If you’re here on the BC Coast like us, you may be wondering if summer will ever truly arrive! But undoubtedly it will come and bring with it the heat that can put your backyard flock at risk of dropped production or heat stress. But there are many things we can do to keep our flocks healthy and happy in a heat wave.
Recognizing Heat Stress
As temperatures approach 30 C it’s important to actively monitor your flock for signs of heat stress. Don’t be surprised if feed consumption drops on hot days, as birds won’t be motivated to eat like they would in the cooler months. Birds can’t sweat like mammals, which gives them limited ability to regulate their own temperature. A bird that is overheating will begin to pant and may hold its wings open to work at cooling itself.
As temperatures continue to increase, a bird will grow lethargic before eventually going limp and unconscious. If your birds reach this point the risk of long term health damage and death is extremely high, so it’s important to put measures in place to prevent heat stress altogether. Not taking humidity into account, a bird may be able to survive in temperatures up to 40 C for very short periods of time. In more humid regions it’s possible to see high mortality sooner.
Example: Here in the Fraser Valley (British Columbia, Canada) a barn temperature of 37-38 C has been noted as the point for wide spread mortality among flocks.
Early Signs of Heat Stress in Flocks
Loss of appetite
Increased water consumption
Signs of Extreme Heat Stress in Flocks
What to do when the temperature rises…
Access to fresh water is one of the most important things you can do for your birds. This means regularly filling their water containers or installing a waterline in your coop. For ducks and geese you’ll want to ensure their pool is refilled daily to help them stay cool and hydrated. Also consider setting up extra pools on hotter days.
Tip: Keep water temperatures lower by adding ice blocks or frozen water bottles in the pools that can melt slowly.
Make sure your flock has a place to get out of the sun. If their range doesn’t include any trees or shrubs, consider setting up a shade tent on the hotter days. Building an elevated coop can also create much needed outdoor shade underneath.
While coops can be a great place to hide from mid-day sun, if air inside isn’t moving they can heat to dangerous temperatures. Ensuring adequate ventilation in your coop will go a long way to maintain a more comfortable temperature and keep your birds safe.
A great approach to coop ventilation is an air intake vent as well as an outflow vent with a fan. You will want to ensure the the fan is an appropriate size to maintain proper air exchange. You can test this by throwing down a feather in the air near the air inlet. If the air is moving, the feather will suck towards the fan. Never have exposed wires where your birds can peck at them; ensure all cords are pinned up and out of reach.
Run a hose sprinkler on the roof of your coop to lower the inside temperature.
Set up a misting station in your yard that your birds can visit for a cool down. Most garden centres sell misting attachments for a standard hose!
If you use a feed bin, be sure to open a vent or lid on hot days to prevent the feed from overheating.
Avoid turning on interior lights in your coop. While they may look pretty, even small string lights can add unnecessary heat inside the coop in hot summer months. And an adequate time of darkness each night is also important for your birds to get the sleep they need.
Have a Specific Question?
Our dedicated team of expert nutritionists are here to help. Send us your questions.