ways to keep chickens cool in hot weather

Hot Chickens – How To Keep Them Cool

Just like us, chickens get hot too! Summer heat. When it’s hot outside your chickens feel it too.

What do chickens do when they’re hot? And what can you do about it? Well, I can tell you what they do, just based on watching my own flock. Here are a few of my observations…

Chickens Pant When it’s Hot

One thing they do — their beaks are open. You can see the heavy breathing. Sort of panting, like a dog. When it’s hot, chickens pant to help get rid of heat!

Did you know that chickens have a natural body temperature of 107° (F)? They put off a lot of heat and moisture. 

“Unlike humans, chickens don’t sweat, but like humans they depend on evaporation to stay cool – by panting.

As they pant, moisture within the chickens’ lungs evaporates and is moved out of their bodies. This is also why it’s harder for them, like us, to stay cool when it’s humid.”

~ mcmurrayhatchery

Give Them Plenty Of Cool Water

When you see chickens panting, be aware of how the heat is affecting them. Be sure they have enough water. Cool water is better for them when it’s hot. Don’t leave their water in direct sun because it will heat up too much.

Your chickens will drink more water when the water is cool, and the cooler water will be more effective at helping them stay cool.

I keep the main waterer inside their pen area, which is covered and shielded from direct sun. When they are out in the chicken yard, they’ll just go in the pen when they’re thirsty.

Shade Trees and Bushes

Another observation. Especially when it’s hot outside, my chickens love to hang out underneath a particular shady bush. Which itself is underneath a Maple tree. They’ve got a bit of a hole dug out somewhere under there too, where they can lay down in the cool dirt (take a dirt bath).

Speaking of dirt baths, this one is their favorite dirt hole. I wish I had a picture of one of them rolling around in the dirt. It’s hilarious.

Bushes and tall grasses (and tall weeds!) provide shade protection for chickens. Plus, they provide an extent of security from flying predators above.

No one ever said that chickens are very smart. Even when it’s hot, I see them out in their yard scratching for bugs, chasing grasshoppers, all the while panting in the heat.

However the best thing is to simply be sure they have some shade, and cool water. The rest is up to them :=)

So, in the following picture, you can see more of the beneficial things to help keep chickens cool when it’s hot outside.

The coop is built under a shady Maple tree.

The coop has good ventilation on each side at the top. Screened openings. It’s hard to see in the picture because I’ve mounted a “wind break” in front of the vents, which protrudes out about 6 inches. (spoiled chickens)

Their enclosed pen area (the run) is shaded most of the day. Also, they have space underneath their coop which is even more shaded and protected. They do hang out in there often enough…

And I couldn’t resist adding the following picture of a Dachshund chasing a chicken. Sampson, the chicken herder.

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33 Comments

  1. i have been keeping chickens for a looong time now. as long as they have access to plenty of water and shade they will be fine. they are a lot tougher than you think.

  2. Ken:
    Your in New Hampshire I believe, it gets to what 80 degrees there???
    HOT ya want to talk HOT come on down here to NM more specifically Lighting Point, was 105+ for a few days, down to the mid 90s.
    Poor Ole Blue was inside in the AC..
    LOLOLOL
    Talk about spoiled…

    Like the layout of the Coop. I see ya have a lot of little friends ontop the fences, keeping the critters out are ya????

    1. NRP,
      We had 112f here several days last week. Hear tell the neighbor chickens were laying scrambled eggs. All the critters took refuge in the shade of the shelter belt. Last few days we have actually had some rain, hoping it is the beginning of a decent July “monsoon” season in the Rockies. Could be another bad fire year.

  3. Thanks for sharing these pictures, Ken. What a nicely designed henhouse. When we moved to Western Colorado I had to give up my chickens. Miss them, but lots of locals here sell eggs. One beautiful Amercauna(?) hen I had died from the heat. I still feel bad about it. Not enough available shade in the coop…after that I let them out into the yard more often so they could find shade and bugs. And our poodle was a herder like your dog! Good memories.

  4. A few frozen 2 liter bottles of water scattered in the pen area on the extreme heat days give the chickens a cooler place to rest next to them. While I have seen some snuggling the cold, not all do and I am not sure it was necessary. I read that once, and had 2 liter bottles taking up empty freezer space, so I tried it.

    1. one can also place containers of ice in the hanging water-rs..or use a stainless steel pan and place blocks of ice/ 2 -3 liter cola bottles frozen into them…it is important to have them several low water containers. they will also wade in them.
      . If you have low bushes, can mist those bushes, or vines with water hose…,It will be 10-15 degrees cooler under those areas…Chickens don’t prefer to get wet- but the heat relief is substantial..

