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How to Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer

Chickens have a hard time in hot weather, but there are some simple things you can do to help them stay cool this summer.

Doing all you can to help your chickens stay cool in the summer isn't a matter of "spoiling" them, it can be a matter of life or death. Chickens can, and do, succumb to heat stress and exhaustion every summer. 

And in fact, far more chickens die of extreme heat than extreme cold.

I have a unique perspective on raising backyard chickens because I've been lucky enough to raise them in both hot and cold climates

We spent twelve years living in hot, humid southeastern Virginia, where I started raising chickens as an adult. The temperatures stayed 90F+ for most of the summer, and temperatures over 100 degrees weren't abnormal. 

Then 7 years after getting our first baby chicks, we moved - chickens, ducks, dogs, cat and all - 800 miles north to central Maine where I experienced my first temperatures below zero! So I've raised chickens over more than a 100 degree temperature swing.

And I can tell you that it's far easier to keep chickens warm in the winter than it is to keep them cool in the summer!

What's Too Hot for a Chicken?

Did you know that chickens are naturally far better equipped to handle cold than heat? And that the effects of heat on chickens is cumulative? Meaning that several days of a heatwave are going to be extremely hard on them.

Did you know that a sudden increase in temperature is more dangerous than a gradual climb. And that temperatures between 55-75 are optimal, and anything higher than that starts to cause stress to chickens' bodies? And humidity levels above 75% make things even harder on them too.

Chickens have a hard time cooling off, so everything you can do to help them is beneficial.

The have a far easier time keeping warm in the cold weather by fluffing up their feathers and trapping the air warmed by their bodies, than they do cooling their bodies.

When it gets hot, added blood flow to their combs, wattles and skin as your chickens attempt to cool off reduces the flow to their vital organs, which can be extremely detrimental.

How Do Chickens Stay Cool?

Chickens don't sweat like humans do. Instead, they use their bodies to cool off. Here are some things chickens do to stay cool in the summer.

  • Hold their wings away from their bodies to allow air to flow under their wings
  • Stand in shallow water to cool their feet
  • Dunk their combs into cool water. Combs and wattles act as radiators, allowing heat to escape their body
  • Pant with their mouths open*

*Excessive panting to keep cool increases respiratory and heart rates which can lead to acidosis, a potentially fatal condition caused by a pH imbalance caused by heat stress.

How to Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer

In addition to the things that chickens can do themselves to stay cool in the summer, here are some things you can also do to help them beat the heat. 

Be sure to provide them:
  • Plenty of shade
  • Cool water to drink
  • Electrolytes
  • Shallow tubs of water to stand in (if you have ducks, fill kiddie pools for them)
  • Feed very early in the morning or late in the evening
  • Fresh fruits and veggies
  • Cooling herbs 
  • Frozen treats in ice cubes
  • Dust bath area
  • Increased free range time

It goes without saying that dogs and children shouldn't be allowed to chase your chickens, especially when it's hot outside.

How to Keep your Chicken Coop Cool in the Summer

Additionally, you need to be sure your coop is as cool as it can possibly be for your flock. This means making sure that the coop:

  • Is located in the shade
  • Has excellent ventilation and air flow
  • Has a fan, if possible (blowing on frozen water bottles helps too!)
  • Has nests that can be moved outside where it's cooler

Shade to Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer

Plenty of shade is mandatory in the run area or where ever your chickens spend their days.

There are several large pine trees shading our run, as well as shrubs and small bushes that I have planted to provide nice shady areas.

If you don't have bushes or shrubs in or around your rub, adding a tarp or shade cloth over part of the run is a good idea.  I prefer shade cloth like this one to a tarp because it still lets air through and keeps the run nice and bright.

If you don't have natural vegetation, a small dog house or other covered structure in the run will work just as well.

Note: If your coop is raised off the ground, the chickens will love to seek respite from the sun underneath in the summer and will likely take dust baths under there too! 

Cold Water to Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer

Eggs are mostly water, so the process of laying an egg absorbs much of the water a chicken drinks. Therefore, even more so than other animals, fresh, clean water accessible to all your hens is first and foremost in importance.

I have switched to using large rubber tubs and also shallow enamelware dishes as waterers in the summer instead of the traditional waterers.

Not only are they easy to clean and refill, but it's very easy to add a block of ice to keep the water colder longer (and as an added plus, the chickens can stand in them if they need to - see below)

Chickens will overheat before they will drink warm water, so be sure to set the water in the shade,  check their water often, and replenish it with fresh, cool, clean water as needed.

Be sure to put out more water tubs than normal when it's hot so more hens can drink at once. It is so important that each member of the flock gets their share of cool water so they don't dehydrate.

I have a minimum of four large tubs and two shallow dishes full in the run at all times for my flock of 16 hens and 13 ducks.

Electrolytes to Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer

Electrolytes, or plain Pedialyte, added to your chickens' water in extreme heat can also help them cope better in the heat by replenishing what they lose when they pant.

You can easily make your own Homemade Electrolytes  or baking soda in a 2% ratio to the water by itself can also be added in a pinch. 

