recognizing heat stress in chickens

The intense summer heat here in Phoenix arrived a bit late this year, but mother nature is now making up for it. Our daily highs have been up to 117°, which is more than uncomfortable. Indoor activities and exercise are best for both humans and animals. It's kind-of like being snowed-in, except we have the opposite problem. We have to be especially careful to be sure our animals stay healthy and protect them from the harsh temperatures. Mid-day dog walks are out of the question, so I have to walk my clients before dawn. Double-checking water bowls are also critical. When I make my pet sitting visits, I make sure all of the animals in my care are comfortable and not suffering from any heat-related issues. I've recently learned more about heat stress in chickens, as I've been called upon several times to check on some of my favorite chickens who haven't been doing too well with the recent heat. 

Recognizing heat stress in chickens and how to prevent and treat an overheated chicken.

Recognizing heat stress in chickens and how to prevent and treat an overheated chicken.

Backyard chickens are sensitive to temperature, which can be a challenge since they are primarily outdoor creatures. As lovely as they are, not many of us would invite them inside to sit on the couch with a glass of iced tea to cool off. Chickens can succumb to heat stroke rapidly, so it is important to monitor them closely and intervene at the first sign (or before) of distress. One of my clients thought she might lose her chickens on a couple of occasions this summer and has called on me to check on them during the hottest parts of the day if she can't be there. She has educated me about the signs that a chicken is suffering from heat-related distress, and I have done some additional research in order to be better prepared.

signs of heat stress in chickens

So what should we look for to determine if backyard chickens are in trouble?

• Wing Spread. Chickens typically keep their wings fairly close to their bodies. If a chicken has its wings spread for a prolonged period of time, she is trying to increase air circulation around her body in an attempt to cool herself.

• Lethargy. Decreased activity levels and laying down are signs that a chicken is overheated.

Eggs I collected during one of my chicken-sits. At left is the "distressed" egg side-by-side with a normal egg. At right is a closeup of the distressed egg. 

Eggs I collected during one of my chicken-sits. At left is the "distressed" egg side-by-side with a normal egg. At right is a closeup of the distressed egg. 

• Panting. While panting is a way dogs help themselves cool off and is quite normal, unless excessive, if you see a chicken pant, it's time to intervene. They cannot regulate their body temperature as efficiently as a dog. 

• Waddle and comb lose color. If the chicken's waddle and comb lose color, it is likely a sign of being overheated. The waddle and comb may also appear overly dry.

• Misshapen eggs or no eggs. If your chicken stops laying eggs according to her regular schedule, or if the eggs are misshapen, your chicken may be overheated.

If left untreated, an overheated chicken can begin to have seizures and convulsions, leading to heat stroke and likely death, in a relatively short period of time. Early intervention is critical. 

ways to help chickens beat the heat

My clients have outlined a plan A, B, and C, for me when I care for their chickens, which I very much appreciate. Care during the hot summer months includes:

• Making sure they have fresh ice water. Chickens tend to be a bit messy, so their water should be checked for cleanliness and temperature several times a day. 

Three of my favorite ladies beating the heat in the shade while wading in a puddle. 

Three of my favorite ladies beating the heat in the shade while wading in a puddle. 

• Misting system. The chickens I care for do very well with a misting system that attaches to an outdoor fan. The fan and mist together provide the chickens with a cool area that they can enjoy.

• Shade and shelter. Chickens should never be forced in full sun, especially when temperatures are so high. Making sure their area has plenty of shade is critical.

• Water for cooling. Chickens don't love to swim, but in an emergency, they can be dunked into cool (not cold) water up to their necks to provide relief. You may also consider providing a wading area, such as a kiddie pool, for them to cool their feet. They don't love it, but hosing them down is another tactic for cooling.

• Electrolyte replenishment. Dehydration and heat stress deplete vital electrolytes in the body. The Chicken Chick has a great, easy recipe for a homemade electrolyte solution for chickens. She also shares a lot of other great information, so check out her site. 

• A safe indoor space. As a last resort, chickens may need to be invited inside. My clients are lucky in that they have an air-conditioned tack room with a large dog crate, so I've been advised to seek shelter for the chickens there, if they overheat. If you're not lucky enough to have a tack room, a bathroom is a great alternative. It's fairly easy to wipe down once your chickens are ready to go back outside.

Do you keep backyard chickens? How do you protect them from harsh elements?

 

8 photos of #happiness

Dog Mom Days, one of my favorite blogs, was kind enough to invite me to participate in spreading some joy around this joint! Sometimes I'm guilty of letting the hamsters in my brain take over, so it's kind-of nice to just think about happy and choose some photos that make me feel that way. I hope they make you feel that way, too. 

Pass on the happiness!

Pass on the happiness!

