With temperatures already posting in the 90s this month, it’s a good idea to make sure your backyard chickens are ready for the coming summer heat. Poultry can become heat stressed when temperatures rise above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat stress affects egg production as well as size, shell quality, and hatchability. It also affects appetite and growth in younger birds.
To minimize heat stress in your backyard flock, there are several things you can do.
- Make sure your coop is well ventilated for cross air movement. Trim vegetation and limbs that might block air flow. You can also add a fan to help move air throughout the coop.
- Locate your coop in a shaded area surrounded by grass. Grass reduces light reflection into the coop.
- Provide cool water in shaded locations for your birds. Ice cubes and frozen water bottles can help cool water down. Feed consumption will likely decrease during this time but shouldn’t give you alarm.
- Provide occasional frozen treats like watermelon and peas. Fill a container with fruit or vegetables, add water, and freeze. The chickens will peck at it as it thaws.
- Misters, shallow wading pools, and dust baths can help chickens cool down.
Chickens don’t sweat. Instead, they dissipate heat from their wattles, legs, under the wings and through panting. Watch out for signs of heat stress that might include
- heavy panting
- wings held out from the body
- lethargic, sluggish behavior
- pale combs and wattles.
To learn more about keeping your backyard chickens healthy during the summer, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.