Backyard Pet Chickens: 5 Tips for Beating the Heat

You can tell your backyard pet chickens are too hot when they hold their wings away from their bodies to help release heat; they may also pant with their beaks open to try to cool themselves off. But what can you do other than choose heat hardy breeds...  or move north?

After all, while you may be willing to bring your dog or cat inside to huddle in the air conditioning with you,  most people are not interested in having their flock of backyard pet chickens in the house. I love chickens, mind you, but I don't want them roosting on my sofa, or flying up to the kitchen table to see what I'm doing! Having one chicken inside temporarily to recover from an injury is not akin to having a whole flock of backyard pet chickens in your house for the air conditioning. Plus, frankly, the chickens won't be too happy about going from foraging the lovely yard for bugs and greens, to foraging your carpet for lint and fuzz!

Here are our five best tips for helping your flock of backyard pet chickens beat the heat:

1. Make sure your chickens have plenty of  fresh water. Hens especially need to stay hydrated--it takes a lot of moisture to produce eggs, and they can easily get dehydrated on hot days, even if they're just without water for a few hours. Even being out of water briefly means they could be off laying for several days if not longer. If they're without water for a longer period in a heat wave like this, they could die from heat stress.

2. Make sure your chickens have access to shade in their run, especially during the hottest part of the day. Some runs have plenty of shade in the morning and evening when the sun is low, but little or none when the sun is high overhead in the middle of the day. If your run doesn't have adequate shade for your backyard pet chickens, consider rigging a tarp or setting up a gazebo tent to make sure they have somewhere to escape the beating sun!

3. Make sure your coop doesn't get too hot. Some coops heat up during the day like the inside of a car, so check to make sure ventilation is adequate. In very hot areas, it's common to have a three-sided coop, with the fourth wall made of secure welded wire like 1/2" hardware cloth. Some coops in extremely hot areas may have welded wire floors, as well. While being kept permanently on wire can cause foot problems for chickens, if they have a run and access to the ground during the day, it won't be a problem for your chickens the way it is in some factory farm situations where the chickens must stand hunched on wire 24/7. Your backyard pet chickens will roost at night off the wire, and during the day will spend time on the ground. However, this system won't work well if you also have cold, icy winters!

3. Keep your chickens' water cool with ice. Of course, you can simply put ice cubes directly into their waterers, but remember, the larger the block of ice, the longer it will take to melt, so using blocks of ice is usually a better idea than small cubes. Make sure ahead of time that what you are using will fit into your waterer, though. You can buy cold packs and use those, or you can "make your own" by freezing water in plastic bottles. Place your commercial or DIY cold pack  in your backyard pet chickens ' waterer.  You can also simply freeze blocks of ice in clean cartons (such as a small paper milk carton), peel away the carton for a black of ice to add to their waterer. Be creative!

4. Offer frozen or refrigerated foods to your backyard pet chickens as a treat in the heat. Chickens especially love refrigerated watermelon---and it's so high in moisture that it also helps keep them hydrated. Frozen grapes or berries are also good choices, as is frozen corn. Be sure to offer any treats in moderation, as always---and also try to to offer the treats in the shade. Don't make your chickens come out from the shade in order to get something that will cool them off!

5. Use a mister... or avoid using one! In some circumstances, a mister works well. In others... not so much. If you live in a dry area such as the desert southwest, a pet mister can really help keep your flock cool. By contrast, if it's very humid in your area, a mister can cause problems. Misters work by cooling the air as the water quickly evaporates, but if it's very humid in your area, the mist will not evaporate, but will simply create a muddy mess and increase overall mugginess. Mud and moisture also serve as a breeding ground for insects and bacteria, and in some cases, invite the growth molds and mildews. If your area is too humid for a mister, consider getting a small kiddie pool and filling it with an inch or so of ice-cooled water during the heat of the day. Most chickens will enjoy chilling their feet in the cool water, and you can dump out the water at the end of the day (reuse it in your garden or for your landscaping) to keep it fresh.

What are your tips for keeping your flock of backyard pet chickens cool in the heat?

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George Castonguay
9 years ago

My feathered friends and I share a fan. They get it during the heat of the day and I get it when I go to bed.

9 years ago

We live in the west here temps have been 118F. My coop has an air ondtioner in addition to doing and providing the above mentioned for them. I love my girls!

9 years ago

We put the hose on in the chicken yard and let them splash in the puddles.

carol mazur
9 years ago

I got this idea from Backyard chickens. I've been freezing empty 2 litre soda bottles and some people use milk jugs and putting them in the coop. it seems they like to scratch around and sit around them.

9 years ago

Pretty good advice except for the ice.

Birds have been around for a long time and were desibned for all weather. Give them What they should expect: water, shade, and such, and the healthy ones will be fine

9 years ago
Reply to  Kent

Humans have also been around a long time, and yet drinking refrigerated or ice water can help us keep from getting overheated and suffering from something like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Those conditions are dangerous to humans--even otherwise healthy humans, just as heat illnesses are dangerous even to otherwise healthy chickens.

