How to keep chickens cool
Have you noticed that your chickens aren’t laying very well at the moment? Chickens don’t like the heat, so it is common for them to stop laying over the hottest months of summer.
Anything above 29 degrees counts as hot for a chicken, and heat wave temperatures in the high 30's pose serious threats.
Symptoms of heat stress in chickens
- Decreased laying
- Smaller eggs
- Thin-shelled eggs
- Slower growth
- Poor nutrient absorption and malnutrition
- Suppressed immune response
- Increased risk of parasites and disease
- Delayed recovery from illness
- Decreased appetite
- Increased mortality
So what can you do to help your chickens weather the heat? Here are 6 scientifically-based suggestions to help your chooks tolerate heat stress.
1. Increase water intake
The most effective way to combat heat stress is to keep your chickens cool. And one part of this is ensuring they are well-hydrated. Water intake should be increased in hot weather.
You can encourage increased water intake by:
- Keeping a drinker in the shady spot where your birds pass the heat of the day
- Providing cool water – keep your drinkers cool with ice bricks or frozen bottles of water
- Replacing dry feed with wet feed (such as mash with water – wet feed only keeps for a day though, so calculate amounts carefully) on the hottest days
- Giving your birds hydrating treats like iceberg lettuce, watermelon, cucumber and any other veggies or fruit with a high water content
- Rehydrating your mealworms
2. Create shade
Chickens will need multiple shady areas to keep out of the sun. This includes a well-ventilated chicken coop and shade from plants or other structures. It is important to have more than one nice shady spot in the coop, in case more dominant chooks prevent others from being in the shade. Trees, grass and plants all help keep the chicken coop cool in summer.
3. Feed your chickens fennel seed
Add some fennel seed to your chicken feed during hot weather. Or see if your chooks will eat the seeds off fennel seed heads from the garden. Of all the unexpected dietary supplements, 10 to 20 grams of fennel seed per kilo of feed can help reduce the effects of heat stress in laying hens.
4. Probiotics for chickens
Probiotic supplementation is another scientifically-proven way to improve the performance and health of your chickens during hot weather.
The use of probiotics such as 2Pak Probiotic will also help to reduce poultry stress in the hot months.
5. Use a vitamin and mineral supplement
Studies have linked a range of vitamin and mineral supplements to improved resistance to heat stress.
If you are going to use just one supplement, vitamin C (ascorbic acid) probably gives the most bang for buck. A vitamin and mineral supplement like Mega Mineral will cover Zinc, Vitamin A and Vitamin E in one easy dose.
6 Add yeast to the diet
Interestingly, yeast and yeast protein concentrate have both been found to improve responses to heat stress. Although the yeast protein concentrate is more effective, something like baker’s or brewer’s yeast is easier to source and use on a home scale.
Do you have another trick to beat the heat? We’d love to hear about it!