Here in Louisville, Ky., we’re experiencing long strings of days hitting 90 degrees or higher with 80-percent humidity long before the hottest part of the afternoon. Along with our urban-air-quality alerts, outside is generally intolerable from sunup until after dinnertime. If you’re reading this from someplace that never gets cold, like the dry Southwest, and your flock has never had a problem with heat, that’s because they’ve adapted to their consistent environment.
In general, chickens can take the heat—they’re descendants of jungle fowl—but larger, heavier breeds and breeds with feathered feet don’t tolerate heat as well as lighter weight breeds. Heavy birds need extra care during heat spikes. High temperatures and dehydration can be dangerous, and sudden temperature changes can be deadly. Here’s what you can do to cool your flock through the summer’s hottest days.
1. Keep Water Fresh and Cold
Watering your chickens should go without saying, but when the weather’s hot, keep on top of the water source. Get outside to give the flock fresh, cold water, and if you can, position it somewhere out of direct sunlight, preferably where the chickens spend their time staying cool. Shade will keep the water cool a little longer, and your flock won’t have to wander into the hot sun for a drink. Supplement with electrolytes, as well.
2. Scooped Out Watermelon
Everyone enjoys a cold treat when it’s hot outside. Your chickens are certainly no different. Watermelon is one of my favorite treats to give chickens to help them in the heat. I usually halve and then scoop out the watermelon with a melon baller (for the humans), and that leaves some fruit left over right inside its own bowl for the chickens. The truth is, I leave a bit extra for the chickens. Then, I put the cold, leftover watermelon a shady spot in the yard and let the chickens clean it off. They’ll eat it almost all the way down to the green, and what’s left goes in the compost bin.
3. Overripe Fruits
Last week, I bought a bag of apples that weren’t very good, which isn’t surprising because it’s not apple season. These have been around a while. I’ve kept them in the fridge, and every so often I wash one, cut it in half, and throw it out into the yard.
4. Frozen Treats
Chickens love to peck treats out of ice. As the ice melts in the heat outside, chickens peck their way to cold treats. Most recently, I’ve seen someone freeze canned corn and water in a muffin pan, but electrolytes could be added to the frozen treat, too. Your flock will enjoy any treat you usually feed them in a frozen form.