9 years ago

Watering down the grass with the hose during the heat of the day seems to help. The Chickens seem to like it! 🙂

9 years ago

My barred rock hen is obviosly stressed from the heat today; she's breathing through her mouth and keeping her wings apart from her body. Oddly, she spent half the in the nesting box, which must be hotter than the nice cold ground in her run. She has plenty of fresh water and shade but she's clearly stressed from the heat. Any suggestions on how I can get her to abandon the nesting box during this heat wave?

9 years ago
Reply to  Susan

It's difficult to break a "stubborn" broody. In this instance, you might try putting a refrigerated or frozen water bottle in the nest to help break her of broodiness when it's not good for her to be in the nest in the extreme heat. That would also have the effect of helping to keep her cool.

Auntie Lynn
9 years ago

I found wire mesh baskets at the dollar store. I put blocks of ice in them and hang them in the chicken tractors. The chickens like to drink the melting water as it drips and to rub their combs back and forth on the bottoms of the baskets. I also drape shade cloth over the tractors so that there is shade several feet from the pens in every direction.

9 years ago

I also place a nice oscillating fan in their large hen house in the summer to keep the heat down. My girls get a lot of cold/frozen treats (they are spoiled fatties) always cool water and tons of shade in the yard where they roam freely (but well fenced). It gets ultra hot here (well over 100 degrees many summer days) and my girls do great. Doesn't even effect their laying.

Linda Lovett
9 years ago

I have an 18" fan in the coop and hang frozen bottles of water in front of it, and they have plenty of fresh water. I also have a mister set up in the shade for them and they didn't know what to do the first day but they obviously love it as they gather around the tree now and sit in the mist. Egg production has been off during this heat wave. They love ice cold watermelon, corn on the cob and canteloupe. Please explain why these treats need to be limited? I assumed it was all good for them supplemental to their corn feed and laying pellets. I have friends that save old bread, corn bread, muffins, etc. for them and they love those too. Thank you.

9 years ago

I am in Texas where triple digit heat can be for days or weeks on end. I also float ice blocks in my chickens water plus use electrolytes if they seem stressed. The frozen fruit works great in moderation. I like using a fan to cool the mist from the pet mister. ( water safely away from electric of course) also a soaker hose spraying up in the runs work well too. I will try the kiddie pool too, thanks

9 years ago

I freeze water in emptied 1 gallon plastic juice bottles and put them under the coops or in the shade where the chickens go for shade. They settle down around the bottles, and any breeze is cooled by the iced bottle. I also hose down their run where the evaporating water cools the breeze going under the coops. We live in the Sierra foothills where it's been dry & hot. I've only lost 1 chicken to the heat.

I also had a hen that insisted on going broody. I couldn't get her to stay out of the nest, and found her breast hot & wet when I picked her up to move her. So I ended up filling 3 ziplock bags with ice and placing them under the straw around her body. That kept her alive.

9 years ago

I can't tell you how jealous I am of your West Virginia property! I live in Florida suberbs with a slightly larger than average yard, but after the hens are done with it, it's basically a dirt pile.

Any way, living Florida means 98* in the morning, 100* day, and 89* at night, and with all the humidity, misting isn't and option. Ice in the water works wonders, and they love the shade of our wild plumb tree. A few of them even learned to "sun bathe" in the shade. They scratch the dirt until they get to the cool stuff under the surface and lay down there.

9 years ago
Reply to  Devyn

Well... West Virginians really don't want people to know this so people won't come rushing to fill our mountains and hollows, but I'll let you in on a secret: real estate here is pretty inexpensive. Especially if you're looking for a rural location, you might even find a place, like mine, with free natural gas. Sssh, don't tell anyone, but the whole "hillbilly" myth works to our advantage in keeping people away! 😉 On the other hand, we're many hours from any seaside, which certainly isn't the case anywhere in Florida. Don't think I'm not jealous of a how Floridians are so close to the beach, no matter where they are! I haven't been to the seaside for almost 10 years.

In a yard where you need help preserving the grass, you might consider a rotating pasture sort of set up, or a chicken tractor (mobile coop). That allows you more control over where your birds forage, so parts of the yard can recover while the birds use another part. Basically, it gives you the ability to spread out the "traffic" a little. I wonder if some grasses aren't more resilient than others for keeping chickens? Perhaps zoysiagrass might bear up a little better.

Kristen E. Martin
9 years ago

I don't guess I'll be misting my coop down here in 100% humid Alabama, but the large chunks of ice sound good, except the idea I have won't fit in my 1-gallon waterer...will it? It's an almond milk container filled w/water and frozen.

9 years ago

It will depend on the dimensions and shape of your waterer, compared to the dimensions and shape of what you want to fit inside. If the almond milk container you're thinking of doesn't fit, you can try a smaller size, such as a pint or half-pint.

8 years ago

I live in Las Vegas where our summers reach over *104 all the time. I have to put a cooler on them! Spoiled rotten chickens 🙂

Mary Jackson
5 years ago

4 sides rabbit wire, upper roost with 2 sides rabbit wire.

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