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10 Ways to Keep Your Chickens Cool and Healthy in Hot Weather

When the mercury climbs, your chickens have to endure the heat, too. And extreme temperatures can lead to a host of health issues. But you can take some easy steps to keep your flock cool and safe during hot weather. That is unless you’re willing to let them inside to enjoy the air conditioning with you.

Three chickens standing outside the door on the back deck.
“Excuse me, we heard you have central air and pancakes.”

Heat Safety for Your Flock

Like us, all chickens can be affected by extreme heat and suffer from heat stress. However, some breeds are more susceptible than others to high temperatures, so keep this in mind when choosing breeds.

If not provided the means to cool themselves down, chickens can become heat stressed, leading to fewer eggs, dehydration, and even death if not caught in time. Taking care of your birds’ needs during the hottest months of the year ensures happy and healthy chickens and a steady supply of eggs.

Nest box with three chicken eggs in it.

1. Make Sure Your Chickens Have Access to Shade

Ensure that your chickens have access to plenty of shade throughout the day. Whether in their run or out free-ranging, chickens need shade where they can retreat during the hottest part of the day.

We try to free-range our girls as much as possible during the summer, as it’s easier for them to find shade on their own under various trees and shrubs around the yard. That’s not always an option for every chicken keeper.

Chickens sitting on a downed tree limb in the woods.
Our “wild forest chickens” prefer to hang out in the woods, just beyond the lawn, on the hottest days.

Cover all or a portion of the roof of their run during the summer, even if it’s with something as simple as a tarp. Enclosing the area beneath the chicken coop and making it a part of the run is a great way to create a shady spot where your chickens can hang out.

2. Make Sure the Coop is Properly Ventilated

Adequate ventilation in chicken coops and shelters is crucial to good poultry health overall, and it’s especially important in the summer when trying to keep chickens cool. Ensure your coop has good airflow to help dissipate heat and maintain a more comfortable temperature for your birds.

A newly built chicken coop and run
We designed our coop with plenty of airflow through the vents at the top and with windows that can open.
We also chose to cover most of the run to cut down on mud and provide shade.

You can add vents at the top of the coop to improve airflow if needed. Be sure to cover any openings with hardware cloth to prevent predators from getting in.

If you live somewhere especially hot, consider using fans or opening coop windows for the summer (properly covered with hardware cloth).

3. Always Provide Fresh, Clean Water

Chicken drinking water from a terracotta pot fountain
While the pretty terracotta pot fountain I made wasn’t meant to be a chicken waterer, Olivia seems to think it was made just for her. It sure has come in handy this summer.

You should be providing this no matter what time of year it is, but water is even more important in the summer. You’ll need to check and change the water more frequently as your chickens will be drinking more and hot weather means things can grow faster in stagnant water. Yuck.

Toss in some ice to give your girls a cool, refreshing treat. They’ll certainly appreciate it.

4. Mist or Wet Down the Outside of the Coop

Spraying water on the roof of the chicken coop can help to bring down the temperature inside. Avoid spraying the run, as you’ll only create a muddy mess and deprive chickens of one of the ways they cool themselves – dust baths.

You also don’t want to spray or mist your chickens.

Chickens regulate their body heat by fluffing up their feathers to move air around their bodies. If they’re wet, they can’t do that. There’s a reason the saying is, “madder than a wet hen.”

5. Give Your Chickens a Wading Pool

While misting your chickens isn’t a good idea, giving them a shallow pool of water is. Chickens can stand in the water to cool their feet and sip water or dunk their heads to cool their combs. Provide a small container of water, only a couple of inches deep. You’ll want to change the water daily to avoid a mess and discourage mosquitoes from laying eggs.

6. Provide a Dust Bath

Three chickens in a dust bath made from a kiddie pool
Chicken “pool” party.

If you don’t already have one in the chicken run, set up a dust bath in a kiddie pool or other shallow container. Fill it with dry dirt, and then stand back. Your girls will love it. You can also add lime to the dust bath to help with parasites, such as mites, which can be especially problematic in the summer.

