If the hen resists winter temperatures well, it can struggle a little more in summer, especially during heat waves. This is explained by the fact that unlike the pig or the rabbit, it does not have sweat glands and therefore cannot sweat to keep its body at an acceptable temperature. Its generous plumage and its fat, very precious in the face of the cold, can then greatly handicap it during the summer season. Fortunately, during hot weather, it will be very easy for you to keep the chickens in your barnyard cool and to cool the chicken coop. This will prevent your gallinaceans from suffering from a potentially fatal rise in temperature (in the event of apoplexy). With these easy and practical tips, you will finally know how to effectively protect your chickens from the heat and keep them healthy.
How to spot heatstroke in chickens?
With their body temperature already high (and even more so during the brooding period!), the hens are very sensitive to high temperatures. When the heat is intense and prolonged, hens can quickly suffer and become dehydrated. It is therefore important to know how to recognize the signs that show that these little feathered animals are suffering. Often you will feel them more agitated and will see them gasp. They can also have the wide open beak, spread wings and ruffled feathers or pale.
When the heat wave sets in and these animals suffer a lot of dehydration, we can also spot other symptoms to be taken very seriously: confusion, fatigue, even lethargy, purplish crest, shortness of breath, very disheveled drooping wings, reduced appetite and fluid intake, etc. To avoid this and risk losing your proteges, take all measures to protect them from the heat.
How to protect chickens from the heat?
1) Choose the right breed
As with dogs or cats, there are disparities between chicken breeds and some will be more heat resistant than others. If you live in a region where it is hot, this is a parameter to take into account absolutely! Favor if possible breeds with poor plumage (such as the famous Naked neck of Forez), dwarfs or known to live well in the heat (red hen, Bourbonnaise, Gâtinaise, blue Andalusian, golden Campine, white or light brown Leghorn…). Conversely, avoid the rare fragile ones that are particularly sensitive to high temperatures (black hens, Cochin, Brahma, Faverolles, etc.). In addition, preferably opt for a plumage as light as possiblebecause it will capture less heat.
Of course, all this is only indicative and is only intended to help you make a more informed choice if you live in the South, for example. If you take care to protect your dark hens well and keep them in the shade, this should however limit the problems!
2) A well-installed chicken coop to help the hens face the heat
For the comfort of your dear feathered friends, you must at all costs prevent the temperature from rising too high in the chicken coop. When the good weather arrives, so check the exposure of your chicken coop during the day. It is indeed essential that it is well in the shade of the house, a tree or a hedge, especially during the hottest hours of the day. If not, you may consider moving it. Make sure you go though gradually, because your little pullets, very homely, may feel stressed and lost if you make too sudden a change in their home. Also add an awning or umbrella for the grassy course.
In addition, cover the ground with vegetation to reduce the phenomenon of reverberation and the accumulation of heat. For example, you can put a plant cover on the ground and a thinner litter (providing however sufficient and frequent cleaning). You can also replace solid doors with mesh or create additional openings that you will also take care to screen well to prevent the entry of predators at night. This will allow the air to circulate well. Finally, you canadd a fan (out of spout reach) for air circulation.
3) Cover the roof: the right trick to protect the hens during heat peaks
A bitumen or sheet metal roof risks heat strongly compared to a wooden roof. Many poultry house owners then have the habit of watering the roof to cool the atmosphere. However, be careful, because excessive humidity may promote the proliferation of bacteria. Your hens could therefore fall ill or become parasitized. A good alternative is to cover the roof with cardboard, good insulation especially if it is white, branches, ferns or dry grass.
4) Choose your visiting hours carefully
With the heat, it’s better avoid making them do too much physical activity which could raise their body temperature. When it is very hot, try to visit them twice a day, all during the cooler hours of the day. For example, you can go early in the morning or in the early evening. The rest of the time, avoid disturbing them too much.
5) Provide enough cold water for hens exposed to heat
In summer, a hen can consume twice as much water (between 300 and 500 ml of water per day and per head). So remember to adapt the size of the water trough accordingly, even if it means also providing additional water points that you will place in the shade. The water supplied must absolutely be renewed frequently. This will allow keep it cool and to avoid unpleasant surprises linked to evaporation or germs. Checking the water levels here often can help ensure they don’t run out. To spoil them, also remember to add a few ice cubes to the water.
6) The cool water bottle trick for chickens: useful in case of hot weather
You can absolutely add a bottle of ice water to the drinker. This will keep the water cool. A few frozen bottles on the ground will also provide a cool point against which a hen can curl up to sleep in the cool.
What to feed your chickens during hot weather?
In summer, hens can rely less on worms and larvae to fill up on protein. One can then observe smaller eggs with a thinner shell. To overcome this problem, some give their hens pellets rich in protein and trace elements in addition to the usual grains. However, it is also possible to give them compost loaded with earthworms (they will give you chicken in exchange) or to use leftover bait if you are a fisherman.
You can also install traps for worms, insects and gastropods. In two places in the paddock (to be able to do rollovers), close to the fence, spread a layer of grass clippings or leaves, cover with tiles or stone slabs, water and wait a few days before lifting to uncover all the critters that will have nested below, attracted by the humidity. Your casseroles will only have to feast merrily!
Also, consider giving them crushed eggshells or oyster shells, rich in calcium for stronger eggshells. Also, regularly add portions of water-rich fresh fruits and vegetables in addition to their food: watermelon, melon, zucchini, cucumber, cherry tomato, etc. In addition to these delicacies, you can finally freeze corn in water to give them a little pleasure during a heat wave. The technique is below: