Many backyard chicken keepers fail to truly understand the importance of good hydration for the health of their birds. It can be the difference between a healthy bird and one that loses condition rapidly. But how much water does a chicken need? And how can we keep our chickens cool and hydrated in the hot summer months?
Chickens are very susceptible to stress, and one cause of stress can be extreme heat in the summer. If chickens are subject to heat stress, this can affect their laying as well as their overall health and well-being. One of the most important things that a chicken keeper can do to ensure that their chickens weather the summer heat well, is give them adequate access to water.
As with most animals, humans included, adequate access to water is vital for chickens. They can survive several days without food, but will lose condition rapidly without water. And at no time is hydration more important than in summer! Even where you put your chicken waterer can be the difference between a dehydrated chicken and one that can make it comfortably through a hot summer's day.
I have been keeping chickens and advising backyard chicken keepers for over 8 years - here are some of my favourite tips for keeping chickens cool and hydrated that have been tried and tested in the scorching Australian summer!
1. Provide Shade
You will notice that your chickens avoid the sun in the middle part of the day even when it is relatively cool. This is because they suffer in the heat!
Ensure that your chicken coop or run has a nice shady area that stays shady throughout the day, so that birds have somewhere cool to pass the time.
2. Provide extra water
So how much water do chickens drink? On average, chickens consume around 500 ml of water per bird, per day. But on hot days, this amount can as much as double!
Check the water level in your Chicken Drinker regularly during hot weather. As birds will be consuming more water, you may need to refill the waterer twice as often as normal. Or invest in a second Drinker for summer!
3. Keep your Drinker cool
Just like us, chickens appreciate a cool drink. This is especially the case in summer - when birds are trying to cool their body temperature, they are reluctant to raise it with warm drinking water, even though they need the hydration!
Keep your drinker cool by situating it in the shadiest part of your chicken coop. Avoid direct sunlight wherever possible.
The other great tip that I recommend is to keep on hand some freezer blocks. They fit wonderfully into our 4 L Chicken Waterers and will keep the water cool for hours! When the water is cool, your birds will consume more and stay hydrated.
4. Put a Drinker where your chickens spend the hottest part of the day
New chicken keepers know that water is essential for their birds, but they don’t realise the importance of the location of their water sources until it is too late. Birds tend to move around during the day and will often find refuge and shelter from heat under a shady tree or building. It is very important for them to have access to a drinker wherever they pass the hottest part of the day, so that the birds don’t constantly need to walk back and forth in the heat to get water.
Having access to water in two places can be key to preventing dehydration on scorching days. This is particularly true where chickens have access to a large area, and in hot climates.
5. Give your chickens a spray down
On really hot days, you will see your chickens pant or spread their wings to try to cool down. They may not appreciate it at the time, but a light spray with the hose both on the birds and on the floor of the run or coop and help your chickens cool down more effectively.
Want to learn more about keeping backyard chickens? Check out our Chook School for information on chicken health, rodent-proofing the chicken coop, Dine a Chook products and more!
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