The effects of summer heat can be devastating to chickens. Temperatures higher than 75 degrees can cause added stress on their bodies, because the extra blood flow to their combs, wattles, and skin reduces the flow to vital organs. This imbalance in the body produces symptoms including purplish combs, droopy wings, a disheveled appearance and a refusal to eat or drink. This eventually leads to coma or death.
Chickens combat the heat, in part, by panting. Their panting to keep cool increases their respiratory and heart rate, causeing them to lose carbon dioxide much faster than they would normally, upsetting the Ph balance in their bodies. And that can lead to Acidosis, a potentially fatal condition. Adding a 2% ratio of baking soda to your chickens' water can help prevent Acidosis.
Adding apple cider vinegar to your chickens' water once a week comes with many health benefits including an increase in calcium absorption, which is particularly important during the summer months when the hens' feed intake goes down and they aren't taking in as much calcium as normal.A far better water additive in times of extreme heat is this homemade electrolyte balancing recipe. We've used it for several years now and have never lost a hen to summer heat yet.
To make, per gallon of water, mix 2 tsp. sugar, 1/8 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. baking soda. I've got where I just add it straight into my water.
I'm also notorious for freezing old water, juice, and milk containers nearly full of water (I usually fill within an inch of the top to leave room for expansion), and freeze them, making big ice cubes to go in my chickens' water. I usually add once or twice per day to fresh water during times of extreme heat, then, at the end of the day, I put the warm containers in a Walmart sack to refreeze them again for use later in the week. I keep several frozen bottles on hand at all times to keep a rotation going.
I hope some of these tips help you to help your hens in beating the summer heat!
Until Next Time,
(Note: This article was originally posted on 7/18/13.)
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