Water to Stand In Can Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer

Our chickens love to stand in shallow dishes or pools of water and get their feet wet when it's hot. That's one of the main ways a chicken can cool down quickly is by cooling her feet and legs. The cool water provides instant cooling for them. 

Since we give our flock their water in large tubs, our chickens will stand right in the water tubs (maybe they see the ducks doing it and copy them?) In the summer our hens stand around in the tubs, periodically dunking their heads. 

They do know what's best and as long as you provide them the means, they will know how to cool themselves off. On really hot days, I will sometimes dunk each of our younger chicken's feet and legs in a pail of water or in the ducks' pool to get them used to doing it and to show them how good it feels. 

Just their feet and legs - you don't want to dunk their entire body. Wet feathers render them incapable of fluffing them up to allow the air to flow through - which is one of the ways chickens stay cool on their own. 

You might end up with a lot of angry, but cooler, hens !

But if yours balk at the idea of actually standing in the water, try placing a stone or brick in the tub of cold water for them to stand on. The brick will absorb the coolness and stay chilled to cool down their hot feet.

Word of Use Caution if you Use Nipple Waterers

Note about Nipple Waterers: I personally am not a fan of the nipple waterers or little cup gravity waterers. Period. 

You know what I'm talking about - the bucket or PVC pipe with the nipple attachments that the chickens have to poke with their beak to get water out of (think sort of like a large hamster or rabbit water bottle!)'s just not a natural way for a bird to drink.  They don't nurse like other baby animals do. 

But anyway...I'm definitely not a fan of them in the summer. Chickens need access to as much cold water to drink as possible. Imagine if you had to drink from a baby bottle instead of a glass? See what I'm saying? 

But if you DO choose to use the nipple-style waterers, I highly recommend putting out tubs of water in addition, at least on really hot days. 

The nipple waterers and the little cups don't allow the birds to dunk their heads or cool their feet.  Dunking their heads in the water and cooling their wattles and combs immediately lowers their body temperature. 

Also: Nipple waterers should NEVER be used as the sole water source (winter or summer) when you raise ducks according to this study on the Metzer Farms blog.

Feed in the Early Morning to Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer

Chickens eat a lot less in the summer than they do in the winter, so be sure that they are being fed a good quality layer feed.

Your chickens likely won't eat nearly as much feed when it's hot, but feeding them in the very early morning or later in the day, just before dusk, is a good idea in the summer and can encourage them to eat. 

Offering your chickens their feed during the coolest parts of the day is best.  You can add a bit of cool water to their pellets or crumble to turn it into a mushy mash. This will also give them a bit more hydration - and they'll love it! 

You can ferment their feed for them in the summer. That will also provide them not only some extra liquid in their diet, but also additional nutrients. 

Skip the Scratch to Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer

Scratch grains should never be given during the hot months, since digesting the grains actually warms up a chicken's body, making scratch a wonderful wintertime treat - but terrible in the summer. So skip the scratch or cracked corn in the summer and focus on foods with higher water content that will keep your flock cooler. 

Feed Fresh Fruits and Vegetables to Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer

I like to offer lots of fresh fruits and vegetables when it's hot. Melons, berries, cucumbers, peas... all great choices that will give your chickens a bit more hydration in the heat.

Fresh produce has a high water content, which makes it a very good choice for summer snacks for your flock.

Frozen watermelon or cantaloupe is also a great treat that hydrates as well as cools the chickens, as are frozen strawberries, blueberries, cucumber slices, bananas, and peas.

Cooling Herbs to Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer

Fresh herbs like peppermint, spearmint and lemon balm can help keep chickens feeling cool.  The herbs in the mint family contain menthol, which works to trigger the cold-sensitive receptors in the skin, making you (or your chickens!) feel cooler. 

Mint also works as an anti-inflammatory and helps to boost metabolism.

Sage, tarragon, basil, cilantro and dill also have cooling properties. So adding some of these crushed fresh herbs to a flock's diet in the summer months can help them stay cool, as well.  

Frozen Ice Cubes to Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer

I like to freeze edible flowers, blueberries, strawberry tops, watermelon, peas, and other fruits and vegetables in ice cube trays and add a few to the water in the heat of the summer. 

This really helps to keep the water cooler longer and also give the chickens and ducks something to do, pecking at the goodies frozen in the ice cubes. 

If you work all day, try freezing water in loaf pans, muffin tins or other larger containers to make larger ice blocks for your chickens' water.

Dust Baths Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer

Chickens love to take dust baths year round - that's how they stay clean and bug-free - but in the summer when it's hot, wriggling down into the cool dirt helps keep them cool as well.

So be sure you have an area available to them filled with nice loose dirt that they can dig and scratch in to keep cool.

More Free Range Time to Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer

Since predators generally aren't too active in the summer, especially in the middle of the day when it's hottest, I try to let my chickens out to free range more. 

I figure they can find cooler spots out in the yard better than in the confines of the run.

With the threat of predators low - they're hot too and probably not too interested in chasing down their next meal until it gets cooler as darkness approaches - I do feel more comfortable letting my chickens and ducks free range on super hot days.

