Combating heat stress issues in chickens and ways to help keep chickens cool
As chickens pant they eliminate carbon dioxide and as a direct consequence the concentration of carbonate dissolved in their blood decreases. The more the chicken pants & the hotter they get the more their PH balance changes in their body, it becomes more acidic leading to acidosis and death. Hot chickens will start consuming mass amounts of water to try to cool themselves AND TO ALSO TRY TO ADJUST THEIR PH BALANCE AS WATER IS GENERALLY NEUTRAL ON THE PH SCALE,...if that water is hot they can not cool down and may continue to drink the hot water creating more issues for themselves...A chicken can go from seemingly ok to dead in just 5 minutes! Helping your chickens prevent ACIDOSIS is key to survival in the extreme high temps...adding baking soda into their water is the best way to help combat ACIDOSIS, as it is alkalizing and helps raise their PH balance verses lowering it. In ADDITION to the baking soda using a specific formulated chicken electrolyte/vitamin water soluble solution in their water containers helps them greatly as well...****homemade electrolyte solutions are meant to be used only for a short time until one can obtain the proper electrolyte solution***** If you notice areas on the chickens comb, generally starting at the top that are turning purple that is signs of acidosis starting COOL that chicken down IMMEDIATLY
Ways to help keep chickens cool
- Frozen water bottles placed in water containers (this sometimes may not be best because some chickens will not drink if they see the bottle floating in the water). nest boxes and other areas where the chickens are prone to lay
-Mud puddles are a great way to instantly cool panting chickens...this is great for those chickens you can not catch...you have to make sure the water gets under their feet though...I lay the house down near them and allow the water to puddle up under their feet so as to not frighten them and cause them to run away...Mud puddles are also key because the chickens can dig a hole in the moistened area and lay to help cool down
- Shallow pans of water for them to stand in
- Change the water often if you can or offer a water container that has free flowing clean water going into it even if it is just dripping into the waterer...hot water will NOT cool your chickens...we humans don't drink anything that has been sitting in 100 plus degree weather for hours so why should they
****Always have a container that is filled with water in a shady area that you can in an emergency stick a chicken in to instantly cool them if they are struggling too much or panting too frequently...this can save your chickens life...try to get as much of their body in it as possible up to their neck is they are really struggling and it looks like they may not make it on their own...******this is the only time having water that has been sitting out in the shade for awhile and is warmer is acceptable...the water will be cooler than them and if you try to use fresh cold water from the hose it can put them in shock*****
-Frozen treats...2 options here...freeze fruit OR cut up some fruit or veggies in small pieces, place a handful in a small reusable container. fill the rest of the container with water and freeze...as the water starts to melt the chickens will drink the cool liquid and eat the frozen chunks of fruit...we offer these to our chickens during the hottest part of the day because they take a little while to melt and they last allowing the chickens to cool down for a good period of time...watermelon is a great option for the frozen treats.
-Mister system We turn on the mister system during the hottest parts of the day, it helps cool the air around the chickens...* if the mister system is on too long or puts out too much water flow the ground will become extremely muddy...You can use a timer, this is a good option especially if you are not home
- Sprinklers some people use sprinklers instead of a mister system...there are pros and cons to sprinklers & mister systems...my chickens would flee from a sprinkler only enjoying the cool wet ground after it was shut off...with the mister system my chickens will stay in the areas where the mist is coming out so they get to cool down during that time as well as after the mister is shut off...find what works best for you and your flock...the sprinkler can also be placed on a timer, this is a good option especially if you are not home
-Fans Some people use fans....if you can afford one they sell solar fans
-Swamp coolers if you have an area and can afford a swamp cooler they work great to help cool the chickens
-Feeding Feed your chickens as early as you can and as late as you can...digesting their food heats them, corn heats them eve more when being digested...it is recommended to not give corn in the summer for 3 reasons 1. it really heats them up when it is being digested, even if the corn is frozen at the time of eating it 2. corn offers virtually no nutritional value...in the extreme heat your chickens will cut back their feed intake so all the feed items should offer as much nutrition as possible to compensate for the cut back...it is recommended to increase protein percentage during these months 3. corn makes them FAT...chickens are not meant to be fat...the fat makes it difficult for their little lungs to expand properly as well as makes it harder for them to cool themselves.
****During the extreme heat of the day feeding items that are easier to digest is recommended such as cold fruits & veggies***
-Shade, they must have shade.
-Wetting down their sleeping area at night is a great way to help cool the chickens while they are trying to go to sleep...you can also add in frozen water bottles in their sleeping area...you want the chickens to cool down at night to help prevent acidosis that the constant panting will create
- DO NOT OVER CROWD their sleeping area...they need space and not to be crammed against each other if they need to cool down...a chickens normal body temp is around 105 degrees...once the temps reaches 80 degrees chickens start to get hot but it is bearable as the temps around them start rising higher it just gets harder for them...so you can see how having chickens crammed together in a sleeping space can become an issue
-Heat tolerant breeds do best here
~Article by Starr Bailey