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Chicken Health,  Chickens,  Raising Chicks

10 Ways to Keep Chickens Cool During Hot Summer Weather or Heat Waves

Chickens are rockstars at a lot of things: laying eggs, throwing sass, making us laugh, digging holes… But one thing chickens aren’t great at is keeping themselves cool and collected in extreme heat. They need your help! In fact, your efforts could be life-saving. Did you know that extreme heat is more dangerous for chickens than freezing cold conditions? It sure is. I’ve heard SO many sad stories of friends losing their chickens to heat… Thankfully, there are many simple ways that you can help keep your flock of chickens cool and safe during hot summer weather. Read along to learn more!

How hot of temperatures is “too hot” for chickens?

In general, temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit increase the risk of heat stress and heat-related illness in chickens, including death. Prolonged hot temperatures combined with high humidity is an especially uncomfortable combination, for chickens and humans alike. The degree of heat stress depends on a number of factors, including the chicken’s living quarters, diet, and breed. Heavier chicken breeds may start to become overheated around 85°F. On the other hand, smaller or lighter chicken breeds generally do better in heat. 

Chickens can’t sweat to cool themselves. Instead, chickens dissipate excess heat from their combs, wattles, beaks, and feet. Meaning, any surface area that isn’t covered in their built-in down jackets! Therefore, chicken breeds with large combs and wattles are able to cool themselves more readily than those with small peacombs. Learn more characteristics of the Top 18 Backyard Chicken breeds here, including comb and body type, egg production, demeanor, and more.

Signs of heat stress and heat stroke in chickens

  • Overheating chickens will usually pant: breathing heavily through an open beak, often moving their tongues up and down.
  • Standing with wings held out away from their body
  • Droopy and lethargic behavior
  • Decreased appetite
  • Pale or discolored combs and wattles
  • Egg production may also decrease with prolonged heat exposure

A  brownish red chickens is standing next to a raised garden bed. Her beaks is agape and her wings are being held away from her body to keep herself cool. It is important to know how to keep chickens cool in hot weather.
This is Phoebe, and she is a hot bird. You can see she is panting, breathing with her beak open. Her wings are also held away from her sides in an effort to cool down. Don’t worry, she got some frozen strawberries right after this!

Many of these signs and symptoms sound pretty scary – but I don’t want you to worry! With the measures described below, it is fairly easy to keep your chickens cool during hot summer weather with minimal intervention. If your area is known for high heat, hopefully you set up your coop and run with cooling measures already in mind. Or, you can make some modifications as needed.  

Unusual heat waves pose the most risk for heat stress in chickens. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, monitor your chickens behavior, and be prepared to respond accordingly. Chickens that live in places with routinely hot conditions may become accustomed to the heat, and tolerate it better than those who are used to more temperate conditions. We have many Midwest and Southern friends who say their chickens do just fine with temperatures in the 90s. Here on the mild Central Coast of California, a heat wave of 90+ degree days is quite unusual, uncomfortable and risky for our flock.  

10 Ways to Keep Chickens Cool in Hot Weather

1) Provide Shade 

This is one of the most simple but crucial measures. Ensure that your chickens have a shady space to retreat on hot days. Our girls love to hang out under the trees in our yard. If your chicken run area is mostly sunny, create additional shade by draping black shade cloth over the run. Another option is to string one of these cool shade canopies between posts, fences, or trees.

Two saw horses are positioned below a grapefruit tree. Two chickens are roosting on one of them in the shade while a lone chicken is roosting on the other.
Resting in the shade on a warm day. We keep several roosts throughout the yard under the canopy of trees. It helps them feel secure (feeling less exposed to predators) as well as cool and comfortable.

2) Cold Fresh Water 

Provide a constant supply of cold fresh water. On the hottest days, that may mean refreshing their water a few times per day. Some chicken keepers add ice to their chicken waterers to keep them cool. Instead of ice, you could also throw some frozen treats in there – like frozen fruit or vegetables! Keep their waterers in a shady and readily accessible location (e.g. not inside the hot coop, especially if they aren’t hanging out in there during the day). If your chickens are showing signs of heat stress, adding electrolytes to their water can help them stay hydrated and healthy.

3) The Right Cold Treats

Did you know that some treats actually increase a chicken’s body temperature? As we explored in our “Keeping Chickens Warm in Winter” article, high-carb treats like dry cracked corn and scratch warm them up from the inside out as they work to digest them. Thus, cut back or avoid scratch during extreme heat. Rather, provide cold, refreshing, high-moisture treats such as watermelon and other fruits and veggies. 

