The dog days of summer are here, and have been, down in NC. I’ve never raised chicks in the summer before, just spring and fall. I haven’t found any problems with it either, just that’s it’s slightly more difficult. Not in a bad way, now I get to spend more time with them!
Raising chicks in the summer?
It’s manageable, I just have to be out there more with them on the warmer days to make sure they’re all right, which isn’t a bad thing. They need clean, cool water (not cold as they can go into shock), preferably a fan, and a lot of TLC! I check them for signs of panting, holding out their wings, or distress calls. I haven’t had any of that yet, as I am constantly out there.
In their water
Older hens and chicks alike all need clean, cool water to help them beat the heat. A hen will typically drink twice as much water as she eats food in order to stay hydrated. A chick is different obviously as they are constantly eating, but I’ve noticed even they will drink more water. For hens and chicks, I give them Apple Cider Vinegar, which I’ve found they gravitate to more than anything. Apple Cider Vinegar is full of vitamins and great for the immune system, and it’s their favorite! For chicks I’ll also offer Save-A-Chick probiotics and electrolytes in another waterer for an immune system boost and to help them with the heat. Electrolytes are almost like chicken gatorade, and the probiotics help their immune systems build good bacteria. For hens, I only offer electrolytes in their water. I find that with their age they don’t need the probiotics like chicks do. (I also give them yogurt once in a while, which has probiotics in it. A little does the job, otherwise they’ll get diarrhea.)
Yes! Fans are good to hang in your chicken coops, or even for your chicks! In our old coop, a fan was above the ramp that led inside the house, blowing high above the nesting boxes. the intention wasn’t for them to feel it, but rather to create air-flow. I wouldn’t want to lay my eggs in a stuffy coop if I were a chicken! For my chicks, I have a fan hung on the wall that i’ll run on low on really warm days, but normally I have a large box fan on the floor running on low. It’s spaced pretty far from them so it’s not drafty, but I have a feeling they really like their fan! Recently it’s been pretty rainy here, so that means cooler weather, so the fan hasn’t been put to work for a while. I guess that is the only good thing about rain!
What you can do to help your chickens
I’m sure when it’s hot you’re all like me and want nothing more than to bring your chickens inside when you see them panting, but there are things you can do to help your chickens cool off, rather it be plants in your run or water, everything counts!
My run is located under trees for shade and predator protection. The shade also brings cooler temperatures, so putting your run in the shade is always wise, unless you live more north, then putting it in the sun would be the better route for the winter. Even if shade simply isn’t an option in your yard, why not make some shade? Of course, planting trees is a good idea, but it takes years for them to grow, so shade won’t come for a while. I planted a butterfly bush in my run in the sunny corner for some shade in the afternoons, and it also attracts bugs for them to eat. It’s non-toxic, and chickens generally don’t eat them. Rose bushes, hawthorn, juniper, bamboo (non-invasive), and dogwood. These bushes also serve as great landscape tools, so if your interested on that, a future blog is on the way! another tip is to hang a shade cloth or shade providing screen in a part of your run, or even the whole thing if you want to go all out. It’ll give your chickens a nice place to chill out of the sun and stay cool.
Giving your chickens ice cubes is also another great idea. You can freeze herbs and treats inside the cube as well for an extra bonus. Hanging them on strings, or putting them in a bowl all work just as well, and your chickens will love them! I recommend using mint for the go-to ice cube herb as it has natural cooling properties, which will be great for your hens, but whatever you prefer works just fine.
This next tip is something I’ve picked up and never thought it would really do much, but it does! Spray down the floor of your run with water, not soaking like it just rained, but enough to get it damp/almost wet. When your hens walk on it, the water will help to cool them off. It’s sort of like when we pour water on our feet or wrists to cool of. it seems that once I’m done spraying, they all run over to the wet spots and start scratching around. It’s almost like they prefer it wet! Also, filling a pan with water is another great idea. I’ve had a chicken who would walk in the pan when she was hot, stand there for a while, then get out and go back to happily scratching. The others weren’t so keen on getting wet, so I would pick them up and place them in the water. Sure they struggle, but keeping your chickens cool is important, even if they don’t quite realize.
Consider making a couple nesting boxes in your run under a bush or in a secluded space. In the summer, your coop can get really hot, often a lot warmer than it is outside! If you’re unable to hang a fan in your coop, putting some boxes outside will make it much more relaxing when your hens go to lay. They’ll enjoy a nice breeze and cooler air outside rather than being inside the coop! of course, giving them the option to go in the coop is a good idea as they might not take to the new outdoor boxes right away, but they should get the hang of it quickly!
Fluffing is another way your chickens cool of. Not only does it clean their feathers, but the cool dirt helps them to cool off. Another reason I recommend spraying down your run to make the dirt cooler for your chickens! Trust me, they’ll love you for that one.
Summer time is defiantly harder on your chickens than winter, so taking the proper precautions is a MUST. Heat exhaustion is fairly common in chickens in the summer, and if you don’t catch it right away, it can be fatal. Heat stress also causes illness, and being sure that you’re on top of everything is a good idea. Giving them cool water with electrolytes or other supplements, water pans and my other tips really can be lifesavers! Even if it doesn’t usually get to hot where you live, why not give one of these tips a whirl? I’m sure your chickens won’t pass an opportunity to get some new treats! So, what are you waiting for? Grab some shoes and head out there!
Until next time!
Dancing With Chickens