Protecting Your Backyard Flock in a Heat Wave

Author: Meera, August 18, 2015

I lost a chicken this morning despite taking measures to protect her from the deadly heat wave we’ve been having here in the Bay Area. The last thing someone attached to their hens ever wants to see is one of her precious little girls gone. Mine was a Silver Laced Wyandotte (who leaves behind a sister) and five other hens with whom she was raised.



The silver-laced Wyandotte (black-and-white) hen in the foreground succumbed to the extreme heat during the night

The Silver Laced Wyandotte (black-and-white) hen in the foreground succumbed to the extreme heat sometime during the night



Our farmette sits in the east bay hills and too far inland from the San Francisco Bay or the delta (which flows to Sacramento) to gain much benefit from cooling breezes off the ocean. We’ve had triple digit temps on the farmette for days.


I put out extra water basins for my chickens, kept their doors open in the chicken house at night (there is a wire run with a wire ceiling to protect them when they’d rather roost outside), and fed them frozen corn, cool seedless watermelon treats, and chilled grapes.


The chicken house has windows that I keep open (they have reinforced wire over the screens). I reduced the amount of litter on the floor (I use ground corn cob) since it could hold the heat.


I haven’t install a fogging system or fans, but I might if this heat keeps up.


The only telltale sign that my hen was in trouble was that she seemed to exhibit lethargy and to have lost weight (although it was difficult to tell under all her feathers).


Her comb had turned slightly pale and seemed to have shrunk in the last 24 hours. When I check on her last night she was turning herself to face the wall. Not a good sign since, in my experience, I’ve seen chickens do this before they pass away.


Some strategies for helping backyard chickens survive extreme heat include the following tips.



Eight Strategies to Help Chickens Beat the Heat


1. Make sure windows of chicken houses face north to south to allow breezes to blow through, rather than face east to west (rising and setting sun).


2. Keep litter on the chicken house floor low (1 to 2 inches is sufficient).


3. Position your chicken house under a tree, if possible, where the structure receives shade.


4. Make certain you have several watering dispensers (placed in the shade) with clean, fresh water every day during hot weather.


5. Add ice cubes to the watering canisters.


6. Put out treats such as bowls of frozen corn and cool, seedless watermelon, and chilled grapes or blueberries.


7. Use a fan, if necessary to remove heat from the chicken house.


8. As an emergency measure for a chicken that looks distressed, dip her in cool water.




Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Leave a Reply