  5. well, i don’t have to worry about chickens for a while.
    last night something (a coon?) broke into my yard and killed everyone of them, 22 of them, i’m sick about it. and i had enough wire on it to set up another fort knox.
    it won’t be cheap, but i’m going to get some metal screen wire for windows in 4x 100 ft rolls and wrap that SOB up. there won’t even be a a fly get in when i get finished with it.

    1. NYScout
      Sorry to hear of the carnage. Similar thing ended my chicken raising efforts years ago. Do a bit of investigative work, look for hair in places where the critter came in. My vote would be for a fox. They tend to kill everything for the joy of it. It may come back to pick up carcasses tonight, so be ready for revenge time with traps or perhaps a firearm.

    2. Nyscout,,,, not a coon ,leave things alone for a day or two put a low pan of antifreeze in the pen amoung the dead birds ,works every time

      1. Just make sure your own critters can’t get into it. This is a very effective, but somewhat indiscriminate way of nailing the perpetrator. It also tends to rid the area of mice and rats for awhile too.

        1. Minerjim,
          like you said, stuff like that is indiscriminate, like traps. a person has to be very careful with it.
          a shotgun works best, but it requires 24/7 surveillance.
          i’m going to bait and put a havahart trap in the chicken yard tonight and see what happens.

          1. NY Scout,
            I like snares made of piano wire. Find the spot where the critter got in, set up 4-5 snares of real fine piano wire. Always worked for me. Baited trap will be hard to catch anything, if those dead chickens are around. Only time baited traps work is when food is kinda scarce, IMHO. Maybe you should just get your 12 GA with some #4buck and sit out in a lawn chair all night.

          2. Minerjim,
            a full choke 20 Ga. with 6 or 8 shot has always worked well for me.
            i just have to stay awake long enough : )
            bed time is about 9pm around here.
            if those havahart traps work they will still be here in the morning. and it will not end well for them.

      2. 0ldhomesteader,
        have you ever tried the Blue Marlin fly bait? mix it half and half with raw eggs. and wear gloves!
        the critters don’t go far- feet- before they die. but be aware that anything that eats the dead will be dead in a short time as well. dogs, cats, anything. it works very well, but you have to be very careful of where you place it.
        it will kill cattle and horses in short order

        1. nyscout
          Fly bait and Coke.

          A few years ago, we had a huge coin getting into the barn. Killed two kittens and slaughtered the barn chickens.
          It was too fat to make it into the live trap. It would trip it just trying to get in.
          Fly bait and Coke was set in the feed stall. A nice helping for him. He drank it dry, laying dead not but inches from the dish.
          A big bugger.
          Cat’s won’t touch it,
          supposedly. But be cautious.

    3. nyscout,

      I once lost 19 in one night…each had a small wound on their neck…no other signs of trauma…old timer neighbor rightly blamed skunks….said they would lock onto the neck, bite it, then lick the blood until they bled out, then move to another bird.

      Following night, I set up on the chicken house with a 12 ga…sure ’nuff, about 10:30 remainder of the flock started squawkin’…spotlighted the chicken run…big skunk had one down…he died a horrible death…close range #8 shot…

      Reinforced pen next day…have not lost any since to nocturnal predators…

  6. Response to nyscout: Years ago I sent a response to Dennis about what was killing his chickens as a former semi-commercial trapper working with the county.
    First hint: Look at the wound pattern on the chickens. If the carcass is still there butt the carcass died of bleeding out – odds are it was a weasel or member of the weasel family that killed your birds. They are obligate carnivores and smaller members can squeeze through very small openings. Weasels are why I told folks to surround the bottom portion of your chicken coops/runs with hardware cloth rather than chicken wire. When the weasel climbs over the hardware cloth, it gives me something to shoot at. small raccoons and foxes tend to kill and eat in place whereas larger predators will try to carry it off.

    1. Calirefugee,
      In your experience will weasels kill a whole flock at one time like he reported? Just trying to take advantage of your knowledge. My experience says fox or maybe a dog, as we did not have weasels in that location.( I did set up snares after the fact, and caught a female fox). Knowing what is doing the killing is the first step in stopping it.

  7. Reply to Minerjim: Yes, members of the weasel family may kill multiples in one night by biting the neck and lapping up the blood then going on to the next candidate within an enclosed pen. Skunks are members of the weasel family. Obligate meat eaters will drink blood the way some folks really like gravy.
    The problem could also be rats but the hallmark of a weasel of some type is the sheer numbers of bodies that have been bled-out while leaving the chicken feed and water untouched.
    I refer to Dennis’s story because most new chicken owners up here have been mystified by the same morning-after findings as in California. Trapping skunks was the least popular job among trappers in Cali. Many of my uncles were farmers and trapping and removing skunks from rural homes became my side-gig while living down there. My formulation for skunk removal concoction has also been passed on in this site years ago. ( lemon scented dish soap, H2O2, gallon of water, scrub brushes, clothes line. Yes, I have been kicked out of public laundry-mats in years past.)

