Are the temperatures rising? Are you worried that your chickens will suffer from the heat? You are absolutely right to be concerned. We explain why and what you can do to cool your chickens and the henhouse during hot periods.
How does a hen regulate her body temperature?
The normal body temperature of a hen is between 40.6 and 41.7 ° C. The animal has very little room to go beyond. The hen actually resists low temperatures much better than high temperatures. She doesn’t have sweat glands like pigs or rabbits, so she doesn’t sweat like we do. But it has a thick plumage and a layer of fat which are as many assets to fight against the cold, but which are as many disadvantages in the event of strong heat.
Here are some guidelines to identify abnormal behavior in your hens in the event of rising temperatures.
Up to 25 ° C, the hen maintains a normal body temperature without problems.
Above 25 ° C, the body temperature of the hen will increase according to the outside temperature. As soon as its body increases by 1 ° C, the hen begins to ventilate its body by opening its wings and beak and breathes faster. It seeks to come into contact with surfaces likely to bring it freshness. His heart rate also increases, with the aim of increasing the exchange of temperature with the air, at the level of the skin, feathers, legs, crest and barbels. She also decreases her diet.
From a certain stage, when the body temperature is too high, the hen becomes listless. His metabolism goes wrong. By dint of panting, she releases too much water vapor. The animal’s blood pH becomes too basic and the hen becomes dehydrated. If the hen is not cared for, the breathing will eventually slow down. The body temperature continues to rise. If its body reaches 47 ° C, the animal dies of cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest.
Prevention is better than cure
Obviously, the ideal is to anticipate heatstroke. The chicken coop should ideally be placed in the shade of a tree or a hedge. As the exhibition changes throughout the day, it is particularly during the hottest hours, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. that the henhouse must be sheltered from the sun.
Anticipate summer and make sure the ground will be covered with enough vegetation to limit reverberation and heat build-up.
What to do during peak heat?
If the roof of the chicken coop is covered with bitumen or sheet metal, it will heat up, more than if it were made of wood. To limit this phenomenon, it suffices to cover it with several layers of cardboard: it is an excellent insulator. If it is white, it will be even better because part of the solar rays will be reflected.
As for the grassy course, do not hesitate to create a shaded path with the help of umbrellas if you do not have the possibility of doing it with vegetation.
During hot weather, you must visit your chickens twice a day. Aim for the cooler hours, early in the morning and early evening, and avoid disturbing them the rest of the day because physical activity increases their body temperature.
Humidifying the coop is a bad idea, as any excess humidity can lead to the growth of bacteria. Instead, be sure to ventilate the interior of the coop. Solid doors can be replaced with wire mesh to continue to secure the coop at night while promoting good air circulation. The use of a fan is possible in the event of very hot weather. However, the device must be kept out of the reach of animals.
Give your chickens enough water
Normally, an adult hen can drink up to 0.5 liters of water and up to 1 liter in very hot weather. This is only an average, as broilers can drink more. The amount of water a hen needs varies depending on her environment and her diet. Indeed, the consumption of grass and plants can cover part of the water needs. As for the diet, foods rich in protein, salt and potassium lead the hen to drink more water.
In summer, a hen is in danger from the second day without water. But when temperatures rise above 25 ° C, lack of water can be fatal from day one.
Whatever the time of year, but especially when it is very hot, the water must be changed every day, otherwise bacteria are likely to develop there. This is all the more important as the hens are reluctant to drink dirty water.
In addition, you must multiply the drinkers because if there is only one drinker, the dominant hens can limit the access to the subordinate hens. In the event of heat, the hens must be able to drink on the grassy course, without having to return to the henhouse.
Is a water point useful for the hens in the event of hot weather?
You will never see hens swimming. It is not compatible with the maintenance of their plumage. The cleaning and smoothing of the feathers is done by the homogeneous distribution of a fatty substance secreted by the uropygian gland located on the top of the body, at the base of the tail. A wet hen can be quickly infected with parasites. If they happen to be walking in the rain, they know exactly when to take shelter, before they lose their job of preening the feathers.
If the weather is very hot, a small water point can however do them good. A few centimeters of water are enough because they do not soak that paws.
What care should be given to a hen in the event of heat stroke?
Take the suffering hen away and place her in a cool place, cellar or garage. Offer him water in a syringe. It is quite possible to add a little sugar to the water to give it energy.
You can also soak its paws in a basin of water. The water must not be cold at the risk of causing a thermal shock: water at room temperature will be quite refreshing.
Continue to hydrate the hen and watch her. His condition should improve quickly. If it deteriorates, consult a veterinarian immediately.