Try freezing some treats! We like to give our girls frozen peas, corn, watermelon chunks, and chopped frozen strawberries on hot days. Another popular idea is to make frozen treat blocks. Fill a large “tupperware” type container with water and berries (or similar), freeze it overnight, and set it out the next day for the chickens to pick at as it thaws. 

As always, treats should only be fed in moderation – especially in hot conditions, as chickens are likely eating less in general. This makes it quite easy to become malnourished, adding to an already stressful situation. 

A hand is holding a bowl of frozen strawberry pieces, below the bowl are three chickens waiting intently for the frozen food that will help keep them cool.
Frozen chopped strawberries
Two brownish red and black colored chickens are standing around a blue bowl that contains frozen strawberry pieces. One of the chickens has their head inside the bowl inspecting the berries while the other. Chicken is standing and staring at the camera. There is a black and white chicken that is only partially visible off to the side of the image.
See? Phoebe is feeling better already.

4) Freeze their Feed

In order to maintain optimal health, encourage your chickens to continue to eat their usual nutritionally-balance chicken feed. Freezing their feed for an hour or so before putting it out is one way to make it potentially more appetizing, as well as cooling. When chickens consume frozen food (including frozen treats), having cold material in their crop actually lowers their body temperature from within!

5) Ventilate & Cool the Coop

It’s always recommended to provide good ventilation inside a chicken coop, but even more so in hot conditions. Ensure the coop has screened (but predator-proof!) openings that allow for a nice cross-breeze. If your coop is usually pretty buttoned-up for winter, are there any solid walls or doors that you could safely swap with wire fencing during the summer? If our girls go into the coop to lay eggs on hot days, we sometimes prop open the main “human” door to help cool thing down inside – but have to be diligent to remember to close it back up again at night!

Consider adding a fan in the coop if safe electricity is available, or use a solar-powered fan. Also, avoid overcrowding – in both the coop and run space. Nobody likes a crowd on hot days. Provide at least 4 square feet of indoor coop space and 10 square feet of outdoor space per chicken. 

Update: Another great life-saving tip and way to cool down the chicken coop is to fill large containers with water and freeze them (e.g. milk jugs, liter or 2-liter plastic bottles). Then, tuck the frozen containers in the coop around the chickens to keep them cool overnight.

We love having this reliable autodoor on our chicken coop, which lets the girls in and out of their protected run each morning and night.

6) Keep the Coop Clean (No Deep Litter Method)

During hot conditions, keep the coop as clean and tidy as possible. Reduce the bedding layer inside the coop to no more than 2 inches deep to prevent trapping in heat. Some chicken keepers use a “deep litter” method, which allows the bedding material (and chicken excrement) to form a deep pile on the coop floor. The built up material acts as an extra layer of insulation in the coop. As microbes work to break it down, the material physically heats up. While this is a clever way to keep the coop warmer during winter, it is less-than-ideal in hot summer conditions! 

7) Set up a Kiddie Pool (or Mud Puddle)

Chickens can lower their body temperature by keeping their feet cool. Some of them love to stand in cool water on a hot day! I know many people who set up little kiddie pools or wading pools for their chickens to enjoy. Yet other folks say their chickens won’t use them much. It depends on the flock, and their opportunity to become accustomed to the idea. For example, if extreme heat is the norm and you always have a pool out during the summer, I bet the chickens take to it! But if you don’t usually provide one and then whip out a blue kiddie pool during a random heat wave, your chickens will probably just look at it (and you) sideways. You can also add a few pavers/stepping stones in the pool, to give them a place to stand and feel more stable while inside.

Instead of a pool, another option to keep chickens feet cool is to create a muddle puddle area. Wet the ground and provide standing, muddy water. We all know how much chickens like dirt! Perhaps they’ll be more excited about getting their feet wet in mud if they aren’t keen on a water pool.  

Two chickens inside of a blue kiddie pool that is halfway filled with water. There are stones and brick pavers sitting in the water and these are what the chickens are standing on. One of the chickens is standing with their bewk agape while the other has its wings held away from its body.
Chickens enjoying a kiddie pool on a hot summer day. Photo courtesy of the Chicken Chick.

8) Use Misters (or Sprinklers)

Adding moisture to the air or ground around the coop and run will lower the surrounding temperature. As airborne water droplets evaporate, it immediately cools the air. Therefore, setting up a mister system is one effective way to help keep your chickens cool, and could be very worthwhile in places where regular hot days are common. Alternatively, you could use lawn sprinklers nearby, or simply spray down the ground with a hose on occasion. 

