First heat advisory of the season here!
Well, the first lengthy one, anyway.
At 8am, it’s already close to 80 degrees with nearly 90% humidity.
My sweat is sweating.
But I’m lucky, because I’m sitting in the house with a glass of ice water, enjoying the cool breeze from my fan.
The chickens, on the other hand, are right out in the high temps.
They aren’t the farm animal I feel worst for – I feel the worst for my sheep, who are covered in downy wool. I get hot just looking at them. And the pigs, they can make themselves a wallow to keep cool.
Chickens are designed to thrive in any environment, but that’s not to say that raising chickens during the summer months is without its challenges.
If you’re thinking about raising chickens in the summer – or if you live in a climate that is hot around the year (God bless you) – you might want to consider one of these warm-weather chicken breeds.
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How Do Chickens Stay Cool?
Chickens don’t stay cool in the same way we do, but they have their own unique ways of staying cool when the temperatures rise. The combs and wattles on chickens tend to have a higher concentration of capillaries, which help to circulate blood and body heat close to the skin’s surface. This helps body heat dissipate more quickly from the wattles and combs.
If you’re looking for a good warm-weather chicken breed but aren’t sure where to start, consider those with large wattles and combs. You should also look for chickens that have a tendency to grow smaller. Chickens who have a smaller body mass will stay cooler in hot weather.
Keep in mind that warm weather is best for chicken breeds who lack heavy feathers – chickens who have tons of feathers or even feathers on their feet are probably not going to do as well in the heat. Ever heard of a Silkie chicken? Probably not the best choice if you’re trying to keep your birds cool.
Best Warm Weather Chicken Breeds
If you live in a colder climate, like me, then having a heat-tolerant chicken breed isn’t as important. However, we are lucky in that we have one of the breeds that is best at withstanding both hot and cold temperatures – the New Hampshire Red.
However, if you live in the southern portions of the United States or just another location that’s unbearably hot throughout much of the year, you’ll want to select chicken breeds that can handle a bit more heat.
Why? A chicken who is heat-stressed can not only become very ill or die, but it will also slow in egg production and stop growing as well. Choosing a breed of chicken that is designed to handle the heat can help combat this. If you live in a hot environment, you may also want to consider raising meat birds during the coolest times of the year, like the winter.
1. New Hampshire Red
My favorite! The New Hampshire Red is derived from the Rhode Island Red, which is another heat-hardy breed we will mention. This chicken is one of the most self-sufficient breeds you can find, happy to troll around the yard for snacks as well as to be raised in confinement it is a dual-purpose bird so you will get about three eggs per week along with plenty of meat.
Brahmas are excellent warm weather birds despite the fact that they are one of the largest breeds. They produce about three eggs per week and can also be raised for meat. A sweet, gentle bird, this chicken has an excellent temperament and does well when free-ranging or raised in confinement.
It should be noted that while the standard-sized Brahma can perform relatively well in the heat, if you live in an exceptionally tasty area you might want to consider a bantam Brahma instead.
3. White Leghorns
This elegant bird is small, making it one of the best heat-tolerant breeds. It can handle hot temperatures and while it is generally raised as an egg layer, it can also be raised for meat. These chickens start laying quite young, so you’ll have eggs much sooner than with other breeds. They are intelligent and active, and while they require a fair amount of space, they’ll do a great job at finding their own food.
Sumatra chickens are gorgeous to look at. These glossy black-green chickens are rare and hard to tame. Designed for ornamental or exhibition purposes, these chickens don’t produce a ton of meat or eggs but will certainly offer a unique personality and appearance to your flock. Plus, they love the heat!
5. Plymouth Rocks
Plymouth Rocks are popular chickens for backyard farmers. As dual-purpose breeds, they enjoy free-ranging but also quite well when confined. These birds lay a ton of large brown eggs and are tolerant of both the heat and the cold. They are docile and love attention.
6. Easter Egger
Many people love raising Easter Egger chickens because they lay multicolored eggs – with eggs found in shades of green, blue, and even pink! – but they’re also popular because they do well in the heat. These sweet, gentle chickens lay up to 280 eggs per year, and you don’t have to worry about production dropping off in the summer.
Minorca chickens are extremely active. The largest of the Mediterranean breeds, this chicken evolved in the heat and can withstand high temperatures with ease. Minorcas have tight feathers and lay a ton of extra-large white eggs. A great show bird or egg-laying breed, this chicken can be quite friendly. At times they can be flighty, so you may need to do some wing clipping.
Andalusian chickens do quite well in the heat. As a rare breed, this chicken is coming back from the brink of extinction. These chickens lay a ton of large white eggs and are very active. That being said, they can also be raised in confinement with ease.
Orpingtons are frequently hailed as one of the most cold-tolerant chicken breeds, but they’re also one of the best for the heat. Despite being large, these chickens know how to beat the heat. They come in many different colorations and will lay up to 190 light brown eggs each year. They’re also excellent meat birds.
