Friday, July 9, 2010

Keeping Chickens Cool

Oy, the heat!  At least it seems to have cooled off a little bit, but I'm sure the heat will be back before the end of the summer.   The forum is a great place to get just about any question answered that you might have about chicken keeping. As a new chicken owner, I’ve been spending lots of time there lately. It was there that I learned that it’s totally normal for chickens to “pant” like dogs in the heat! Unfortunately, I also learned that quite a few people have lost chickens during the current heat wave.

The poor dears spend most of the day huddled in the shadiest spots of the run.

I tried to make a little air conditioned chamber in the coop. Old pieces of siding were used to cover the side of the coop that gets the most sun exposure and create more shade underneath.

I took ice packs normally used for the kids lunchboxes and buried them in wood shavings, and put a gallon jug of frozen water nearby. The chickens ran over, full of curiousity. They looked at it warily, pecked it, then ignored it and went back to their shady yard.

An old pizza plate and a lid for a storage bin were turned into a swimming pools. Only one of the birds has learned that you’re supposed to stand in it to cool off. The others just drink. One tip I got was to supplement their water with gatorade since they need their electrolytes replenished.

There are lots of reasons why it sucks to live near a noisy highway, but at least it helps create a breeze. Since they don’t get much breeze in the top of the coop, I set up a fan.

When they’re up on their roost dozing off, they get spritzed with the mist bottle. It alarmed them at first, but now they seem to be getting used to it.

My brave pet sitter has never cared for chickens before. He was here for an hour yesterday being trained in my novice chicken-keeping methods. I hope we didn’t scare him away.

If anyone has other tips for cooling these babies off, I’d love to hear them!

And guess what?

(My 10-year old son thinks this is hilarious. I have to admit it’s a good response when stumped for an answer to just about anything.)


Joanne said...

Oh those poor birds, I hope they do okay. They say the heat and humidity is supposed to return next week! Still, I think I'd take this heat over the nonstop rain of last July :/

Stacey said...

Chicken Butt is funny! I asked my daughter yesterday what color I should paint my toes in preparing to go visit my mother and her chickens (Last summer my toes were red and the girls loved pecking at what they thought were big juicy bugs). Emma replied "Red, mommy because last summer was hilarious!"

Cindy F. said...

My kids love that joke, it cracks them up till their stomachs hurt, and it cracks me up to watch them :-). We have our laying hens in a separate area from our 3 week old chicks destined for the freezer. The hens and rooster like to dig shallows in the dirt under the shade tree and flatten themselves into them. For the chicks, we put a box fan up against the fence and also shaded their run. They panted still, but no loses. But then, it was "only" high-90's heat index here all week.

TALON said...

lol!I'm going to use "chicken butt" every time I get frustated!

I wish I had suggestions for keeping the birds cool. I guess gathering them up and bringing them into the air conditioning is out of the question? (just joking)

I have to admit I'm super impressed with your ingenuity! The fan and the water misting - that's brilliant and I'm sure they truly appreciate it.

Who knew chicken butts could be so cute?

Pam J. said...

It all looks great! I wanted chickens so badly but then talked myself out of it --- too many hawks and foxes in my neighborhood, not to mention that raising chickens isn't legal in my county...for now. Do you think you could eat one of those cuties for dinner one night? I told myself that if I got chickens I had to be willing to eat them too.

Kelly Herrenkohl said...

So jealous that you have enough room for chickens. My brother in England has them too. Course, no 100 degree weather in England. Best of luck keeping them thriving!! Enjoy the omletts, too!

Kelly Herrenkohl said...

So jealous that you have enough room for chickens. My brother in England has them too. Course, no 100 degree weather in England. Best of luck keeping them thriving!! Enjoy the omlets, too!

Anna/Flowergardengirl said...

Hope your chickens are doing well today. I feel sorry for them but you seem to be the doting owner.

Wendy McDonagh-Valentine said...

We're always saying that "chicken butt" thing in our house!! You made me laugh out loud!! :) I can't believe how many people in our community have chickens now. I think it's great!!! :)

~ Wendy

patti said...

I just got back from my friend's farm (the one with the sheep and chickens) and will e-mail her and ask her what she does for heat relief.

I'm worried about them!!


patti said...

Missin' you, girl. Are the chickens okay??

Sara said...

I love informative posts that also make me laugh. Yours definitely fits this category.

I had no idea that chickens panted like dogs. I think this might have scared me if I ever raised chickens. I would have the chicken vet out before you say "boo."

Seriously, I enjoyed reading about how you're handling the chickens and the heat.

I thought it was interesting that one chicken figured out to stand in the baby pool. Maybe you keep that for breeding:~)

Fun and interesting post. Thanks:~)

Anonymous said...

i had chicken and turkeys and ducks last year and i want to buy more in the spring. i visited the site that you recommended in your post and i even tried to register there, but i failed. don't laugh about me, i need your help, please. there it is a question that you have to answer to "the old mcdnld had...." and i have no idea how to answer to this. i see that there are missing the vocals in that name, but it didn't work. what it is about? i am very interested about the help i could get reading that site and asking advices.
i will be waiting for your answer. thank you very much.


JGH said...

Hi Jenny - Not sure I understand your question, but if you're asking about "old McDonald Had a Farm," it's a nursery school song. I'm sure you could find the lyrics if you google it. Feel free to email me at and I'll try to help you.

Anonymous said...

thank you very much, you helped me a lot, that was the word: farm. i'm from romania and i am not an english speaker, that's why that song was not familiar to me. i registered on and i'm waiting for the spring now. i just wait to move to a new house where i can have my own garden and grow birds again. probably i'll be on your blog pretty often, for advices. it's gonna be my first garden!!!