When it’s summer and hot (and your chickens are panting and spreading their wings in the coop, the coop roof is too hot to touch without getting burned) and you’re worried about the heat, it’s normal to wonder: how can we keep the chicken coop cool in the summer?
To keep a chicken coop cool in the heat of summer, use adequate ventilation, adjust insulation and bedding, add shade, and strategic use of cold water and ice. These easy and low-maintenance tips and fixes will protect the coop, the run, and an entire flock of chickens from the heat of summer.
Ready to help keep your chickens and their coop cool enough to survive even a crazy hot summer? Let’s skip the part where the chickens are panting and spreading out their wings to stay cool in their coop. And let’s make sure the coop (and chickens) is summer-proofed.
Here is How to Keep Your Chicken Coop Cool in Summer
Now how many of these ideas you’ll need to use is going to depend on how hot your summers actually get. And it’ll also vary some by what kind of coop and run set up you have. So for that, we’ll address the coop first. And then we’ll address the run later on in this article because the run can’t be ignored.
It’s also totally possible to make these summertime adjustments as easy and low-maintenance (or difficult and time-consuming) as you want them to be. Personally we’re in favor of easy and low-maintenance, so I’ll tell you exactly what we do to help our chickens keep a cool coop in the summer.
|Tips for a Cool Coop||Example||Notes|
|Increase the ventilation in your coop.||Open those coop windows – or add a few. Windows at the top of the coop will let out hot air. Leaving windows or a door open will help airflow.||Make sure windows are lined with hardware cloth or some other predator-proof fencing along the inside.|
|Check and/or adjust the coop’s insulation.||Usually, this means bedding and litter. It can also mean in the walls and roof, though.||Or you may want to add building-grade, chicken-safe-and-proof insulation to the coop.|
|Check the coop’s roofing materials.||Some roofs retain heat and radiate it into the coop. Use airflow to push that hot air back out of the coop.||You may want to opt for a roof that reflects rather than retains heat unless you need that roof for cold winters.|
|Keep the coop floor insulated and cool via appropriate bedding and nesting box materials.||Switch from heat-retaining to cooling bedding materials. Use cooler materials, like straw or pine shavings.||Make sure bare metal, concrete, and hard/hot earth are covered with lining to protect your chicken’s feet from the heat.|
|Remove the deep litter if it’s too steamy.||Spring is usually a great time to clean out that deep litter anyway.||If the bedding/litter smells, it’s got to be addressed – either removed or regulated into a new deep litter that isn’t steamy.|
|Add shade to the coop and/or run.||We hang a shade sail on the side of our chain link run during the summer for shades with a breeze.||Don’t use a tarp. Get a shade sail or a canopy instead. I’ll tell you why after this table.|
|Add a coop-specific water mister.||Once it’s over 90, we leave a water mister set up next to the coop for use as needed.||You can keep a mister set on low that helps cool down the coop and the run by a significant amount.|
|Install a box fan.||Use a barn box fan to keep the whole coop ventilated and breezy.||Just make sure your chickens don’t try to inspect it too closely – keep it in an area they can’t get to.|
|Hose off the coop.||On super hot days, we spray down the outside of the coop – especially the roof.||The water and evaporation process helps cool the coop. Just don’t soak everything too much.|
|Keep the attached run floor insulated and cool, too.||Put down a layer of straw so the chickens don’t burn their feet.||Change the run flooring material as needed. We’ll cover this in more detail later in the article.|
Why shouldn’t you use a tarp? While tarps are amazing and have a ton of great functions, there are three reasons to skip them as a roof or shade for your run. We’ll start with the least important reason – and work up to the most important reason why we don’t recommend using them in your coop at all.
- Tarps degrade pretty fast when left outside all the time. My neighbor has to replace the tarp roof on his coop at least every year – if not more often than that.
- Tarps retain heat. Sitting under a tarp for shade is better than a sunburn. But it’s also really hot!
