You may also see them standing with their wings away from their bodies. A good dustbath in a shady spot with cool soil also helps.

Here are some tips, excerpted from my class on chickens and heat.

1) Provide fresh, clean water – and lots of it.

2) Freeze 2-liter bottles and put them in the coop to cool it down. Your birds can snuggle up to these portable AC units.

3) Remove excess bedding, which traps heat.

4) Feed a mash or a crumble feed, rather than a whole-grain food. Grains generate heat as they are metabolized. Remember, though, that birds may not accept the new food immediately.

5) Provide shade.

6) Provide frozen, cool treats, such as watermelon.

7) Allow them to dustbathe in shaded areas.

8) Set up a sprinkler in a shaded area outside the coop/run.

If you notice that the birds are listless and lethargic (signs of heat stress), consider bringing them into a cool basement. Even a few degrees cooler would help. It’s best to change temperature slowly to prevent shock to the system.

As always, keep an eye on your birds and know what’s normal for them. This will help you catch problems before they become life threatening.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Laura McAlpine on June 17, 2018 at 11:11 am

    This is super helpful! One question – given that our 4 chicks are 15 weeks old, and on grower food, we can keep giving them this type of food, or should we substitute with something else? I just went out to see the girls, added ice cubes to their waterer and a few low pans of water. They just have their beaks open a bit, not too much, and seem totally fine….except they keep asking “where are the frozen strawberries??????”.


    • Hi, Laura – For now, I’d not do a dietary change. You might consider it if the high heat/humidity is expected over a week or more. It looks like we’re to be in the 70s soon!


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