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Caring for your birds in hot weather

The average body temperature of a hen is normally around 102 – 103 °f, additionally, their layers of feathers trap the air which retains body heat keeping them well insulated. This natural insulation system is great in cold weather, but makes hot weather much more dangerous for chickens.

Chickens cannot sweat, but will cool themselves by panting, spreading their wings and laying down to try to reduce their temperature. Additionally, the blood flowing through the comb and wattles will cool and recirculate back through the interior part of the body.

During hot conditions, the amount of water consumed will increase and the amount of food eaten will go down, also egg laying will probably drop.

What you can do to help your birds

  • Provide extra drinkers – Chickens can drink twice the normal amount in extreme heat.
  • Freeze a block of ice and place in the drinker.
  • Make sure the water is out of direct sunshine.
  • Clean out drinker daily to avoid algae build up.
  • Add poultry tonic (Vit Boost) to maintain balance of vitamins and minerals.
  • Coop – Move to a shady spot in a heat wave. Ensure plenty of ventilation, if you have a hinged roof, prop this open by an inch or two to circulate air inside the coop during the day.
  • Provide sun shades, a wooden board on top of the run is an easy solution.
  • You can hose down the roof and sides of the coop to reduce temperature in extreme conditions.
  • Provide chilled or frozen fruits and vegetables. This will dramatically reduce body heat.
  • Avoid grains such as corn that is high in starch content and will heat up the chickens.

In general, where possible it is best to leave your chickens alone during extreme heat conditions to keep stress levels as low as possible. Let them do their own thing and avoid picking them up. At all times monitor behaviour for signs of excess heat stress.

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