August is here and chicken fanciers everywhere struggle to keep their beloved chickens comfortable. First things first though, you need to know the signs heat stress in poultry:
If you're seeing any of the above symptoms you need to act NOW to cool your birds. Obviously, fresh drinking water is key. Start by offering your birds lots of fresh, cool water. Water pans (especially metal or black rubber) can get pretty hot during the summer. Very hot water is not appealing at all to poultry, and unless you've got automatic watering systems you'll need to put some extra effort into providing adequate cool water.
Put out extra water pans. Keep them in the shade if you can.
Bring down the temperature in your yard rapidly by spraying your whole yard down with a water hose. Spray it all, bushes, trees, fences, go ahead and spray the coop exterior. You can spray inside too if no one is setting.
Some breeds, and some individuals for that matter, may enjoy a hop in a kiddie pool with a few inches of water in it. Put it in the shade if possible.
Shade helps a lot! You can either purchase poultry shade systems or rig up something of your own. You can get pretty creative, nail tarps over fenced corners, hang old banners between fence posts, bust out the canvas canopy that's sitting in your garage. Re-purpose camping tents by setting them up and cutting out the sides and bottom. Right now aesthetics don't matter so much as lowering the temperature and UV exposure for your birds.
Take a look at your coop. Is it clean and well ventilated? Open any shutters and vents. If your chickens are plainly suffering you can set up fans, however they may be a bit of a fire hazard. Don't leave the yard if you have fans running.
One last bit of advice. Some people like to give their chickens frozen fruits during the hottest summer months. This is cute and fun, but remember that sugar increases body heat, and that your chickens will actually maintain a higher body temperature to digest frozen goodies. So while frozen fruits can be a yummy snack and fun to feed, don't feed it when your chickens are experiencing heat stress. Save those for tomorrow morning before it gets hot.