Symptoms of Heat Stress in Chickens

Just like other household pets, chickens can cope with hot days. However, unless they have access to shade and plentiful water they can quickly succumb to heat exhaustion, also know as heat stroke.

Heat stroke symptoms include:

  • Fast panting
  • Listless
  • Beaks open
  • Wings Extended
  • Eating less
  • Drinking more

My hen is panting a lot, what should I do?

Hens do not have sweat glands to help regulate their body temperature. To compensate for this, a chicken will pant to help cool down their body. Slow panting is normal, however excessive panting is a sign of heat stress, which will require urgent action.

Panting helps your chicken too cool down as the moisture in their airways is evaporated. Unfortunately in very hot circumstances stances or prolonged hot periods this cooling method will cause your hen to become dehydrated. In addition to this, if the weather is also particularly humid, panting will be inefective at reducing their body temperature.

If your hen is panting rapidly, you need to cool down your chickens and apply some long-lasting measures to prevent heat stress in the future.

These are the immediate steps you should take

  • Ensure adequate water. Add multiple hydration points, and locate them in the shade
  • Give your hens a some watermelon or some large frozen cubes to peck at
  • Open the doors and windows to the henhouse to encourage a breeze
  • Before opening up the henhouse, hose down the roof to reduce it’s temperature.
  • Add electrolytes to the drinking water
  • Pay close attention to make sure the above measures are working

How you can avoid heat stress in your flock

We can’t control the temperature, however there are long-term preventative measures chicken-keepers can take to prevent heat stroke in their flock.

  1. Insulate the hen house

    Insulation is easy to apply and a very cost-effective way to keep your hens cool in summer and warm in winter. When looking at insulation, avoid insulation that encourages lice and mites to breed. Look at foam board insulation rather than wool insulation

  2. Add Shade

    Adding a large tree, or shrub beside your coop or henhouse will give your hens the option of shade if they require it. In hot weather, you will find that hens tend to go and hide out in a shady spot if they have the option. If you don’t have any mature plants yet, add an outdoor umbrella to give them somewhere to hang out in the day.

  3. Add multiple points for hydration

    In the summer, the best type of drink station is a Dine A Chook one with lubing cups. These will reduce water-loss, and ensure clean water for your hens. These drinkers will also allow you to easily administer electrolyts to your hens to help maintain their health in the peak of Summer

  4. Allow ventilation

    A well ventilated hen house is important for a variety of reasons. Being able to open the windows and doors allows a breeze to come through and reduce the temperature of the henhouse. A hen is likely to hide away in the henhouse to try and escape the direct sunlight. For this reason, it is important that they are not stifled by heat

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