Summer is a fun season of the year, filled with lots of outdoor time. It also means we will likely spend a lot of time trying to cool off! Just as we feel the effects of the hot weather, chickens are sensitive to the heat. Unlike us, they do not have sweat glands; when it gets hot, they can overheat. This makes them more sensitive to heat stress, a condition that occurs when a bird’s body temperature rises to fatal levels. Heat stress often results from a variety of environmental factors including humidity and air temperature as well as characteristics of the bird such as heat coping mechanisms.
Signs And Symptoms Of Heat Stress
When it gets too hot, there are a few signs and symptoms of heat stress to keep in mind. Here is what to be on the lookout for:
- Panting: Chickens will often pant with their beaks open in an attempt to dissipate the heat. You may also notice rapid breathing.
- Spreading of wings: When chickens overheat, they lift their wings to try to allow the heat to radiate from under their wings.
- Increase in thirst: Chickens will start to drink a lot of water and you may also notice that they are not as hungry as usual.
- Lethargy and slowness: After trying to fix the overheating, chickens will usually become lethargic because their bodies are trying to hold on to the little energy that they have left.
- Decrease in egg production: Laying hens are especially affected because one of the main parts of an egg is water. When chickens overheat, they become less hydrated and they may produce fewer eggs. Chickens that are heat-stressed also become calcium deficient, which means that their eggs may have abnormally thin, soft shells.
Other signs that might indicate heat-stress include decreased fertility, loss of body weight, and increased loss of electrolytes from excess urination. Some signs of heat stress are not as noticeable. These include the presence of stress hormones in the blood and decreased immunity, which can make chickens more susceptible to disease. Given how serious these symptoms can be, how can owners prevent heat stress in chickens?
How To Address the Effects of Heat Stress And Prevent It From Occurring
While you may not be able to make summertime temperatures cooler, there are different things you can do to prevent your chickens from getting overheated:
- Make sure that your coop has good airflow and ventilation. You can add fans to help increase airflow. You can also try painting the walls of your coop with lighter colors that reflect heat.
- Avoid feeding your chickens during the hotter times of the day. Instead, feed them in the evenings or early mornings when temperatures are cooler.
- Provide fresh water for your flock. Feel free to add some ice to the water so that it stays cool throughout the day. To make things a bit more fun, you can also give frozen ice cubes as treats. It’s a win-win and your chickens will stay more hydrated.
- Create different shady areas for your flock so that when your chickens get too hot, they have enough space to cool off.
Even if it’s not yet summer when you first read this article, it’s never too early to learn how to keep your chickens safe from the sun. Do you have interesting tips that you use to keep your chickens from getting too overheated? We would love to hear them!