How to Keep Your Chickens Cool and Safe During Heatwaves

This post was submitted by guest contributor Amelia Quinn. Amelia Quinn is a homesteading blogger with a passion for raising chickens. You can read more of her chicken care tips on her website.

Heat stress in chickens is not just discomfort; it’s a potential threat. Chickens, much like humans, can suffer from heat exhaustion, dehydration, and even fatal heatstroke. Their egg production can decrease, and their overall health can deteriorate rapidly if not cared for properly in extreme temperatures.

For those devoted to the wellbeing of their feathery friends, finding effective ways to keep them cool isn’t just a summer chore – it’s an absolute necessity. So, how can you ensure your flock thrives even during the most scorching days? Dive in as we explore tried and tested strategies to keep your chickens cool and safe during heatwaves.

Which Temperatures Are Considered Excessively Hot for Chickens?

Backyard chicken on grass

Chickens thrive best in temperatures between 65°F (18°C) and 75°F (24°C), which is considered their optimal comfort range. As the mercury rises, temperatures between 75°F (24°C) and 85°F (29°C) are tolerable, but they might begin showing mild signs of heat stress, like panting and holding their wings slightly away from their bodies.

However, it’s when temperatures climb between 85°F (29°C) and 95°F (35°C) that chickens start to experience pronounced heat stress, with symptoms including heavy panting, reduced movement, and decreased feed intake.

Anything above 95°F (35°C) is dangerous, putting chickens at risk of severe heatstroke, lethargy, and even death. While certain breeds or acclimated chickens may handle heat slightly differently, these general temperature ranges serve as a guideline for poultry keepers to ensure the wellbeing of their flock during hot weather.

Indicators of Heat Stress and Heat Stroke in Chickens

Chickens in hen house

Heat Stress in Chickens:

  • Chickens will open their beaks and pant to release excess heat since they don’t sweat like humans.
  • Chickens will hold their wings away from their bodies to allow more air circulation and heat dissipation.
  • Chickens may become lethargic and move less to conserve energy.
  • They often eat less during hot weather since digestion generates heat.
  • Chickens will drink more water to try and cool down.
  • Hens may decrease or temporarily stop egg production.
  • Chickens will prefer to stay in shaded areas rather than exposed spots.
  • They may appear lighter in color due to vasodilation, a body effort to release heat.

Heat Stroke in Chickens:

  • Beyond normal panting, breathing may become more laborious and strained.
  • Chickens might appear confused or unsteady on their feet.
  • Their wings may hang limply, showing a sign of severe exhaustion.
  • In extreme cases, chickens might not respond to stimuli or show awareness of their surroundings.
  • In the advanced stages of heat stroke, chickens may experience spasms or convulsions.
  • Chickens can collapse and may be unable to get back up.
  • Their body, especially under the wings, will feel excessively hot to touch.

9 Ways To Keep Your Chickens Cool During Heatwaves

Backyard chickens in enclosure

1. Make Sure They Have Shaded Spots

This is paramount. Chickens will naturally seek out shade during the heat of the day. By providing areas with ample shade, whether through trees, shrubs, or man-made structures like tarps or canopies, you give your chickens a place to retreat from the sun’s direct rays.

2. Give Them Icy Water to Drink

Water is a vital aspect of keeping chickens cool. By offering them icy water, you’re not only encouraging them to drink more but also providing a means to internally reduce their body temperature.


  • If exposed to direct sunlight, metal water containers can quickly become too hot, warming the water inside and making it unsuitable for the chickens to drink. If you use metal containers, ensure these containers remain in the shade throughout the day.
  • Relying on one or two large containers might not be the best approach during extreme heat. As the water stands longer, it can warm up. By diversifying the way water is provided, you can ensure that there’s always a fresh, cool supply available for the chickens.
  • Safety should always be a priority. Do not use plastics that aren’t labeled as food-safe because they might release harmful chemicals, especially when exposed to the sun.
  • When it’s hot, chickens naturally seek the coolest spots in their environment. By placing water containers in these areas, you’re ensuring that they don’t have to expend unnecessary energy moving around in search of water.
  • Use ice blocks. This is a clever method to prolong the coolness of the water. As the ice melts gradually, the water remains cool for an extended period, offering a refreshing drink for the chickens.

