When someone says, "hot chicks", is this the image that pops into your mind? If not, it will be now!
With current temps in the 100 degree F. range, The Girls are probably wishing they didn't have quite so many feathers, and lucky is the one currently molting! I do worry about them when it gets this warm, and egg production can suffer greatly when they get overheated. Last year I came home from work in the midst of a heat wave and found an otherwise healthy hen lying dead on the coop floor under the roost. It looked as if she just fell off the roost in her sleep. I made several phone calls (vet, extension agent) to see if I needed to have a "chicken autopsy" done, and it was suggested that no, it was probably due to the heat. That certainly opened my eyes to the perils of hot weather for the chickens.
You can tell when your chickens are too hot by the way they stand around with their little beaks open and their wings held away from their bodies. Chickens don't sweat, and like dogs they need to pant to cool themselves off. See above photo.
Photo of the thermometer in our kitchen. This monitors the outside temps just outside the window...in the shade. Photo taken today (July 22, 2011)
Here are some of the things I've been doing to help my girls stay cool.
(1) I make sure they've got plenty of shade. The coop and chicken run are in the woods, so this really isn't an issue.
(2) I make sure they have plenty of water. Chickens don't like warm water and will forgo drinking it if it gets too warm. I change their water several times a day to make sure it's cool, AND/OR add ice to the water. If you're able, freeze a block to toss into your chickens' water.
(3) When I have "treats" for them, such as old fruit or vegetables, I toss these into the freezer and freeze them solid before feeding to The Girls. They love pecking at these cool treats....is this the chicken equivalent of ice cream?!
(4) I hose down a section of their run so they've got cool mud to walk through.
(5) I set up a mister so they can hang out in the mist ("Chickens In The Mist") They seem to love this.
(6) I have a fan sucking warm air out of the coop...this is especially important because their coop is on the small side and with 31 chicken bodies in there at night, it warms up fast.
Guinevere taking a turn in the mist
Bandito cooling off in the mist, with Guinevere shaking like a wet dog
I'm trying to keep the girls cool so I get more of these...