This popular, affordable and simple mister system connects right to a nearby faucet.

9) Provide Dust Bath Space

Wallowing in dirt may sound like an uncomfortable pursuit to us humans, but that is how chickens keep themselves clean – and cool! Soil a few inches below the sunny ground surface can be several degrees cooler. Like ventilation, providing a nice dust bath space is always a good idea. The layer of dust on their skin and feathers also helps them stay fluffed and cool.

On hot days, be sure your chickens have a place to dust bath in the shade. If their shaded run area doesn’t have suitable ground material for dust bathing, create a dust bath! Fill galvanized metal tubs (what we use), a sturdy tote bin, kiddie pool, or other container with fine dirt or sand. Add a sprinkle of lime, wood ash, or food-grade diatomaceous earth for added mite and lice control. If possible, add large holes to the bottom of the container for drainage on rainy days. 

Learn more here: How to Make a Chicken Dust Bath: Easy DIY Ideas

Three hens are inside a metal tub full of dirt, one of hens is laying in the dirt while the other two are busy pecking away at the soil.

10) Dunk the Chicken in Water

Okay, this sounds a little extreme… and that is because it kind of is! I suggest this option if your chickens are showing clear and persistent signs of heat stress, and the other ways we’ve explored to cool chickens down are not working (or possible). Truth be told, we have dunked our hot chickens in water on several occasions – and they seem to love it! Check out the video of Miss Ginger below. Before her bath, she couldn’t even stand up.

We are fortunate, and do not have regular hot weather where we live. Most summer days are in the 70s, and rarely over 85°F. However, that means that when we are hit with a random heat wave, our chickens are absolutely not accustomed to it. That also means we do not have misters, a kiddie pool, or other cooling methods readily available. 

So, when our chickens are looking miserable and I am worried for their safety, we gently submerge them (only up to their shoulders) in a bucket of cool to room temperature water for about one minute. That is sufficient time to rapidly cool their internal body temperature. Once they’re done, the evaporation from their wet feathers will also help keep them cool for a while.

Note that you should NOT dunk them in freezing cold or even notably cold water. That is just mean, and can be shocking in its own right. If the water coming out of your hose is really cold, let the bucket of water sit out in the sun for a half hour or so to slightly warm. When we’re having a heat wave, our tap water is usually plenty warm to use as-is. 

Press play. It was over 95F this particular afternoon, and Ginger wouldn’t even stand up before this! We acted quickly and gave each girl a one-minute dip in cool water.

And that is how to keep chickens cool, comfortable, and safe in extreme heat.

In all, no one knows your flock better than you do! When things start to heat up, monitor them and respond in your best judgement and ability. If a chicken becomes alarmingly listless, a final resort is to bring them inside to the cooling comfort of your home. Don’t laugh! I know many people who do. Set up a large crate, bring them into a cool basement, or designate a spare bathroom as a temporary chicken sanctuary to keep your friends safe. They’re relying on you, after all. 

Did I forget any good tips that you use to keep chickens cool in the summer? Add your experience (or ask questions) in the comments below! Also please feel free to spread the chicken love by sharing or pinning this article. Thank you for tuning in.

Interested in learning more about raising backyard chickens? You may enjoy these related articles:

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  • Eric

    We live in north Texas and this summer has been one of the worst, days over 100 degrees and nights only in the 80’s. BUT our chickens are doing great thanks too……soaker hoses….the don’t use much water at all and saturate the ground wonderfully. We have a giant oak tree in the back that gives just a tremendous amount of shade. We got a hundred foot soaked hose, put it in a circle around the tree and the chickens are in heaven..I couldn’t have imagined how incredible it works

  • Lynette

    We have 14 chicks in Colorado. 100 degrees today. There is a tree in our run, coop is elevated and we hung a shade cloth along side with afternoon sun. Are making a misting system tomorrow, but have small pool with paver stones and spray shade cloth and ground a couple of times today. I highly recommend the shade cloth – has made a major difference.

  • Bill

    I have a swamp cooler blowing into their coop. It works just fine. No panting or overheating on 104 degree days. They love it.

  • George

    I live in the Fort Worth Texas area and we are smoking hot right now. We have mostly Silkies. I have been using misters in 2 pens to help out. I have a crawl space under my house that is really nice and cool. I had a 12 inch attic fan I wasn’t using and crawled under the house a few feet to set it up to blow out the cool air. One group we call the Horde stands in front of the access door and gets a cool breeze! Unfortunatly there isn’t enough room and some attitudes are gigger than others to share, but they do like it!! They are all inside the house today for some relief, all 19 of them. There will be a rebelion today since they can’t go outside!!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      It seems like you are taking the proper precautions to help them out during hotter days, good luck to you and your birds in that heat!