- Tarps stifle airflow. Tarps are designed to be waterproof and not let things get through them. This includes air. And proper airflow is absolutely a necessity to keeping cool in the summer.
So no – we don’t recommend using tarps to be a roof or provide shade for yourself or your chickens.
- If you’re using a tarp as a roof on your run or coop, please replace that tarp with an actual roof (of whatever material would be best for your area and climate).
- Then, replace any shade tarps with a shade sail or canopy (with UV protection) to provide shade – and that shade will come with actual airflow!
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We use this shade sail (available on Amazon) hung on the side of our coop during the hottest months. Okay, so actually we hang it on the coop run, which was a chain link dog run. Now, it’s our chicken run. The canopy we got didn’t come with built-in clips, so we made our own by adding these shade cloth fabric clips (from Amazon) and a set of carabiners (also on Amazon).
We opted for a build-it-yourself shade sail option because it was cheaper than buying a pre-made one – by about $20. And by doing it ourselves, we could put the clips and carabiners where we wanted them with zero extra worries or effort. The whole thing took less than 5 minutes to assemble it ourselves. So, it was worth it to us.
You may prefer to get one that’s already assembled, and that’s just fine. The goal is keeping your chickens cool – and keeping ourselves sane!
In any case, we now have an amazing shade option for our chickens and chicken coop. We use it when we need it. Then, during the cold months when we want our chickens to get more sunlight and we don’t need the shade sail? We just roll it up and store it in our shed for the next summer.
Fixing a Chicken Coop that is too Hot
In order to fix a too-hot chicken coop, you first need to find out why it’s too hot. Then, fix that issue. Based on my research and experience, here are the usual suspects in too-hot chicken coops, listed in order of prevalence.
|Inadequate ventilation||Add additional windows or vents to the coop, focusing on adding them at the tops and bottoms of the exterior walls. Opening doors is also an option, though it’s going to get old having to go open and close those each daily.|
|Heat-retaining walls and roof||Evaluate both the type of material and color. Our bright red chicken coop is beautiful – but a white one would reflect the sunlight better and keep it cooler. Likewise, the black shingled roof is gorgeous – and great for our cold winters. It’s not so great during the summer when in direct sunlight.|
|Inadequate shade||Add more shade, either by planting trees and shrubs or using temporary shade via a shade sail or canopy.|
|Too hot and dry||Add some water – either a water bottle of ice to the inside of the coop or a water mister that sprays around the coop to keep everything cooler.|
|Inadequate airflow (or too humid)||If there isn’t a breeze and your coop’s ventilation is already adequate, add a breeze or extra airflow via a fan. This can be especially helpful on hot, humid days.|
As I said, these are the main issues. If your coop continues to be too hot, evaluate the setup and find the reason for it being too hot. Then, fix that. Use the first table from this article (in the section about how to keep your chicken coop cool in summer) as inspiration if you need some ideas of where else to look.
How to Keep Your Chickens Cool in Summer via Feed and Water
Okay, so depending on where you house and feed your chickens, this may already be taken care of by keeping the coop cool. If your coop is larger, like a shed or even in a barn, then some of these tips may not apply to you.
However, just in case you keep your feed and water outside of the coop (like we do) or the inside of your shed/barn coop gets warm enough that chicken feed and water gets too warm, let’s make sure we go over all of this in detail.
