I live in Austin, Texas, and there’s a 99% chance I’ll have chickens soon. While I prefer harvesting eggs to the whole chicken, the only problem is—will the hot weather here affect the hen’s egg production? I did some research to find out more. Here’s what I found.
Chickens lay fewer eggs in hot weather because they experience heat-induced stress when temperatures climb too high, typically around 90°F or above. To reduce the effects of heat stress, chickens lay fewer eggs to avoid raising their internal temperature even higher. Extreme heat also makes them lethargic.
So, chickens definitely lay fewer eggs in hot weather, but why are they so affected by it, and what can you do to keep your chickens cool in these conditions? Let’s find out.
Why Do Chickens Lay Fewer Eggs in Hot Weather?
Chickens actually reduce the number of eggs they lay when temperatures are high. This is mainly because their bodies have limited ways of cooling themselves. For example, chickens can’t sweat, so they either pant or lay fewer eggs to reduce their internal temperature as much as possible.
So, while hens lay fewer eggs in the summer or warmer months, what are some other reasons why they lay fewer eggs?
- New Environment: Chickens tend to be dormant when they are in a new environment, especially when they’re around other unfamiliar hens.
- Poor Nutrition: Hens that aren’t well fed can’t lay as many eggs as they should be able to.
- Age: As chickens get older, they gradually lose their ability to lay eggs. This is typically around 6-7 years of age.
- Light: Chickens need at least 14 hours of light to lay their maximum number of eggs.
- Messy Coops: For your hens to lay as many eggs as they possibly can, they need a clean and organized environment to do so in.
- Parasites: Hens require a stable and calm environment to lay eggs. Parasites bring discomfort and might prevent the hens from laying any eggs at all.
- Illnesses: Your chickens may also lay fewer eggs due to illnesses, but there are ways you can spot these diseases and handle them.
Also, the breed may play a role in how many eggs your chickens lay during the hotter months. Some breeds have adapted to lay more eggs in hot weather than others. These include Orpington, Easter Egger, and others.
If you’re interested in learning more about the chicken breeds that lay different colored eggs, check out my post that reviews all of the different colored eggs hens can lay.
What Temperatures Are Too Hot for Chickens?
Temperatures exceeding 90°F (32°C) can cause your hens discomfort. Any hotter and there’s a risk of heat stroke or other heat-related complications. Signs a chicken is too hot are labored panting, staggering, and little to no eating. The ideal temperature for chickens and egg-laying is between 65-75ºF (18-24ºC).
Aside from providing your hens with an environment that is within 65-75ºF, you can also help keep them cool by providing them with a constant supply of water, and even a small pool (more on this later).
Here are the common ways chickens can show signs of heat stress:
- Labored panting: Since chickens can’t sweat, they take short, quick breaths instead.
- Lethargy: When the heat becomes too extreme for your hens to handle, they get sluggish and sleepy. Even if they’re disturbed, they can’t react in this state.
- Staggering: Your chickens may have trouble keeping their balance in high heat, which can cause them to stagger around their coop.
- Eating less: Chickens tend to eat less when it’s really hot. This is because their bodies will produce heat while breaking down food, so they eat much less to avoid that.
- Stop laying eggs: Laying eggs requires hens to produce a lot of internal body heat. The chicken will opt not to lay many eggs, at least until the hot weather period is over.
- Death: Some birds, especially those that are not heavily built and the young ones, cannot withstand the heat and could end up dying.
Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to alleviate these symptoms of heat stress for your hens.
7 Tips To Keep Chickens Cool in Hot Weather
When you start noticing that your chickens are being affected by the heat, don’t panic! There are ways you can help them to get through the hot summers and continue laying eggs.
1. Give Them Cool Water
Chickens often refuse to drink warm water during the summer. So, some owners prefer to freeze their water overnight. They then set it out in the morning, and it will melt during the day.
Others add ice cubes to the hen’s water bucket.
It’s helpful to have your hen’s water container slightly insulated so the water can absorb heat at a slower rate.
2. Place Their Coop Under Shade
When the chicken coop is located where direct sunlight is reaching it, the chicken will receive maximum and direct heat, which can lead to discomfort and potentially even death.
Ideally, place the chicken coop in an area that receives a lot of shade. When the heat starts getting intense, mostly in the afternoon, the shade should cover the entire coop.
As a bonus, you can also use a mister if it’s feasible.
3. Roof Their Coop
In cases when natural shade is not available, building a roof above your coop is your best option.
Naturally, the roof will block most of the heat from reaching the hens. Preferably, it should be made of a material that doesn’t conduct heat well, such as wood. For this reason, avoid metal or dark-colored roofs.
Additionally, keeping the coop door open is a great way to create a draft and increase ventilation, which helps cool the chickens down. Just remember to make sure their run is secure first before leaving their door open.
4. Remove Manure From the Coop
When manure starts to decompose, it produces heat. During summer, your chickens don’t need additional heat, especially from inside the coop.
By removing their waste from the chicken coop, your hen’s house will be cooler than before. In the end, your chickens should feel more relaxed.
For best results, clean the coop well when manure starts to pile up (at least once a week).
5. Use a Kiddie-Pool
Having a small pool may seem strange since hens dislike swimming and most of their feathers are waterproof. However, their bottom-half, near their feet, has feathers that are not waterproof. When these feathers get wet, the extra moisture should help cool them (this is the closest they can get to sweating to stay cool).
Dipping your bird in cool water for a few minutes can significantly help to cool their bodies, even if they seem not to like it at first. After this, they should feel re-energized and more comfortable.
You can also lure them into getting in the pool. By throwing some of their favorite treats in, there’s a good chance they’ll go after them even if it means getting in the water.
If you’re interested in seeing how a kiddie pool is used by chickens, check out this video by Real Simple Mama.
6. Avoid Feeding Them Corn or Scratch
Compared to other feeds, corn is harder for a chicken’s body to digest, and the process is much slower. The longer digestion time produces even more energy and heat for the already hot chicken.
Instead, try feeding your hens summer treats, preferably frozen berries, watermelons, and leafy greens, as they’re easier to digest and will help cool your hens.
The best time to feed your hens during summer is early in the morning before the sun comes up and afternoons after sunset (although, since the mornings are cooler, shade is usually required in the afternoon).
7. Use Electrolyte and Vitamin Supplements
Vitamins or foods with electrolytes can help to regulate your chicken’s internal temperature and keep them from overheating.
Like humans, chickens can benefit from having sufficient electrolyte and vitamin levels, especially in hot weather. Providing electrolytes and vitamins will help hens regulate their internal body temperatures and keep them cool.
This, in combination with a kiddle-pool, is a great way to keep your chickens cool in the summer. The electrolytes and vitamins will promote internal cooling, while the kiddie-pool will promote external cooling.
Natural Ways Chickens Cool Down
While you can provide several measures to help keep your hens cool and lay more eggs, hens do have some natural methods to keep themselves cool.
Here are a few ways chickens naturally cool themselves:
- Combs and waffles: These are located on the chickens’ heads and act as heat regulators. When the surrounding environment has high temperatures, the comb releases the excess heat from the chickens’ bodies.
- Droppings: By defecating, chickens release heat from their bodies, which cools them a bit.
- Spreading their wings: Spreading their wings allows hens to release excess heat from the body, and let in cooler air.
- Digging into the dirt: Chickens dig because the temperature is cooler under the top layer of dirt. By digging with their feet, they can access and lay on the cooler ground.