Heat waves and periods of high heat are more and more frequent and more and more severe.
Worse, they arrive earlier and later in the year and rage everywhere in France, with no region escaping drought and water restrictions.
During these times, you probably spent a lot of time in the shade, sweating profusely, staring desperately at the vegetables and fruits from your vegetable garden burning in the sun…
Like you, your chickens suffer from the heat.
Maybe even more than you because of their high body temperature…
This is why it is essential, even vital, to take a few precautions so that they experience a new heat wave as well as possible.
Are chickens sensitive to heat?
If you’ve ever hugged your chickens, you’ve probably realized how warm their bodies are.
This is quite normal since a hen has an average body temperature of 40 to 42°C.
A temperature that will go crescendo during the brooding period!
Thermoregulation in action
The other peculiarity of the hen lies in its absence of sweating.
A hen does not sweat so it must deploy other mechanisms to cool itself in case of high heat and thus resist (more or less) the heat wave.
This ability to regulate body heat is thermoregulation.
So, if your hens spread their wings and open their beaks, don’t be alarmed, they ventilate and thermoregulate!
As long as they remain active (without abuse anyway!), don’t worry. Even if the hens tolerate the cold better than the heat.
However, this thermoregulation increases the heart rate of the hens. And their little heart has its limits. Heat stroke in sight!
So an apathetic hen, beak wide open, must be taken care of urgently. Cool it with water or an atomizer and isolate it in a cool place.
You can even take out the fan!
(why not powered by a solar panel and automatically triggered based on temperature)
In summer, reduced activity in the chicken coop
If the heat encourages you to laze around, bask, or take a siesta, for the hens, it’s the same!
When it’s hot, a hen is less active. And, at the hottest hours of the day, she likes to take a nap in the shade.
Egg production may also decrease.
Similarly, the feeders are emptied more slowly because the hens eat less. But they drink a lot.
Feeding chickens during a heat wave
During a heat wave, the hens tend to disdain their usual food because they are less hungry.
However, you can compensate with foods full of water that allow them to hydrate.
Provide them with:
- Watermelon they peck with delight
- Ripe tomatoes, especially cherry tomatoes
- frozen fruit
You can also make their ice cubes by slipping mealworms into them. Deliciousness guaranteed!
Finally, if they don’t have access to a garden, collect fresh grass for them (dandelion, plantain, clover, couch grass, etc.).
This advice is valid throughout the year.
Freshwater, essential for chickens in summer
To fight the heat, chickens need water. Lots of water!
Increase the number of drinkers and renew the water at least twice a day because, with the heat, bacteria, germs and other parasites multiply more quickly.
To refresh this water, this year I tested small frozen bottles. Perfect for keeping water cold longer in bowls.
Needless to say, drinkers should be placed in the shade.
A shaded enclosure for happy hens
If your hens have access to a large area, they will be able to identify the cooler areas where they will spend part of their day.
On the other hand, for those who keep their hens in a pen, the shade and the contribution of freshness are essential.
Some tips and ideas tested this summer:
- The anti-UV cover installed on the roof: is very effective
- The plantations of cherry tomato plants all along the enclosure: are very effective in shading the hens, some plants reaching more than one meter. I also planted rosemary plants that the hens do not peck.
- Sowing sunflowers and maize behind the enclosure: is moderately effective because these vegetable plants do not have a lot of foliage. On the other hand, my hens will feast on the seeds
- The old parasol planted in the enclosure: is good but the shade cast is not large enough
- The laying of a plant cover made up of grass cut in the undergrowth and nettles: is very effective
- Sprinkling the soil with a jet of water early in the morning: is perfect because the soil remains moist. On the other hand, never water the hens which do not like it at all. And be sure to clean the soil well to avoid the proliferation of germs
How to ventilate the chicken coop?
Like the pen, the chicken coop must be shaded in the heat.
To reinforce the insulation and limit the effects of the sun’s rays, it is always possible to install branches or fern leaves on the roof. The boxes are also quite effective.
Some advice to hose down the roof of the chicken coop. Why not if the roof is perfectly hermetic?
But beware! For wooden poultry houses, a supply of humidity can only attract red lice.
The main thing lies above all in the ventilation of the chicken coop at night.
To lower the temperature, your chicken coop must have two air inlets that you will make perfectly hermetic with very tight mesh screens.
You can also replace the door with a wood frame and mesh system.