They'll naturally find their own  cool spots to hunker down and to take dust baths while they're out ... usually the one place I don't want them to, of course!

Of course daytime is going to pose the greatest danger of heat exhaustion, but it's also important to make sure that your coop is as cool as possible as well, since in many places, it stays hot right through the night. 

A Shaded Coop will Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer

Situating your chicken coop under the shade of a few trees, is going to help to keep it cooler in the summer. 

If that's not possible, get some shrubs or trees planted around your coop. That will not only provide shade in the summer, but also a wind block in the cold months.

Good Air Flow and Ventilation Keeps a Chicken Coop Cool in the Summer

It's important to keep the coop as cool as possible, especially at night, so windows that can be left open are important to create lots of ventilation. And vents up under the eaves on either side of your coop roof will help the hot air escape outside.

Since regular window screens aren't going to keep raccoon or weasels out, be sure you have 1/2" or 1/4" welded wire on all the windows and vents. (The regular window screens are good for keeping out flies though.)

A Fan Keeps a Chicken Coop Cool in the Summer

If you live in a hot climate, adding a solar- or battery-powered fan to your coop if you don't have electricity to plug in a regular fan is a good idea and will go a long way towards keeping your chickens cool. Otherwise, a window box fan will help to keep your coop cooler in the summer.

Even here in Maine, sometimes inside the coop gets up over 90 degrees during the day and still hasn't cooled down much below 80 degrees by nightfall. 

So I found a rechargeable clip-on fan that was simple to attach to the handle of the sliding door in the coop to at least move the air around a bit and keep my girls cooler.

Pro tip: If it's really hot, setting a frozen gallon milk jug of water in front of the fan will really help to cool the air down fast. 

Open-Air Nesting Boxes Help to Keep Chickens Cool in the Summer

Since the coop gets really hot in the middle of the day, the girls will often avoid laying in the nesting boxes in the summer. I find eggs under bushes, out in the run,  anywhere they could find that was cooler. My hens lay almost exclusively outdoors in the baskets and boxes I set out for them for most of the summer.

Propping the nesting box top open if you have external nesting boxes can help to circulate air a bit, as will frozen water bottles in the nests. but often your chickens still won't want to sit in the coop to lay their eggs...

So I like to set up some open-air baskets and boxes out in the run in the shade. 

I also have a chair with a cutout that has a large tub filled with soft bedding in it. It usually stays inside the coop, but is really easy to move outside into the sheltered part of the run on super hot days -  I've done that a few times each summer and that was a big hit.


Some people hook up misters in the run that provide a continuous mist of water, but I need to caution you about doing that.

Please take care using misters and be sure you are using them correctly.

*Misters can often do more harm than good, making the air moist and potentially causing respiratory problems in your flock, as well as raising the humidity levels. I can't recommend using them at all in humid climates where added moisture in the air can be extremely detrimental.

*If your chicken are getting wet, that hampers them from regulating their own body temperature and they can literally overheat if they can't fluff their feathers away from their bodies. So the misters shouldn't be showering your flock with the mist.

*Pools of standing water caused by the misters will also attract flies and mosquitoes which bring a whole new set of problems including fowl pox although a small area in the dirt could be wet down to create some mud for the chickens to stand in to cool off.

Misters when used correctly can lower the air temperature, but use caution if you decide to install a misting system, and maybe a better option would be to just hose down the roof of your coop and/or run to cool them off.

Okay, rant over!

Of course, it's easier (and more beneficial) to keep your chickens cool in the first place, but sometimes no matter what you do, the heat is going to be too much for them and heat exhaustion or heat stress might set in. 

So it's important to recognize the signs and know how to react.

Recognizing and Treating Heat Exhaustion 

Classic signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • excessive panting
  • very pale comb and wattles
  • standing with eyes closed
  • unsteady on their feet
  • lying down

If you do have a hen that seems to be suffering heat exhaustion or dehydration:
  • get her somewhere cool 
  • soak her feet and legs in a tub of cool water (not the entire body!)
  • press a cool facecloth to the wattles and comb
  • give her cool water to drink
  •  administer electrolytes, plain Pedialyte or even Gatorade in a pinch

Choose Heat-Tolerant Breeds

Some breeds, such as Leghorns, Andalusians or Black-Faced White Spanish, are more heat-tolerant breeds of chickens than others. In general, the Mediterranean breeds with their large combs and wattles and sleek bodies can handle heat better than the larger-bodied girls with small or non-existent combs and wattles.

Lighter-colored chickens also tolerate heat better than the dark breeds whose feathers absorb the sunlight. So if you live in an extremely hot climate, think about choosing those breeds that do better in the heat. 

But bottom line, all breeds of chickens will be pretty uncomfortable in extreme heat, and since chickens can actually die of heat stroke,  it's important to keep them as cool as possible. 

Anything you can do to help them stay cool may not only save their lives, but will result in consistent egg production through the summer and will definitely be appreciated by your chickens.

Shade, clean cool water, and frozen treats are a great start towards beating the heat.

For tips on keeping your ducks cool this summer, click HERE.

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