A special thanks to Ariel's Little Corner of the Internet for starting this rainbow-of--fun shin-dig! What a spectacularly fabulous happy idea!

my 8 photos of happiness

Though my own animals make me very, very happy, I've chosen a few photos that best represent the happiness my life as a pet sitter brings. 

This lovely lady, posing so politely with my Jr. Pet Sitters (aka, my fabulous littles), makes me appreciate that my children sometimes sacrifice play time and endure days-long pet sitting adventures with me. My children know compassion for animals, have a tiny bit of work ethic, respect my clients' homes and furry family members, and are great helpers when it comes to play time and cuddles. I love them so, and this photo exemplifies their respect and caring for animals and for me. It makes me happy.

This lovely lady, posing so politely with my Jr. Pet Sitters (aka, my fabulous littles), makes me appreciate that my children sometimes sacrifice play time and endure days-long pet sitting adventures with me. My children know compassion for animals, have a tiny bit of work ethic, respect my clients' homes and furry family members, and are great helpers when it comes to play time and cuddles. I love them so, and this photo exemplifies their respect and caring for animals and for me. It makes me happy.

When I started my official super-really-real (as opposed to the neighborhood kid coming over) pet sitting business ten years ago, this dude was one of my first clients. Several cities later for both of us, we were reunited a few months ago (when this pic was taken), and though he's struggling with some health issues that make me sad, Being back together with my bud makes me happy. 

When I started my official super-really-real (as opposed to the neighborhood kid coming over) pet sitting business ten years ago, this dude was one of my first clients. Several cities later for both of us, we were reunited a few months ago (when this pic was taken), and though he's struggling with some health issues that make me sad, Being back together with my bud makes me happy. 

This one puts a spring in my step! How can this one not make anyone happy? What made me  especially  happy was taking a pretty rockin' pic of a black dog...SO hard to achieve!

This one puts a spring in my step! How can this one not make anyone happy? What made me especially happy was taking a pretty rockin' pic of a black dog...SO hard to achieve!

Not the greatest pic, but this really speaks to the love I have for my clients' pets. For me, it's never been about dropping food and heading out. We share moments and we bond, and this captures that happiness I have when I'm hanging out with my best friends.

Not the greatest pic, but this really speaks to the love I have for my clients' pets. For me, it's never been about dropping food and heading out. We share moments and we bond, and this captures that happiness I have when I'm hanging out with my best friends.

This was an early morning game of fetch with some special pooches. Their family was one of my first clients. None of these dogs was in the family when I first started caring for their pets. We've been through passings and happy times, and a lot together. This captures the personalities of these three, how we play together, and how fun they are, which makes me happy. 

This was an early morning game of fetch with some special pooches. Their family was one of my first clients. None of these dogs was in the family when I first started caring for their pets. We've been through passings and happy times, and a lot together. This captures the personalities of these three, how we play together, and how fun they are, which makes me happy. 

This pic I took just a couple of days ago. It's gotten a bit of attention because no one (on the ENTIRE planet, it seems) has ever seen a Husky in a desert environment. It makes me happy to let people know that we love (and take good care of) Huskies in the desert (this was an early morning walk, but temps were approaching 90 degrees). This guy is a brand new client of mine, and he's had some challenges in the past, so it makes me happy to let him shine.

This pic I took just a couple of days ago. It's gotten a bit of attention because no one (on the ENTIRE planet, it seems) has ever seen a Husky in a desert environment. It makes me happy to let people know that we love (and take good care of) Huskies in the desert (this was an early morning walk, but temps were approaching 90 degrees). This guy is a brand new client of mine, and he's had some challenges in the past, so it makes me happy to let him shine.

This one's a bit goofy, but that's me and one of my favorite chickens. Most of my clients are dogs and cats, but I have several "alternative pets," and she's one of my faves. She gives me shit sometimes, but she also lets me pick her up and cuddle her. Bonding with animals who are a bit of a challenge is so rewarding. We're solid. Happy!

This one's a bit goofy, but that's me and one of my favorite chickens. Most of my clients are dogs and cats, but I have several "alternative pets," and she's one of my faves. She gives me shit sometimes, but she also lets me pick her up and cuddle her. Bonding with animals who are a bit of a challenge is so rewarding. We're solid. Happy!

One of my clients. Need I explain? Perhaps one of my favorite funny pics I've ever taken. This. Guy. Rocks.

One of my clients. Need I explain? Perhaps one of my favorite funny pics I've ever taken. This. Guy. Rocks.

Thanks for checking out our happy!

I'd love to tag some others, so here are the rules:

1. Thank the person that tagged you.

2. A shout-out to the originator of the fun, Ariel's Little Corner of the Internet.

3. Post 8 photos that make you happy.

4. Brief description of each picture.

5. Tag up to 10 more people.

tag, you're it!

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