3. Offer Them Cooling Treats

Baby chickens in backyard

Certain treats can inadvertently raise a chicken’s body temperature, especially high-carb options like dry, cracked corn and scratch, which generate internal heat during digestion. In high temperatures, it’s recommended to reduce or avoid such treats and instead offer chickens cold, moisture-rich options like watermelon or other fruits.

An effective method to keep them cool is to provide frozen treats such as peas and corn, or even to create frozen treat blocks by freezing berries in water. However, it’s crucial to remember that during heatwaves, chickens might consume less food overall, so treats should be given in moderation to prevent malnourishment.

4. Ensure Good Airflow in Their Coop

Having screened openings ensures a steady air flow while keeping the chickens safe from predators. It’s advisable to evaluate winter settings; for example, if there are solid walls or doors, consider replacing them with wire fencing for the summer season to promote better airflow.

If electricity is safely accessible, adding a fan can assist in maintaining cooler temperatures. Solar-powered fans are also an option. Overcrowding can exacerbate heat stress, so it’s vital to ensure adequate space for each chicken: a minimum of four square feet within the coop and 10 square feet outdoors. The specific ventilation needs will depend on the time the chickens spend inside the coop and the regular evening temperatures.

For some, merely keeping the coop door ajar during hot days might suffice, ensuring chickens laying eggs inside remain comfortable. However, it’s paramount to remember to secure the coop in the evening for safety.

5. Avoid Deep Litter. Keep The Chicken Coop Tidy

Group of chickens inside coop

The deep litter method, while beneficial for generating heat during colder months, can be counterproductive in the summertime. As the organic material in deep litter decomposes, it generates heat, potentially increasing the coop’s temperature during an already hot period.

Moreover, this decomposition can also heighten humidity levels inside the coop, adding to the discomfort of the chickens. A warm and humid environment can foster the growth of harmful bacteria and pathogens, leading to potential health risks for the flock.

Thus, during hotter months, it’s advisable to switch to a more shallow litter system and maintain cleanliness. Keeping the coop tidy not only ensures the chickens’ comfort but also reduces the risk of diseases, promoting the overall wellbeing of your flock. Regularly cleaning out waste and replacing the bedding material helps maintain a fresher and cooler environment for your chickens.

6. Consider a Shallow Pool or Wet Area for Them

Chickens don’t swim like ducks, but they do appreciate the chance to wade in shallow water to cool off their legs and feet. Standing in cool water can help reduce their overall body temperature. Furthermore, they might also enjoy splashing the water on their chests, a quick and efficient way to cool down.

A shallow tray, pan, or any flat-bottomed container filled with a couple of inches of water can serve the purpose. Ensure that the water depth is safe, so there’s no risk of the chickens getting trapped or drowning. Regularly refreshing the water ensures it remains cool and inviting.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that while chickens might be hesitant initially, they typically warm up to the idea once they realize the benefits. Just like with other water sources, ensure it’s placed in a shaded or at least partially shaded area to maintain cooler temperatures.

7. Misting or Sprinkling Water Can Help

Backyard chickens going into coop

Utilizing a misting system or simply sprinkling water around the chickens’ area can be immensely beneficial during intense heatwaves. When water is misted or sprinkled, it evaporates, and this evaporation process requires energy in the form of heat. As a result, the surrounding air cools down.

