PHOTO: Rachel Hurd Anger
Rachel Hurd Anger
July 18, 2014

Before this glorious polar-vortex-like front gave us the coolest July I can remember, I was on my way back to Louisville from a trip to Michigan. It was cooler than usual in the mitten, but as we traveled home on Sunday, the temperatures were climbing in every small town and big city as we drove South.

The 300 miles of my route through Indiana were largely uneventful, except for a portion of I-65, south of Indianapolis, where the sky fell by buckets. There, traffic crawled bumper-to-bumper at 20 mph, with hazard lights blinking out of sync. Thirteen miles later, the sky cleared and the temperature indicator in my car read 77 degrees F.

When we crossed the Ohio River into Louisville, the temperature jumped 22 degrees to a solid 99 degrees F. We found our poor flock panting in the oppressive sunshine and smoggy haze at home.

The hottest of summer days can be more dangerous than the coldest of winter, especially if the temperature spikes quickly. Even though they’d been hot all day, cooling the hens was my first priority. Relief from the heat can save lives.

1. Cool the Air

As soon as we got home, my husband attached the spray mister to the garden hose to cool the air temperature near the chickens. Even this simple change can provide relief when temperatures soar.

2. Offer Electrolytes

While my husband was busy in the yard, I filled the chickens’ waterers with fresh, cool water infused with a homemade electrolyte solution.

An electrolyte imbalance will cause dehydration, no matter how much water the flock is drinking. Electrolyte supplements are available at your local feed store, or you can whip up a homemade electrolyte solution for emergencies. Here’s the recipe I use, simply mixing all the ingredients together:

Homemade Electrolyte Solution

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 2 tsp. of salt

This electrolyte solution can be added to the waterer as a supplement or given directly to birds in distress. It can also be substituted for water in frozen fruit treats below.

3. Make Frozen Fruit Treats

For exceptionally hot days, having nutritious frozen chicken treats at the ready is a must, but because I’d arrived home unprepared for the heat, I hurried to make a cold treat.

Two pounds of strawberries and two pints of blueberries were waiting in the fridge from our CSA delivery the previous week. I cleaned all the berries, made a simple fruit salad for the family, then stuffed all the strawberry cuttings (with green tops) and a few imperfect blueberries into 1-cup plastic containers. I filled the gaps with water, and froze them.

Chickens love to peck at frozen fruit on a hot day. The ice melts slowly in the heat, giving way to the frozen fruit cuttings within, cooling the chickens quickly from the inside out. If only for a few minutes, panting poultry get a nice break from the heat, and something new to occupy their minds. Yet another option is to offer frozen fruit directly. Chunks of frozen watermelon are a flock favorite.

If your chickens don’t know well enough to find cooler areas of the yard on a hot day, serve frozen treats in a shady place.

These simple additions to your chickens’ summer care can ease heat waves, and even save lives when heat spikes.



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