Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

Chickens and Heat

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Jeep marked it at 108 degrees this afternoon as I was heading home from work.  That's just utterly ridiculous and uncivilized in my opinion.  But I guess we're stuck with this weather for the foreseeable future, which is at least until the beginning of August.  And no rain anywhere near us.
We're now watering trees and shrubs because we're afraid we're going to lose everything.  The zoysia we put in 8 years ago is dead, I think.

I talked to a friend earlier in the day who told me his dog had died and he had to bury him in the backyard.  Sad to hear that (a neighbor's dogs killed this little pup) but the interesting thing is that he said to me "I can tell you that even 4 feet down there's no water."  He had to use a pick axe to dig the hole because the ground is as hard as concrete.

I've been extremely worried about the chickens in this heat and have been giving them some cold treats and fresh cold water.  Even though they're molting and have lost alot of feathers, they are extremely stressed in this heat.  As a result of the heat and the molt, egg production is now down about 50%.

Barred Rock panting in the heat. It was 98 degrees at 9:30 p.m. when I took this picture.

Chickens start to get stressed when temps go above 80 degrees, although some breeds are more tolerant than others.  When I was looking at which breed to get for our backyard flock, it was important to me that we get a variety that can tolerate our Missouri weather, which is jokingly referred to in the state as "if you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes."  In all seriousness, the temps can range from -12 F to 110 F on the high end.  Those are extremes, but it can happen.  We're seeing that extreme heat right now.  So we settled on Barred Rocks and Austrolorps because they're a bigger breed and are heat and cold tolerant.

You can tell if a chicken is heat-stressed because they act just like dogs:  they pant because they can't sweat like humans can.  Panting releases some of the heat, and they are also cooled by the blood flowing through their combs and wattles.  As a result, chicken breeds without combs will be more stressed because they don't have that cooling system.  You'll also see chickens squat and hold their wings out to let air flow under their wings to cool themselves.  The Barred Rock in the picture was doing that just before I snapped the picture, as were the rest of the ladies on the roost.

So, short of installing central air in the coop, what can you do to help your chickens beat the heat?  I thought I would share a couple of things that I do as well as some other tips.

Provide shade.  If you live in a hot climate, you should consider shade when thinking about where to place your coop.  Our coop is under a huge oak tree and gets shade for much of the afternoon, which can lower the actual temps by at least 10 degrees on a hot day.  It also keeps the roof from heating up and retaining heat.  As you know, our coop is attached to a 10' x 10' dog run, and we added white plastic corrugated roofing panels over half of that to provide additional shade.  In the heat of the summer and winter, we sometimes add tarps over the top to provide additional shade as needed.  Chickens that have no shade will often stay indoors where the air flow might not be as good, so shade is an extremely important way to protect your chooks from the heat.

Provide lots of fresh, cool water.  It goes without saying, I think, that you should place the waterer in the shade to keep the water cool and keep it from evaporating so quickly.  One trick for cooling the water is to freeze a 2-liter of water and then put it in the waterer or hang it over a pan.  As it melts, it will provide a cool drink for the birds over a longer period of time.  Short term, you could just put ice in the waterer.  The important thing here is that they will always need access to water.  The best way to kill your chickens in a heat wave is to let their waterer run dry.  I put waterers in both the coop and the run and refresh it daily (or more often if needed).

Provide air circulation.  Keep the doors and windows open to allow air movement and make sure the roof is properly vented so that heat doesn't get trapped against the ceiling.

Provide a way of cooling off.  You can also consider putting a fan, swamp cooler or even an air conditioner in the coop.  Just a small amount of air movement can go a long way toward keeping the animals cool.  Just think what a breeze does for us humans on a hot, summer day.  Also, just hosing down the walls and roof of the coop can help as well.  Chickens don't like to be sprayed with water but, if you're concerned about their stress level, you can mist them lightly.  You might consider putting a sprinkler so that it sprays through one corner of their run so that they can explore it on their own. 

Or here's an idea:  how about freezing ice packs and putting them in their nesting boxes?  They should stay cool for up to 5 hours.  Just make sure you put them in a Ziploc bag first (to keep the chicken poop off them. I really don't want to put a poopy ice pack back in my freezer.

Provide a dust bath.  Another way that chickens cool off is through dust baths.  Make sure they have access to dry, loose dirt for dusting their feathers.  The process cools their skin, comforts them, and also keeps mites and other parasites away.  With the dry weather, we have no shortage of dust but you can also use ash for your fireplace, for example, in a box for them to use for dust baths.

Provide cool treats.  My chookies love frozen bananas and watermelons as a cool treat.  As always, however, don't go overboard.  And never feed them corn in the heat, as it increases their body temperatures.

Stay cool, my friends!

I'm linking up with this week's Rural Thursday,  LHITS Friday DIY Linky, Farm Fresh Friday, and Farm Girl Friday hops.


  1. I didn't know that corn raises their body temp? I did know they love it when I throw out watermelon!! Our chickens have been hanging out under the cedar trees for days now! Dang heat!
    Thank you for sharing with farm fresh friday! Stay cool!

    1. Sure does...corn is a great thing to feed them in the winter because of that. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. This is a great post - we all love our hennies and roosters and chickies and want no harm to come to them. I've been letting them out to find shade, water and green grass (good luck!) in this horrible heat.

    Thank you for taking such good care of your chickens and for sharing at Rural Thursdays. xo

    1. I just feel awful that they're so hot. I almost broke down and bought an air conditioner at Home Depot for them today. I guess you could say they're a little spoiled. :-)

  3. Great ideas! Thanks for sharing :) I pinned this post.

    1. Thanks, Lisa Lynn! I was just over on your blog giggling at that picture of the turkey close-up. Great pic!

  4. I like your farm, maybe I'll do a mini farm.


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