For the chickens, this can create a refreshing microclimate that’s noticeably cooler than the surrounding environment. Misting systems can be set up in outdoor shaded areas or even near the coop. If you’re using a sprinkler, it can serve the dual purpose of watering plants and cooling down the chickens’ environment. However, there are a few considerations:

  • Avoid Over-Wetting: Chickens don’t particularly enjoy being soaked. Instead of drenching them, aim for a light mist that cools without making them uncomfortable.
  • Consider the Coop: If you’re using misters near the coop, ensure the interior doesn’t become damp, as excessive moisture can lead to other issues, including mold and respiratory problems for the chickens.
  • Monitor for Mud: While water is excellent for cooling, excessive watering can lead to muddy conditions, which can be messy and potentially breed harmful bacteria. Aim for a balance to keep conditions sanitary.

8. Give Dust Bath Space

Dust bathing is a natural behavior for chickens and serves multiple purposes: it helps keep their feathers clean, controls parasites like mites and lice, and can be particularly refreshing during hot weather. When chickens immerse themselves in dry, fine dirt or sand, the dust absorbs excess oil and moisture, aiding in cooling them down. In hot conditions, a dust bath can be a welcome respite.

To set up a dust bath area:

  • Ideally, find a shaded spot so the ground doesn’t get too hot from direct sunlight.
  • Ensure the space is large enough for multiple chickens to bathe simultaneously. A 2×2 feet area can comfortably accommodate a couple of standard-sized chickens.
  • Use a mixture of dry dirt, sand, and even some diatomaceous earth (food grade) to create the perfect dust bath blend. The diatomaceous earth acts as a natural parasite repellent.
  • Aim for at least a few inches deep, so the chickens can fully immerse themselves.
  • Over time, the bath may accumulate feathers, droppings, or other debris. Regularly clean and refresh the bath to ensure it remains effective and sanitary.
  • In areas with predators, consider placing the dust bath within the safety of the run or in a secured area.

9. Make Sure Their Nesting Spots and Resting Places Are Low and Accessible

Chickens look out wire mesh in coop

The positioning of nesting spots and resting areas in a chicken coop or run can significantly affect the comfort of your flock, especially during extreme temperatures. Hot air rises, so the higher areas of the coop can be considerably warmer than those closer to the ground. By ensuring that nesting and resting places are low and easily accessible, you’re providing your chickens with cooler spots to lay eggs and relax.

If possible, nest boxes should be situated at ground level or slightly raised but not too high up. This not only gives hens a cooler place to lay their eggs but also minimizes the risk of heat stress during the process.

Use soft, moisture-absorbent bedding in nest boxes and resting areas. This provides a comfortable cushion and can also absorb moisture, reducing humidity and heat in the immediate environment.

How To Deal with Overheated Chickens

The first step is to recognize that a chicken is overheated. Look for symptoms like panting, holding their wings away from their body, lethargy, stumbling, or appearing dazed. If your chicken is showing signs of heat stress, take immediate action. Move the chicken to a cooler, shaded area. You can gently mist the chicken with cool (not cold) water, focusing on the legs and underneath the wings.

Hydration is crucial. Offer the chicken cool, fresh water to drink. Adding electrolytes to the water can help the chicken recover more rapidly. You can find poultry-specific electrolytes at feed stores or use a pinch of sugar and salt in the water as a quick fix.

Chickens can cool down through their feet. Place the chicken in a shallow pan of cool water to help reduce its body temperature. Ensure the water is only deep enough to cover the feet and a bit of the legs. Limit handling or any activities that would elevate the chickens’ heart rate during extreme heat.

Final Thoughts

Closeup of hen in backyard

Caring for chickens during heatwaves is an essential responsibility for every poultry keeper. Extreme temperatures can pose severe risks to our feathered friends, but with the right knowledge and proactive measures, these challenges can be effectively managed.

As climate patterns continue to shift and heatwaves become more frequent, adapting our care techniques becomes all the more crucial. Let’s remain observant, stay informed, and always put the welfare of our chickens at the forefront, ensuring they remain cool, safe, and thriving, no matter the weather.

Amelia Quinn is a homesteading blogger with a passion for raising chickens. You can read more of her chicken care tips on her website.

Help Rescue Animals

Provide food and vital supplies to shelter pets at The Animal Rescue Site for free!