Beating the heat this time of year is a challenge. Pools, baths, ice-cream and freezies get my family through it. For laying hens, it’s not that simple. Chickens get heat stressed when the temperature gets above 25oC (80 oF), so summer can be hard on hens. It is hard for chickens to stay cool, since they don’t sweat. Chickens get rid of extra heat in two ways. Their wattles and combs (the red parts 😉 in the picture to the right), act as heat diffusers when the birds are moderately hot. When it get scorching hot, chickens pant to cool themselves….just like dogs. See video: Panting is a lot of work (try it for a minute) and has other, unwanted impacts on the birds’ bodies.
Laying hen farmers are well equipped to keep barns cool, with thousands of dollars invested in massive fans, mist dispensers, and ingenious heat sinks that will act as weak air conditioners
I’ve been in barns that are 2 or 3 degrees cooler than outside, and generate their own breeze that passes over the birds to cool them. Few things put me in a “Twilight Zone” frame of mind like walking into a barn and seeing thousands of birds, all facing into the breeze, standing stock-still on their tip-toes, stretching their heads up and luxuriating in the relative coolness of the moving air.
If you have a small barn, or a backyard flock, and this isn’t possible, don’t worry, there are things that can be done.
Providing shade is crucial for backyard flocks, and even small fans can make a big difference for the comfort of the birds. Also, because of panting, providing lots of fresh (preferably cool) water is important, since the hens are at real risk of dehydrating. I would avoid putting out a “bath” for the hens, since it is impossible to keep this from becoming a cesspool, which will act as a huge risk for disease in both the hens and the people who look after them. I would DEFINITELY not share the bath with them….ever…..