  • Cori McCann

    Thank you for this valuable, life-saving advice! I’m located on the western edge of central Texas and we’ve already been experiencing record high temps this year (107° a few days ago). I’ve been feeding my young flock (they’re about 3 months old) afternoon treats of frozen bananas, grapes, watermelon and pineapple. Their coup is shaded and has good ventilation, but I just added a large plastic container (I think it was once a car fluid changing device, maybe an oil pan, but it’s clean!)..I put bricks in it and filled it with clean, cool water. I’m about to start construction on a larger coup to accommodate their size, under the shade of a large mesquite tree..I started with 10 chicks, lost one to an unknown cause, so I’m constantly concerned about their health and safety. I’m always looking for new ways and ideas to keep them safe and healthy. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and experience.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi David, I don’t see any issue with that, I would keep try and keep it up away from the chickens and circulate the air above them as I am not sure how they feel about a fan blowing directly on them. Good luck!

  • Tamie

    Thank you so much for this article! I live in HOT Texas and am a relatively new chicken momma (this is our first summer together). It is only early June and our temperature is 101 degrees today. Needless to say, it’s going to be a hot one. My chickens are not doing too well. All of them have their beaks wide open, are panting to the point they are almost shaking, and wings spread farther than I’ve seen (except when they run to greet me when its “treat time”). I ordered misters yesterday (they should arrive today-thanks Amazon!) and I have been taking ice water with frozen bits of strawberry out to them on the regular. I put a kiddie pool out there a few minutes ago, but they have yet to use it. I will be sure to try the dunk bath if they don’t improve when I go back out there. I made them frozen strawberry and greek yogurt treats as well, and am about to serve them so hopefully they’ll peck at those. We have fans in their (extremely large) run and in their coop. One of my birds has a very small waddle and comb and they appear pale today…I had no idea these help keep them cool. I will definitely pay special attention to her and will probably dunk her to make sure she is cool enough. I love them so much and hate to see them like this. My 7 girls are Mary Kate, Ashley, Ginger, Betty, Elsie, Mary Jane, and Phyllis. And our boy, Benedict (Benny for short)…he appears to be doing fine. They are my world and your article may very well have saved their lives today! Again, thank you so much for writing this and sharing it with everyone.

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      No problem at all Tamie and it sounds like you are doing everything you can to help them out. Our chickens would never willingly go into a water bath but other people have the opposite experience, dunking them in water definitely makes a difference for a hot bird. Wishing you and the chickens luck in the Texas heat!

    • Karen

      I live 20 min from Ft. Worth, so understand the dilemma. I’ve found that they do well with mud puddles, lots of cold lettuce, watermelon and other cold treats. I have a fan in the area as well as tarping some areas that do not have shade. (Made my own shady areas where trees are lacking). I used misters last year and they worked great, unfortunately, didn’t last long due to our hard water. Found it impossible to get the misters cleaned. I have some silkies too…they seem less stressed than the other birds.

    • Inge

      Hi Tamie,

      I am relatively new to chicken keeping as well and in the process of trying to be as good a ‘mum’ as I can I came accross several articles that suggested to NOT feed them any diairy. I think it has to do with the gut bacteria…..but ot completely sure about that. I have just ordered a misting fan as well to try out.

      We have 5 Bantam chickens and out Silky seems to be the happiest with this hot weather (about 30 degrees C), she is actually sunbathing at times. I have tried spraying them with misty water but that got them very upset so hopefully they can cope with the misting fan.

      Just tried the dunking with 1 chicken who was very upset to start with and once wet (and cool) stayed voluntarily in her little bath box for another minute without me holding her. She was a bit puzzled about her wet feathers but the panting resolved immediately.
      Trying out the ice cubes in their water tomorrow. We are in for a heatwave here in the UK!

      Thanks Inge

  • Tammy

    Our hens here in coastal NC seem to always be panting. We like to let them free range, and they stay cool in the shade. We also feed them cold watermelon and put ice in their water at the hottest part of the day. While sitting in the shade of the tree ourselves, we water the grass with a hose and they love to cool down walking in that while scratching and feeding on the grass and weeds.

  • Pam

    I keep a big glass roasting dish in their run filled with water. I have three water-loving hens who regularly bring their temperature down by wading and splashing when they like.



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