Ralph, our 15 week old Black Australorp, was already panting away at 7:30 a.m. We were in the middle of a Mid-Atlantic Maryland heatwave, and temperatures were going to soar above 95°F. As a new backyard chicken owner, I was struck with panic. How was I going to keep my winter-hardy girls cool and safe?
I was scrambling for ways to keep them comfortable. Here are some common sense and creative ways I was able to help them cope with the heat.
- Cool water, and lots of it. This was my first line of defense, and probably the easiest to do. I made sure my flock has access to cool, clean water when temperatures started to climb.
- Shelter and shade. A shady spot can help your girls feel more comfortable and avoid the sun’s direct rays. I chose to locate our coop in a shady corner of the yard with plenty of trees and shrubs. In the afternoon, the coop still gets direct sun, so I placed potted herbs in front to provide shade. Their back run also has an awning, but a sail, tarp, or umbrella can also do the job.
- Let your birdies get dirty. Chickens are known for digging holes in the dirt to find cool soil below and settling in for some relief. They may also take a dust bath to help beat the heat.
- Hose it down. We spray down the chicken’s enclosed yard, which they have access to all day long. When it’s really hot, it’s hosed down once in the morning and again mid-afternoon when the temperatures peak. I also spray down the bushes, trees, and vegetation in their yard, and the water drops keep falling long after the hose is away. Using the mist feature can also help.
- Freezer treats. I’ve frozen blueberries, watermelon, and blocks of ice with fruity treats hidden inside. They love standing on the ice block, eating frozen treats, and pecking out frozen berries from the giant ice cube. Not only can this cool them, it can help them stay hydrated. We also have frozen water in an old plastic juice container and put it in the run. They can snuggle up next to it to stay cool.
What works for your flock?