Keep chickens from frying | Living the Country Life
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Keep chickens from frying

Summer can be a dangerous time for chickens, and it's up to you to keep them cool.
  • Self-regulating thermostat

    Normally, a chicken's body temperature is 104-107 degrees F., but it can vary greatly depending on the temperature of the environment. In cold weather, a chicken's body temperature can drop down as low as 73 degrees F. before death occurs. Unfortunately, there is much less flexibility on the other end of the scale. The upper lethal limit on body temperature is 113-117 degrees F. Since that's just a few degrees above normal, the chicken must be able to get rid of excess body heat quickly.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: May 30, 2014
  • Take a deep breath

    Normally, their relatively high body temperature makes it easier for chickens to lose heat to the air around them. Their respiratory systems are very effective at cooling, which is useful since they don't have sweat glands. Chickens' air sacks allow inhaled air (which is usually cooler than body temperature) to reach deep into the abdomen. Chickens also have a panting mechanism (gular flutter) that evaporates water from the throat and reduces body temperature. Since their feathers act as insulation for keeping heat in, you may see chickens raise their wings to release heat, but since this takes energy, it's not a very effective way to cool down.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: May 30, 2014
  • Heat affects eggs, chicks

    This increased rate of panting can produce respiratory alkalosis of the blood, which is an increase in blood pH and a decrease CO2 concentration. This upsets the blood acid-base balance and produces a decrease in blood calcium and bicarbonate, which are necessary for the production of strong shells. Laying hens with respiratory alkalosis may produce thin-shelled eggs. For summer brooding, protect chicks against temperatures above 95 degrees.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: May 30, 2014
  • No all-day buffet

    Fasting your chickens during hot weather can help them better withstand heat stress. When a bird is busy eating, it produces 25% to 40% more heat than when it's at rest. Avoid feeding them during the hottest parts of the day, and instead feed early in the morning or late in the evening. Growing birds may have decreased weight gain when feed is more controlled like this, but chances are they wouldn't eat during the hottest part of the day anyway. Also, store feed in a cool place if possible, and make sure it's protected from moisture to keep it from going bad.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: May 30, 2014
  • Provide extra water

    Chickens need extra water during hot weather. That's just common sense. If they can get water on their combs and wattles, the evaporation of that water helps cool the birds. Potassium, sodium, and chloride levels can fall rapidly during periods of heat stress, so you may want to consider adding electrolytes to their drinking water. Providing two to four times the normal amount of water can prevent birds that are panting from becoming dehydrated. Also, keep the water cool and space it out so the birds don't have to crowd around a single waterer. Change water regularly to prevent bacteria build-up.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: May 30, 2014
  • Keep coops cool

    It's crucial that chickens have a place to get in out of the sun. It should have a high enough roof that heat won't radiate down onto the birds. The sides should be open to allow a breeze to pass through. Make sure the coop is large enough for the chickens to have plenty of room, so they won't be crowded. You should consider running a fan on the hottest days, either a regular fan from the house, or a fogger or mister that will put cool droplets of water into the air.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: May 30, 2014
  • Try a portable pen

    During warm weather, consider using a mobile pen that can be rotated to new ground as the grass inside the enclosure is depleted. These shelters have slatted floors and are periodically moved to a new location. They allow birds to be outside while offering protection from predators. Make sure the portable structure offers shade, ventilation, and plenty of room for the birds.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: May 30, 2014
  • Clean inside and out

    Remove litter from the chicken coop regularly. As it decomposes, heat is produced, which can cause floor temperatures to rise significantly. Make sure the watering system is clean and working properly. Make sure window screens are clean, since a 1/8" layer of dust can restrict air flow by as much as 20%. Pay attention to the outside of the coop, too. Bare ground around a chicken house can reflect heat upwards, and tall grass and weeds can block the breeze. Low-cut grass around the coop is ideal, since it will absorb heat.

    Date Published: April 13, 2012
    Date Updated: May 30, 2014
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