Keeping chickens cool in the summer is an ongoing task here in Phoenix, AZ. Our temps have been nearly 120 degrees in the last week. As you can imagine keeping chickens cool in the desert heat is a challenge. But I can say I’ve never lost one of our hens to the heat in the years I’ve been keeping a backyard flock.
These ideas are not rocket science but they are really helpful in the hot days of summer.
Keeping Chickens Cool in the Summer
Water – Your number 1 defense against heat related deaths is cool, fresh water. Make sure to check the chicken’s water twice a day during the warms months and refill often. Also, it helps to keep their water in a shaded area so that it doesn’t heat up too much during the day. You may also want to add additional water dispensers.
Coop – Make sure your coop space is well ventilated; that is key to keeping them comfortable when laying and resting. It is also important to allow them a little extra space – you wouldn’t want to be crowded into a little space with the temps are rising. You might not want to add a/c to the coop but a fan can add a lot of comfort, air flow and generally cooling to a coop.
Free Ranging – If you able able to allow your chickens to free range, I would recommend it. This way the chickens can dig down under a shade tree or lay in a grassy area; mine like to dig down a laying area on the side of the house where the hose spigot is. Believe me, your chickens know how to find the coolest spots.
Shade – If you don’t have a lot of natural shade you’ll need to create some. This can be as simple as adding some inexpensive tarps to your coop and/or yard. I don’t recommend shade cloth because it is made to allow some sun through – tarps are not.
Misters – Misters have been key in keeping chickens cool on our little homestead. My girls are free ranging so I usually put the mister in a shaded area with a little grass. I only leave this on for a few hours at the hottest part of the day. You don’t need an expensive system – we use a flexible standing mister; it has been invaluable! Watch the drips and drop – these can make areas muddy fast.
Frozen Treats – One of our girl’s favorites in a frozen treat. We keep cut up rinds from melons in a bag in the freezer and put out a few during the day for them to peck on and cool off. We also make “popsicles” by taking a round cake pan, adding treats like berries and then filling it with water. We freeze the popsicles overnight and they’ll come right out of the pan; place in a shaded area for the chickens to peck.
Frozen Water Bottles – We got this trick from keeping our rabbits cool. Re-fill old gallon jugs and freeze; place these in the coop or around the yard in a shaded area. The chickens will lay by them or stand on them to keep themselves cool.
Pull out the Baby Pool – Keeping chickens cool in the summer means thinking outside the box…or in the pool. You can use a hard plastic baby pool filled with cool water to aid your flock. They can get in and stand or lay in the the water; make sure it is not chlorinated. Use the day’s water from the pool to water your garden or compost; you’ll need clean water daily.
I’ve never seen a chicken swim, but….
No matter the measures you take in keeping chickens cool, it is important to keep a good eye on them for heat stroke. The Chicken Chick has a good article on signs, symptoms and treatments.