Thursday, June 30, 2022

Hens, Hot Weather, and a Homemade Electrolyte Recipe

I no longer own chickens, but the summer heat here in southwest Missouri has sure had me thinking back to the days that I did. I've shared this information before, but, if it reaches just one new chicken-owner that didn't know before, then, it's worth sharing again, so, here goes.

The effects of summer heat can be devastating to chickens. Temperatures higher than 75 degrees can cause added stress on their bodies, because extra blood flow to their combs, wattles, and skin reduces the flow to vital organs. This imbalance in the body produces symptoms including purplish combs, droopy wings, a disheveled appearance and a refusal to eat or drink. This eventually leads to coma or death.

Chickens combat the heat, in part, by panting. Their panting to keep cool increases their respiratory and heart rate, causing them to lose carbon dioxide much faster than they would normally. This upsets the Ph balance in their bodies, and that can lead to a potentially fatal condition called Acidosis. Adding a 2% ratio of baking soda to your chickens' water can help prevent Acidosis.

Adding apple cider vinegar to your chickens' water once a week comes with many health benefits including an increase in calcium absorption, which is particularly important during the summer months when the hens' feed intake goes down and they aren't taking in as much calcium as normal.  

A far better water additive in times of extreme heat is this homemade electrolyte balancing recipe. We used it for several years with our chickens and never once lost a hen to summer heat.

To make, per gallon of water, mix 2 tsp. sugar, 1/8 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. baking soda. 

When we had chickens, I was notorious for freezing old water, juice, and milk containers nearly full of water (I usually filled them within an inch of the top to leave room for expansion), and popping them in the freezer to make big ice cubes to go in my chickens' water. I usually added them once or twice per day to fresh water during times of extreme heat. At the end of the day, I would rinse the warm containers off, tie them up in a Walmart sack, and refreeze them again for use later in the week. I kept several frozen bottles on hand at all times to keep a rotation going. 

Another thing that you can do to make summer more bearable for your chickens, and give them a treat at the same time, is to freeze chopped up fruit (watermelon, berries, etc.) and mint leaves in ice cube trays, then add them to water or just set them on a tray in the pen and let them enjoy. 

To those of you who are fortunate enough to have your own chickens right now, I hope that some of these tips aid you in keeping them cool and helping them to beat the extreme heat of summer.

Until Next Time,

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