7/17/13

Tips for caring for your hens in the heat.

Heatwaves are stressful times for chickens. The way chickens cool themselves, because they do not have sweat glands is to rely on their respiratory system, and panting. As chickens pant the water in their throat evaporates and lowers their body temperature. A normal body temperature for a chicken is about 105 degrees. I also sometimes freeze water in old water bottles and place in waterers to keep the water cool.

1 – Water and plenty of it. Hens will need access to cool, clean water all the time. This is true year round but is obviously critical to hens surviving the heat. I also put a little pool of shallow water in the coop to provide an opportunity for them to stand in it if they want.

2 – Chickens need space, especially in the heat. They need to get away from the body heat of other birds and need access to a well ventilated, shady spot.

3 – In my coop there is food available 24/7. In the summer heat chickens tend to eat in the cool of the morning, and not during the high heat of the day. Make sure there is plenty of food available in the cooler parts of the day. I also change the feed ratios to a higher protein ratio, because they are eating less this will help them maintain a proper nutritional balance. I go from layer feed at 17% protein to grower feed or gamebird feed at 20%.

4 – Check on your hens frequently throughout the day, if possible. If a bird begins to show signs of heat stress, take them out of the coop and place in a cool quiet spot. Eliminate as much stress as possible.

5 – Replace the deep litter with a shallow layer of bedding. Shavings with droppings in it can create heat.

6 - Consider adding electrolytes to the water if your hens seem particularly stressed, a sign to look for is pale combs, spreading their wings away from the body, limp, extraordinary panting. A great recipe for homemade electrolytes from Gail Demerow is :

HOMEMADE ELECTROLYTE SOLUTION
1/2 teaspoon salt substitute
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 gallon water

Do not administer this to healthy hens this is only if your birds seems in distress. During the rest of the year I add Apple Cider Vinegar to the water, do not do this during high heat times.

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