How To Help Your Chickens Beat The Elements

Photo of Kassandra Smith

Kassandra Smith

Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops

16 May 2014

Hot chicken? Or chilly chicken? Well, preferably none of these should be on the menu for our feathered friends! Whilst chickens are renown for their resilience, there does come a point where they need a helping hand from their owners to escape the heat, or prevent cold feet!

Precautions vary depending on the climate of your area - for example, North Queensland isn't exactly famous for its skiing. And you won't find many beach goers in Hobart! The breed can also play a significant role - for example, the Barred Plymouth Rock  is well known for its cold-hardiness.  Generally speaking, if the weather is slightly hot or a reasonable level of coldness, your chickens will continue to thrive, and their bodies natural resistance will be enough to prevent illness.  However, when the weather does hit extremes, your flock can be seriously affected.  If you're experiencing temperatures over approximately 32 degrees celsius, check your chicks regularly to ensure they aren't overheating.  Conversely, in temperatures below zero or under 8 degrees, chickens can be at risk of frostbite.

The good news is, there are many easily identifiable warning signs if you think your chicks are losing the battle against the elements. Many are synonymous with human symptoms as well! Keep your eye out for any of the following signs -

Hot:

chickens staying cool in the shade on a hot day

Cold:

  • The colour of their extremities i.e. feet and head - if they are becoming lighter in colour, then you may have a case of frostbite developing.

  • Loss of appetite

Isa Bown chicken in cold snow

There are many practical ways in which you can give your chickens a helping hand should the weather prove too strenuous. Many are simple and are great at preventing a hefty vet bill!

Tips to keep your hens warm:

1: Make sure the chicken is no longer exposed to the cold temperatures outside, and then gradually immerse the chicken in warm - not hot - water.

2:  If your looking for a little more out-of-the-box solution and are an avid knitting fan, then maybe a DIY jumper is the answer!

3: Keep them entertained - getting your chickens moving around is an easy way to get the blood flowing and to warm them up.  Stringing some food up to the ceiling of their coop to give them some motivation to jump!

4:  If the case of frostbite does look severe, its best to contact your veterinarian.

Chicken treats of frozen berries in ice

Tips to keep your hens cool:

1: Always make sure they have fresh water to drink.

2: Keep a bucket or source of water on standby, so you can give them a light sprinkle of relief should they be looking overcooked!

3: Freezing foods like watermelon and other fruits into ice cubes is also an easy, tasty snack that'll cool them down.

4: If your chickens are looking a little dehydrated, purchase some specialist vitamins and electrolytes and add it to their water - they'll be back to their perky selves in no time.

The best and easiest solution for both sides of the thermometer is ensuring that your chicken coop is well ventilated, and that there's no sneaky cracks where drafts can creep in - that's a sure fire way to chill your chick to the bone.  Having more hens in the coop is also a brilliant, simple way to beat the cold, as body heat is one of the most effective sources of warmth.

One of the best attributes of chickens is that they can adapt to different climates.  The best preventative measures are to research the breed, and have a reliable coop - but if your chickens fall foul of the elements, all the steps needed to get them back to 100% are simple, and pretty cheep.

Sources and further reading

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