Can chickens die from heat – being overheated? – YES – and there are things you can do to help them be ok.
Even heat tolerant light Mediterranean breeds can have some difficulty during a heat wave, but especially large meat and dual purpose birds with small combs and wattles can get into serious trouble. When the temperature gets into the 80ties, chickens will start to spread their wings to try to cool off. They might start panting. Perspiration only happens through combs, feet and wattles. Chickens can have a heat stroke or heart attack. In an emergency: dunk your chicken into cool water to cool it off….If they start to look droopy, pale, panting …. they need to cool off.
Here are things you can do to help your chickens deal with the heat
.. .like the heatwaves that are happening everywhere:
Provide shade – make sure they have plenty of it. If you don’t have natural shade, use something like a tarp and spread it over the area they stay in.
ADD WATER EVERYWHERE – not just extra drinking water. Wet ground is cooler, so hosing down the run or hang-our area is cooling. Wading pools that form cool them off if they walk through them and you can try to hose down the coop roof – even though it gets hot again soon afterwards.
Water and more Water – Have lots of COOL water available – make sure it is placed in the shade, and at least 15 degrees F cooler than the chicken’s body temperature. You might have to change it once or twice a day, or add chuncks of ice to it to keep it cool. I give fresh cool water in the evening and then again at 1030 am, at which point the chunks of ice get added. Put the water where you know they hang out, they may not walk to it across the yard. Several water stations are helpful. Leaving a hose dripping does not work with all hoses – if it is too long and the water gets hot by the time it drips out, they will not drink it, and neither should they – just be aware. The same might be true for pipes exposed to heat…test the water that comes out of watering nipples for coolness unless you have it set up where it stays cool.
Misting lowers the temperature about 15-20 degrees F – I got one for the laying area next to the coop. It happens to be where my broody hen sits too. So far it works great. They don’t really like to get sprayed on, so it is up high – and it does do a good job.
Feeding: try soaked grains as they already contain more water so less need to drink. Even 24 hours soaking will do. I do kitchen scraps at around 7 am, they contain more water than grains, no corn at all during the day or heatwave to help decrease the internal heating production.
Switch to grower or starter feed in the summer as it contains more protein so they need to eat less. Add the oyster shell or egg shells for calcium. The main meal is in the evening. Chickens will also naturally eat less during the heat – and eventually egg production will go down.
Activity – Reducing heat production – Try to keep any stressful activities away. Chickens have a naturally high heart and respiratory rates and they lay an unnaturally amount of eggs – some one a day (nothing you do about that). Mine often pant while they are at it though – it is work. Any fighting, panic and running has them panting a LOT- this means stress to the cardio-respiratory system – and it increases body heat on top of that. Digesting food produces internal heat, especially corn, (which is why i use it in the winter time). No scaring them, doing stressful procedures or visitors, nothing that will make them run around or fight (the worst). I leave them alone from 11:30 am – 7 pm when they are usually ready to do some foraging and eating.
Good ventilation – and if you have electric in your coop, you can add a fan. Open windows/doors if that cools the coop.
Frozen water bottles – can be placed inside the coop to cool the area around them.
STAY COOL – and remember, other wildlife needs water too – in case yo have a water station somewhere for songbirds & other critters – 🙂