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Dealing with Heat Stroke in Chickens

Time for a Public Service Announcement for my fellow chicken owners. We’ve been having a heat wave here in New York. Three days (so far) over 90 degrees with no rain. These are perfect conditions for chickens to get heat stroke. The best course of action is, of course, prevention.

1. Water

Make sure they have plenty of water, check as often as possible. We have 3 extra 1 gallon waterers we put out when it’s hot plus the normal 5 gallon waterer. It doesn’t take a lot for one to get spilled, another gets mostly consumed and then evaporates, ect.

This is important ESPECIALLY if you have ducks (probably also with geese). They will try to bathe in the small channels and either tip over the waterer or spill it all.

 

2. Shade

Make sure they have a place in the shade. If your birds free range they will find somewhere nice and cool. We have a small grove of trees where they birds like to go. If you keep them in a coop or run make sure they have shade and ventilation. If it’s really hot consider a fan.

3. Health

Keep your birds healthy; sick, over- or underweight chickens are more likely to have problems

4. Breed Selection

Consider this before you buy: chickens with large combs use them to help cool down in hot weather. Most of the birds we have here (Wyandottes and  Brahmas) have small combs. We did this intentionally because it’s better for our winters, large combs are more susceptible to frostbite. It also means their combs are more or less useless for cooling. Match your chickens to the weather.

Silver-laced Wyandotte

Identifying Heat Stress/Stroke

I’ve had this happen twice. It’s awful, that’s an understatement to say the least. I hope this never happens to you and you birds.

The first time I had just moved the second ‘batch’ of chicks out with some that were about a month and a half older. I had a temporary separation wall. Long story short the wall was knocked over and I ended up with a pile of chickens. I got to them pretty early and only two were really affected.

Baby Brahma in seclusion

The second time was when we moved. About 1/2 of the birds were affected (don’t move in July)

Early signs of heat stress include heavy panting, wings held away from the body and listless behavior.

If it progresses to hear stroke  the birds will lay on their side with their stretch out with their legs and feet sticking straight out and  their head sticking out the other way. They also get stiff and usually won’t react unless you pick them up. They feel hot and stiff.

Treatment

*** Disclaimer - I am NOT a vet. This is what I have done in the past and what has worked for me. I have never lost a bird to heat stroke***

The first thing to do is cool down the birds. I dunk them in cool (not freezing) water. Rub the water into the feathers, especially under the wings and on the head. You want the skin to cool down.

Try to get them to drink some water. You can put electrolytes in the water if you have them. I usually keep a bottle of pedialyte in the house ust in case.

Keep them separate from the other birds until they are acting normal. Keep them in a shaded breezy area, I’ve been known to keep a dog crate in my always 60 degrees basement just in case.

Don’t let it happen again! Prevention is 100 times better than treatment but freak accidents do happen so it’s best to know what to do.

Have you ever had a chicken with heat stroke? What did you do?

Farm Girl Friday 

Comments

  1. Hi Alecia,
    That is some very good advice for chicken keepers. I have a few old hens I keep because I love the pretty blue and brown eggs they lay. Many years ago I owned a commercial egg farm in Mississippi where it was always hot! The three rules for raising chickens are
    1. Ventilation
    2. Water
    3. Feed
    In that order.
    If a hen doesn’t get enough clean water she will not lay the next day and possibly for the next few days.
    If she misses her feed you will see the effects in the next 3 days.
    I’d say you know your hens!! :)
    Blessings,
    Dorothy

  2. Interesting!
    New follower – hope you will hop over and do the same~~

  3. Great info! I want to own chickens someday, and this advice will sure come in handy! I need to learn all I can before I get them! :-)

  4. I’ve been thinking of getting a chicken or two to free range but I don’t want to draw a gator into the yard. Lovely Florida.

  5. Interesting info! I’m happy to be your newest follower from Sunday Social and would love for you to follow me back at http://www.two-in-diapers.blogspot.com! :)

  6. It is in the 90s here. I have fans going and definitely keeping their water founts full.

    Poor little chickens.

    Thanks for the great advice. I also love to give mine cold vegetables. When I have cucumbers that have grown too big in the garden, I put them in the fridge then share with the chicks.

    Have a great evening!
    Beth

  7. Very interesting about the combs, I had never heard that before. That info will help me on deciding which kind of hens to get once we get a coop rebuilt. Thanks!

  8. Fortunately for me, I’ve never had a chicken in full out heat stroke, despite living in the desert. It has been a very hot June (I know it has been everywhere)and I know my hens are hot when they pant. They have plenty of shade and water. Now that I think about it, I probably could have dunked them to cool them off.

  9. Stephanie Ecarius says:

    Hello, I love this post because I’m having a hard time finding info on how to treat a heat stroke. I’m pretty sure the silkie pullet I JUST BOUGHT TODAY had one on the way home. I was holding her and a young roo in an open box on my lap with the vent window pointed on them. They had tons of air flow and the roo is fine, so I’m kinda shocked that this happened to her with all of the air flow. Anyhow, Her legs are straight out in front of her and she can’t stand/flaps around occasionally. I have her cooled down now, but I don’t know how much to feed her, how often, what to give her to drink (if she needs anything other than water at this point) and how much fluid she needs to take in per day until, hopefully, I can get her back on her feet. Please share how you fed you chickens while caring for them after a heat stroke.

  10. Chloe L. says:

    I have found that it is NEVER ADVISABLE to dunk your bird in cool or cold water when it has any form of heatstroke. The stress it is already experiencing is simply magnified and could kill your bird. I had a hen that had a very bad case of heatstroke. Se was listless and dizzy. It was a very warm day, so I decided to dunk her in a bucket of cool water… She died the same day, of a culmination of stress factors. I warn you, cool down the bird slowly and gradually. Make it drink copious amounts of water AND put it in a cool shaded place. But do not stress the bird out anymore then it already is.

    • I’m sorry you had that experience. As I said I am not a vet, but I have used the same method many times without losing a single bird. It is possible that your bird was far worse than mine to begin with. I have never used cold water, I mention that in my post.

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