    1. Calirefugee, Minerjim, nyscout,

      I highly recommend “Duke Heavy Duty Live Traps” for everything from coon down to skunks…mainly for the way you release the animal after relocating…or too dispatch it after it clears the trap…you simply turn the trap over, the trap door opens allowing escape.

      For skunks, I have a collapsible fiberglass fishing pole that I tied a hook to the end. It’s 12′ long…I flip the trap from a distance, then shoot the critter on the run…a long ways from the house. To move a trap with a skunk in it…I approach it holding a piece of poly sheeting as a shield, and draping it over the trap. I’ve also shot the skunks while inside the trap from a safe distance using #9 shot (hard to find) in a .410…the small pellets don’t hurt the trap, but at distances from around 10-12 feet, it kills the skunk instantly…seldom do they spray (get ’em out quick though…they will leak pretty soon after dying.

  8. Predator control concept:
    Among some lower income, ethnic neighborhoods, cock fighting was a big economic activity in rural areas. ( mostly rural because it is/was illegal in many areas ). To folks like nyscout that recently lost all of their flock, what if you provided a home for a recently retired fighter that came with the blades that attach to the spurs of the birds? Most such birds have their own handler because us untrained folks would get seriously cut trying to grab onto the live birds. Such a bird placed in a recently vacated pen may fix the predator problem. Anybody out there try this yet?
    These folks never call animal control or the county and the few that I knew, would laugh about a skunk trying to take-down one of their contenders. That or you could sit on the back porch with a shotgun reading the paper and listening for the birds to make a fuss.

  9. Never mind, a little research told me cock fighting is illegal in all 50 states so you gotta know people in low places.
    True story of a tomcat that never returned home: It tried to attack a hawk that was hopping around a lawn at a wildlife rehab center ( flew into a fence, broke it’s wing, recovering at a facility ) The hawk defended itself with talons that were intact and big. Big cat bled out within the yard. A week later, missing cat posters all around the neighborhood. 3-S rule in place. If you use a shotgun, have the shovel or backhoe ready to use.

  10. Reply to Dennis: Thanks for the hint on not getting sprayed by skunks. I never had trouble unless the client did not let me shoot the critter or it was after the 3rd or 4th skunk in the bed of my truck. In those cases where people would not let me dispatch the animal and insisted on relocation, I charged a hefty fee for my services. ( gas, labor, laundry detergent versus 30 cents for 1 shotshell ). Time to drop your Disney-esque view of the natural world people. you now live in the country.
    At this time of year, many people could tell what my side-gig was if they were downwind of my truck. Sometimes, you just cannot scrub enough. Yes, in SoCal, I was THAT busy with calls.

  11. To nyscout: Were you able to do post-mortems on the chicken carcasses or were they pulled from the pen? Finding a bunch of exsanguinated chicken carcasses within your run/pen can be spooky. (make you feel like you live in a horror movie )

  12. First, I am not a chicken expert and I don’t play one on TV. I’m not sure about chickens tolerances. But, what about hanging a mister under a tree where it is turned on during the hottest part of the day. Nothing fancy, just a single nozzle. The chickens can go under it and get a light spray which might cool them off some. Plus, the tree would happily soak up the remaining water on the ground. I’m not talking about having the mister on all day and potentially making a mud pit. Or have it on a timer where it runs for a bit every hour or two. That might help keep the chickies cool some.
    Again, I’m not an expert on chickens and don’t know about their tolerances to water.

    I did it on the farm for many years and the cows sure loved the water misters.

  13. Update: It’s been pretty hot and humid here the past few days. As expected, my hens were panting all day long yesterday – quite hot outside, right around 90 and a dewpoint of 70. Well, I have a “chicken cam” inside the coop. Helps to let us know when they’re done with their egg-laying, and, to see if they’ve all gotten in for the night.
    ——-
    Anyway, I checked the recording from last night / early morning, and they were panting in there all night with their wings partially open. Today / tonight forecast for even hotter. So, I got a little clever…
    ——-
    Took Mrs.J clamp-on fan from her treadmill and temporarily clipped it into place inside the coop for tonight:

      1. Beach’n:
        Thinking that’s Ken’s remote bedroom when Mrs. J gets “upset” at him LOLOL

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