During hot weather, our chickens spend most of their day in a dust bath, whether it’s the one in the run or the ones they make under all our bushes and shrubs.

Related Reading: How To Easily Make A Chicken Dust Bath

7. Don’t Harass Your Flock

It’s hot out. You certainly wouldn’t want to be chased around the yard or carted around tucked under someone’s arm in this heat, nor do your chickens. Unless necessary for their health or safety, try to let your chickens be during hot weather.

8. Provide Cool and Frozen Treats

Give your chickens fruit and veggies with high water content to keep them hydrated. Freeze these treats first for some seriously happy chickens. Some of our girls’ favorites are watermelon, cucumber and blueberries.

Chicken eating frozen watermelon.

We buy a watermelon and slice it into rounds or quarters, then separate each layer with wax paper before placing the whole thing in the freezer. We take out a slice at a time of frozen watermelon to give to them.

Remember to introduce treats gradually and in moderation. Too many treats can upset the balance of their regular diet, which should primarily consist of a quality chicken feed.

9. Cold Scrambled Eggs

Plate of scrambled eggs

Egg laying and the heat can sap your hens of vital nutrients. Feed your chickens cold scrambled eggs. No, this won’t cause your hens to start pecking and eating the eggs they lay. Feeding them back the eggs they lay can help replace lost nutrients, which can take a toll during hot weather.

10. Avoid Cracked Corn and Scratch Grains

Don’t feed dry corn or scratch grains in the summer, as these treats cause the bird’s body to heat up while digesting them. Save these treats for cold weather when extra heat can help.

Chicken Health in Hot Weather

Keep an eye on your chickens for signs of heat exhaustion. During especially hot weather, it’s normal for your chickens to be less active and eat less. But some signs, such as heavy panting, wings drooping or stretched out with erect feathers, diarrhea, or a drop in egg production, can point to heat stress.  

If these behaviors are seen, you need to quickly cool your bird down. In extreme cases, you should contact your local avian vet.

Hot weather can also make pest and parasite problems worse.

Be sure you clean the coop and nest boxes regularly during hot periods to prevent infestations.

Chickens sitting in dust baths in a hedge
Our girls, hanging out among the black raspberry and wineberry canes at the edge of the yard.

By following these tips, you’ll help your chickens stay cool, comfortable and healthy during the dog days of summer.

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Tracey Besemer

Hey there, my name is Tracey. I’m the editor-in-chief here at Rural Sprout.

Many of our readers already know me from our popular Sunday newsletters. (You are signed up for our newsletters, right?) Each Sunday, I send a friendly missive from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania. It’s a bit like sitting on the front porch with a friend, discussing our gardens over a cup of tea.

Originally from upstate NY, I’m now an honorary Pennsylvanian, having lived here for the past 18 years.

I grew up spending weekends on my dad’s off-the-grid homestead, where I spent much of my childhood roaming the woods and getting my hands dirty.

I learned how to do things most little kids haven’t done in over a century.

Whether it was pressing apples in the fall for homemade cider, trudging through the early spring snows of upstate NY to tap trees for maple syrup, or canning everything that grew in the garden in the summer - there were always new adventures with each season.

As an adult, I continue to draw on the skills I learned as a kid. I love my Wi-Fi and knowing pizza is only a phone call away. And I’m okay with never revisiting the adventure that is using an outhouse in the middle of January.

These days, I tend to be almost a homesteader.

I take an eclectic approach to homesteading, utilizing modern convenience where I want and choosing the rustic ways of my childhood as they suit me.

I’m a firm believer in self-sufficiency, no matter where you live, and the power and pride that comes from doing something for yourself.

I’ve always had a garden, even when the only space available was the roof of my apartment building. I’ve been knitting since age seven, and I spin and dye my own wool as well. If you can ferment it, it’s probably in my pantry or on my kitchen counter. And I can’t go more than a few days without a trip into the woods looking for mushrooms, edible plants, or the sound of the wind in the trees.

You can follow my personal (crazy) homesteading adventures on Almost a Homesteader and Instagram as @aahomesteader.

Peace, love, and dirt under your nails,