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Caring for chickens in hot weather

Hot weather spells can be few and far between in the UK, but we’re usually guaranteed to get a few bouts of sunshine. 

While we love getting the sun cream out and sitting in a beer garden with a cold drink, it’s important to take care of our chickens in hot weather too, as they can easily overheat. 

Signs of an overheating chicken 

Hens are very good at hiding signs of distress, but there are ways to tell if she is in some discomfort due to the heat: 

  • Panting – believe it or not hens will pant, somewhat like dogs, if they’re too hot 
  • Decreased appetite 
  • General lethargy 
  • Pale comb and / or wattles 

Be aware though, most of those symptoms above could indicate other health issues, so always be aware of what’s normal for your hens and seek veterinary advice if you have concerns. 

So, what can you do to keep your chooks cool? 

Chickens in hot weather – top tips: 

Fresh, cool water 

Just like us, hens appreciate a nice cold drink of water when the weather’s hot. You can always pop a few ice cubes in their drinker in the morning to keep it colder a little longer, and make sure it’s placed in the shade. Check the water supply regularly and refresh it a few times a day if you’re able to. 

Provide shady areas 

Our hens love to sunbathe with outstretched wings but they do appreciate the chance to cool off, especially in the midday sun. Make sure they have lots of shady areas to retreat to, such as underneath their hen house if this is raised, or under trees and bushes. You can always get creative and make shady areas with parasols or chairs and blankets. 

Dust bathing 

Chickens like to get ‘clean’ by having a dust bath, so make sure they’ve got a litter tray or some kind of basket filled with dry dirt / sand; alternatively they’ll happily seek a spot in your flowerbeds given the chance!  

Hen house ventilation 

No-one likes sleeping when it’s hot and sticky, so make sure your hens’ coop has some ventilation. You can place mesh over pop holes instead of closing them to ensure predators cannot get in, but a cool breeze can. 

Red mite 

The two words no-one wants to hear! However, red mite is a fact of life and, with some simple preventative measures, you can make sure these critters don’t get out of control as the temperature increases. See our red mite guide for a breakdown on how to tackle them. 

Sun cream 

Yep, really! If you’ve got some newly adopted members of the family sporting some bald patches, be aware that these can burn just like human skin. It’s therefore necessary to pop some sun cream on these patches to keep the skin protected. 

Cool treats 

Did you know some hen treats can actually increase their body temperature? High carb treats like corn have this effect when your hens try to digest them, so it’s best to avoid these during summer. There are lots of ways to give your hens a refreshing, cool treat – try freezing some sweetcorn or watermelon inside an ice cube for them to peck at. A disclaimer here though – you cannot give your hens food that has passed through your kitchen unless you live in a vegan household, so make sure any food bypasses this area before arriving in the garden. 

Other than that, enjoy summer with your feathered friends, and remember to send us in lots of lovely photos of them making the most of the sunshine. Nothing makes us happier than seeing free-range hens doing what they do best.

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