When the summer heat gets you down, you can enjoy a cool drink, sit in front of an air conditioner or perhaps take a swim in your pond. But when your chickens get hot, they donâ€™t have all of those easy options.
Thatâ€™s why chicken owners need to be aware of how uncomfortable their birds feel when temperatures begin to soar.
While they probably donâ€™t wantâ€”and might not appreciateâ€”a leisurely swim in your farmâ€™s swimming hole, they would love to nibble on an icy watermelon, sit quietly in the shade or enjoy some frozen chicken treats to cool off.
Making cold treats for your chickens on a hot summer day is one of the easiest ways to help your hens through a heat wave. Just head into your kitchen and grab a few ingredients. Make some room in the freezer, then create cool and delicious chicken treats for your birds.
Know the Signs of a Hot Chicken
Have you ever watched chickens walk around when itâ€™s really hot outside? They may hold their wings away from their bodies to allow the breeze to blow through. And their mouths may be wide open.
While theyâ€™re walking around in a bit of a lethargic daze, you might even see them panting or gasping a bit.
Because chickens donâ€™t sweat the way people do, they have to rely on shade and water to keep their internal temperature from soaring. If they donâ€™t, chickens are suspect to heatstroke on hot days. Without a way to cool off, itâ€™s all too easy for them to die.
While treats should only be given in moderation and are a temporary way to chill your birds, they can be part of an overall plan to help your flock make it through steamy summer days.
To get ready to make summer treats for chickens, you first need to gather your supplies. But even before that, you need to know what your chickens should and shouldnâ€™t eat, and stock your supply lists accordingly.
Itâ€™s also a good idea to keep in mind that these cool chicken treats should only be used as supplemental food. Your chickens will still need the regular pellet or crumble you supply on a daily basis.
Donâ€™t feed your chickens:
- citrus fruit
- uncooked beans
- moldy or spoiled fruits and vegetables
- green potato skins
These foods, however, make great chicken treats:
- leafy greens of all kinds
- grain cereals
- berries of all types
- tiny bits of carrots
Before making treats, look at your kitchen scraps and see what youâ€™re about to toss in the compost. Chickens love the tops of strawberries, small amounts of yogurt and cottage cheese, raisins, sunflower seeds, and, if you have a surplus, leftover eggs.
If you want to bake them a treat before you freeze it, youâ€™ll also want to make sure you have whole-wheat flour, cornmeal and honey.
Once you have your supplies, youâ€™re ready to cool your birds with unique chicken treats you can make in minutes. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Flash Freeze Fruit
Chickens love watermelon, but on a day when the sun is beating down, theyâ€™ll love that watermelon even more when itâ€™s frozen. Soak it in a sink full of water for 10 minutes, and place it in the freezer for a few hours.
Once itâ€™s icy cold, give it to your chickens and watch them devour it.
You can freeze all types of fruit including strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or peaches. Soak them in the sink before freezing, freeze them for several hours on a cookie sheet, and theyâ€™ll develop a nice, icy crust your chickens will love on a hot day.
Soak or Steam Veggies
Vegetables are another yummy treat in the summer heat. Because chickens like something they can sink their beak into, steam the vegetables before you freeze them.
Steaming adds enough water that you may not need to soak them before you freeze. Just like fruit, youâ€™ll want to freeze the vegetables on a cookie sheet to avoid clumping.
Freeze Some Scratch
While it might be tempting to throw a few handfuls of scratch for your chickens to eat when they look bored and listless in the sun, hen scratch with corn can actually raise their temperatures because the grain and corn take longer to digest.
This is great in the wintertime but not so great in the summer heat.
If you want to use chicken scratch for summer snacking, choose one with peas instead of corn. To help your chickens cool off while eating it, freeze your scratch after soaking it in water for a few days.
Add your scratch to a large pail, and add enough water to cover it. You may want to add a shot of apple cider vinegar or electrolytes if youâ€™re trying to keep your chickens hydrated during a hot spell.
Let it sit and ferment for a day or two, constantly topping up the water so the grain is covered.
Once youâ€™ve let it sit for a few days, pour off the excess water and scoop the scratch out into muffin tins. Put the tins in the freezer for a few hours until they are almost solid or solid, depending on your preference.
You can give them to your chickens as an ice block that will melt quickly in the sun. Your chickens will love the ice-cold treat.
Make a Yogurt Pop
Chickens can have small amounts of dairy, and a frozen yogurt pop is a great way to let them have a cold treat. Place a chopstick or skewer in a small container of yogurt, and put it in the freezer.
Once frozen solid, run it under hot water in the sink until the yogurt pops out. Itâ€™s that simple. Add different types of fruit to the skewer including apples, strawberries and grapes.
Hang the skewer in the coop if your chickens are bored and need something to peck at. Or you can just drop it in the middle of a group of lethargic hens and watch them enjoy the berries and ice-cold yogurt.
Rather than give your chickens a block of ice, freeze up treats inside the block and let them peck at it until theyâ€™ve broken through. You can freeze fruit, vegetables, grain or, for a bit of protein, smashed-up hard-boiled eggs.
Use your imagination to come up with unique combinations of fruit, grain and vegetables and layer it in a Bundt pan. Pour water over it until everything is covered. Freeze overnight.
A bit of hot water is all it takes for your ice block to pop out, and itâ€™s a great treat to hang in the coop or place in a food tray.
Chickens love a nice pile of mealworms, and if you want to make your usual treat of mealworms even better, just pop them in the freezer. You can soak them for 30 minutes in water and place them on a cookie sheet so they freeze individually. Then add them to feed or scatter them on the ground.
If you want a colder treat, freeze mealworms in their container by adding water, turning it into a mealworm Popsicle. Place your block of ice in a shallow bowl of water, and watch your chickens bob for mealworms.
You can also put the ice block in a feed dish and let your chickens enjoy their treat as it melts.
Keep an eye on your chickens when you know the temperatures are going to soar. And always provide fresh, cool water and shade, and use a few of the ideas in this article for cool summer chicken treats.
While they wonâ€™t drop the temperatures to bearable levels, youâ€™ll definitely help your birds feel more comfortable!
Recipe: Oatmeal Treat Balls
Not every treat for your chickens has to be frozen. If youâ€™d like to bake something nutritious and delicious to keep their energy up and give them something fun to peck at, try this Oatmeal Treat Ball recipe.
If you want to, you can toss them in the freezer and your chickens will enjoy a cool treat. Reprinted with permission from FreshEggsDaily.com.
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 cups old-fashioned oats
- 1 cup raisins
- 1/2Â cup chopped walnuts
Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat oil and honey until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time.
Combine flour, wheat germ, cornmeal, baking soda and cinnamon, and add slowly at low speed until incorporated. Add oats, raisins and walnuts, mix until blended.
Drop dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet using an ice cream scoop. Bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown.
Cool on cookie sheet for a minute or two and then remove to wire rack to cool completely. Serve immediately as an occasional treat.
This article originally appeared in the May/June issue ofÂ ChickensÂ magazine.