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Five Things your Chickens DON'T Need this Summer

While providing shade and cool water are important when the temperature rises, there are several things you should NOT do for your chickens as the weather heats up. Here are five things your chickens don't need this summer.

Chicken keepers always seem to get far more worried about their chickens during the cold winter months than in the summer, but in reality, heat is far harder on chickens than the cold. Chickens will do just fine in temperatures down to zero and even below.

With just a dry, draft-free coop filled with some nice bedding to help insulate it, scratch grains before bed and an optimal number of chickens for the size coop, they do a pretty decent job of keeping themselves warm.

But once the temperatures start to rise and approach 80 degrees or so, chickens start to feel the effects of the heat.

While chickens definitely appreciate a little extra attention in the summer, there are also a couple of things that they don't need.

Hot weather care in the form of cold water, electrolytes during an extreme heat wave, plenty of shade, maybe fans if you live in the extreme South, a ventilated coop and hydrating treats are all beneficial.
But there are a couple of things that you really need to avoid.

Five Things Your Chickens DON'T Need this Summer 

1. No scratch grains or dried corn. 

Whole grains and dried corn are things that create heat in the body as your chickens work to digest them, so scratch grains should be reserved as treats during the cold months only. 

Far better summer treats include chilled watermelon, cucumber, or ice pops.

2. No gravity-style or PVC or nipple waterers.

In the summer, chickens cool off by standing in shallow water and dunking their heads and combs in the water. Their combs act as radiators to help them expel excess body heat.  

They also release body heat through their feet. So being able to dunk their combs and feet is critical to help them cool off.

If you do use gravity or nipple waterers, consider setting out some additional water in tubs in the summer for your chickens to stand in.

I liken a nipple waterer to drinking out of a water fountain or through a straw...when you're really hot, you just need to gulp down a big glass of water.  Not drink through a straw!  

So give your chickens a big tub or pail of cool water that they can get a nice mouthful of.

3. No dunking, misting or spraying down your chickens. No letting them "swim" in your pool. 

Chickens don't take water baths. They cool off by holding their wings out from their bodies and fluffing their feathers to allow air to circulate.  

Wetting them down just defeats that purpose and takes away their ability to naturally cool off. The chlorine in a pool isn't good for chickens or ducks, and contrary to photos you might see circulating around the internet, chickens can't actually swim and will likely drown as soon as they become waterlogged.

While spraying down the top of your coop or run can help cools things off, you shouldn't spray your chickens directly or dunk their whole bodies in water. Just the feet is sufficient!

Chickens also cool down by taking dust baths. When they wriggle down into the cool dirt, that helps them to cool off, so be sure to provide a nice dust bathing area for them somewhere in the shade.

4. No chasing the chickens! 

Chickens already dealing with heat stress won't do well if they are  being chased or harassed by your kids or dogs, etc. Let them relax, nap under a shady bush and just slow down and stay cool. 

Similarly, it's not a good idea to carry your chickens around when it's hot. 

As mentioned earlier, they fluff their feathers to stay cool, so put them down and let them handle the heat in the best way they know how.

5. Don't lock your chickens inside the coop during the day.

I am often asked by new chicken keepers if they should lock their chickens inside the coop for a few days after bringing them outside for the first time once they leave the brooder or when the get their first flock of pullets or adult chickens.

They are sometimes told this is a good idea to get the chickens used to where they should sleep and lay their eggs.

This is a terrible idea. Let me repeat that. This is a TERRIBLE idea.  It's too hot inside the coop in the summer during the day. Not only that, you'll be left with a huge mess and some pretty bored chickens. 

When we lived in Virginia, our coop would often still be hovering around 90 degrees F at dusk when it was time to lock up - and that was with all the doors and windows open all day! Even here in Maine our coop temperature can rise to the mid 80s in the heat of the summer. That's way too hot for chickens to endure.

Your chickens will figure out soon enough where home is. No need to lock them in. They need fresh air and exercise and sunlight, not to be locked inside the coop.

Remembering these few simple tips should help your chickens get through the summer more comfortably.

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