10. Rhode Island Reds
These classic chickens are beautifully colored, and what many people think of when they think of backyard chickens. These birds are some of the best egg-laying chicken breeds, offering up to 300 eggs each year. They lay well during both the winter and summer months, and are an excellent breed for beginners.
The Fayoumi is native to Egypt, so you can expect that this breed would fare well in the heat! This chicken is suited to living on forage and thrive in warm climates with an upright appearance, this bird lays two eggs per week – it’s more suited as an ornamental exhibition bird than anything else.
This chicken does have a tendency to get flighty, so you may need to clip its wings or erect tall fences to keep it contained. That being said, those flighty tendencies make it one of the best at keeping itself safe from predators!
Welsummer chickens – like the name implies – do quite well in the …summer! Good job.
These chickens are a golden-brown color and are raised as dual-purpose birds. They produce about 160 chocolate-brown eggs every year and are quite intelligent. They are good foragers and are friendly towards other breeds.
Appenzellers are the national birds of Switzerland. They have incredibly bizarre appearances, with a -shaped comb and forward-pointing tuft of feathers. Despite their fancy headwear and their ability to withstand cold climates, these chickens are incredibly heat tolerant. They are good climbers and enjoy hanging out in the treetops. It should be noted that while they are excellent foragers, they don’t do well in confinement.
These chickens lay lovely white eggs and are exceptional performers in the heat. Although Campines aren’t as common as some of the other breeds on this list, they have tight-fitting feathers that allow them to endure hot temperatures with ease. As active, alert birds, these chickens love to forage.
The name might be hard to pronounce, but this Mediterranean chicken breed is one of the most heat-hardy breeds you’ll find. It has tight-nit feathers and a light body, making it a good choice for hot climates – not so much for the cold. These chickens have massive combs and wattles and also lay beautiful dark brown eggs.
Here are some other rarer breeds you might consider:
- White Crested Black Polish
- Mille Fleur D’Uccle Bantam
- Sicilian Buttercup
Remember, too, that the heat tolerance of your chickens will always depend more on the individual chicken than on the breed. I’ve heard a lot of people claim that Ameraucanas are excellent heat-hardy breeds, while others argue that they can’t handle temperatures about 70 degrees. So keep an eye on your chickens, regardless of how heat-tolerant their breed allegedly is.
Chicken Breeds to Avoid in the Heat
Again – remember that the individual chicken will play more of a role in its heat tolerance than the breed. However, here are some you might want to avoid:
- Cornish Cross
- Jersey Giant
Tips for Keeping Your Flock Cool in the Summertime
There’s not a lot you can do to change the weather – at least, that’s what my husband reminds me every time I start whining about the heat/cold/precipitation/lack of precipitation/everything.
However, there are several ways you can help your chickens stay cooler when the mercury rises. Here are some suggestions.
- Make sure your coop is well-ventilated.
- Add a fan to the coop. Just make sure it’s designed to be used in an agricultural setting so you don’t have to worry about it overheating. This will also help reduce the amount of flies you have in the barn!
- Provide plenty of shade in the chicken yard.
- Consider installing sprinklers in the pasture. These sprinklers are an excellent choice – they’ll help your birds cool off and water the grass, too.
- Make sure they have plenty of free-choice water – and make sure it’s clean. Consider investing in a good watering system to make sure your chickens never run out.
- Put some ice cube son their water.
- Consider putting out kiddie pools so that your chickens can stand in them when they’re hot.
- Put extra electrolytes in the water. Just like humans, chickens lose valuable electrolytes as they grow hotter -but you shouldn’t give them Gatorade. You may want to put a Sav a Chick electrolyte packet in your waterer to help replenish them.
- Don’t feed high-fat foods like sunflower seeds or corn. These will make your chickens warmer as they try to digest them.
- Freeze some sweet treats – or offer high-hydration snacks. You might want to offer your hens some snacks like zucchini, cucumbers, or watermelon to keep them cool.
Be vigilant for signs of heat stress in your birds. These can vary among individuals, but generally, signs of heat stress or heat exhaustion in chickens include:
- Labored breathing
- Pale or discolored wattles and combs
- Constant lifting of the wings way form the body
- Feathers erect
- Loss of appetite
- Decrease in egg production
- Thin shells on eggs
If you notice one of these symptoms in your chickens, you need to provide immediate medical attention, as heat stress can often lead to death.
We can’t do much to change the weather, but we can do everything in our power to make sure our animals are cool! What other tips do you have for maintaining a healthy flock in the summertime? Be sure to let me know in the comments!
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Want to learn more about raising chickens? Be sure to check out these posts!
- How to Butcher Chickens
- How to Keep Predators Away From Your Chickens
- The Best Egg-Laying Chicken Breeds
- The Ultimate Guide to the New Hampshire Chicken Breed
- How You Can Make Money Raising Chickens