|Food and Water Tips for a Cool Coop||Example||Notes|
|Provide plenty of water options.||We use a 5-gallon bucket with 3 watering nipples for our six laying chickens.||Most waterers recommend one per 3-4 chickens; in the heat, provide one for every 2-3 chickens.|
|Keep any water in the coop cool by adding ice.||Freeze a water bottle and add it to the watering bucket.||Rotate through a couple of water bottles and add the ice right before the hottest part of the day.|
|Keep food and water in the shade.||Hang up a shade sail to shade and cool feed and water areas.||Hot water and food will overheat your chicken fast – so keep it all cool.|
|Use watering nipples to keep the water clean, covered, and bug-free.||We use brightly-colored, horizontal-based waterers.||This lets us cover the water so it’s cleaner, cooler, and we can refill it and add ice easier.|
|Give your chickens frozen treats.||We like to freeze kitchen scraps to feed to the chickens. That way, they get treats and stay cool.||Throw kitchen scraps into a sandwich-sized baggie – and only take out a few treats at a time. They thaw fast!|
|Add a frozen water bottle to the coop.||Add one in the open area or in the nesting boxes.||Overheated chickens tend to congregate in the coop – so this can be a big help!|
|Add electrolytes to the water.||Overheated chickens may need an electrolyte replacement to hydrate properly.||Use chicken-specific electrolyte formulations.|
|Skip or decrease carb-rich treats.||Only feed chickens a small amount of scratch as a treat once the day has cooled down.||Lots of chicken scratch is great for helping chickens stay warm in the winter. They won’t need as much during warm months.|
|Don’t let the chickens’ drinking water get too warm or hot.||Not drinking leads to dehydration. Keep the water cool enough to drink.||If it’s so warm or hot that you wouldn’t drink it, they won’t either.|
We keep our chicken’s feed and water right outside of the actual coop – we use large 5-gallon buckets to store the feed and water. Those big buckets wouldn’t fit inside of the coop. So, they’re in the run. You can take a look here – the hanging bucket with the green lid is their feed. The bucket with the blue lid (and red watering nipples) is their water.
During the summer months, we hang our shade sail across the whole, visible, west-facing, long side of that chainlink fence that gets the hot afternoon sun. It makes it harder to see the chickens from the house, but it does keep them – and their food and water – nice and cool.
Then, we add ice, electrolytes, or a mister as needed to help keep the food and water plenty cold. Oh, and we do cut back on how much scratch we feed our chickens when it’s warm, too.
Add These to Your Run for Cool (and cooler) Chickens
All right – now that your coop is cooler, let’s make sure your chickens have a nice, cool run to enjoy, too. Because if your chickens don’t have a pasture to free-range, they’re limited to their run. So let’s make that run as cool and enjoyable as we can for them – so that they can be cool, happy chickens who lay plenty of eggs.
|Add to the Run||Example||Notes|
|Add a cool layer of insulation to the ground of the run||We line our concrete pad of a run with straw.||Use cool bedding material to protect chicken feet from hard or too-hot surfaces.|
|Provide additional shade||We use a shade sail on the run to keep most of the run and coop plenty cool.||To read about our setup (and why tarps aren’t recommended), please refer to the description earlier in this article.|
|Set up a water mister||We have a water mister set up right next to the run – it sprays around their water and food area.||Start the mister on low – it may take a while for your chickens to learn to like it!|
|Provide some more airflow||Use a fan to keep the run cool.||Make sure the fan is outside the run – so your curious chickens don’t get hurt.|
|Muddy puddle||Add a small, muddy area that chickens can wade through.||Just make sure it’s small enough to not overwhelm or swamp your whole run!|
|Wading pool||Use a small kiddie pool with some water in it.||Keep water shallow to minimize chicken drowning risk. Consider adding a few ice cubes on extra-hot days.|
|Dust bath spaces||Use a kiddie pool with fine dust or sand in it.||Keep it covered to keep the area and chickens nice and cool. You will need to add dirt or sand to it on a regular basis.|
|Spray down the dust bath area||Keep a lite mister next to any favorite dust bath spots in the morning only.||The dust will dry out through the day – but spraying it down will cool down that hot, dry dust!|
|Give your chickens some more space to roam and cool down||Give them some fresh pasture space with cool grass.||If a pasture isn’t possible, focus on making their available space as comfy and cool as possible.|
If you can’t use all of these suggestions, that’s okay. Do what you can – and make what you have available the best version of itself possible.
For example, we don’t really have anywhere to give our chickens a muddy play area. Plus, I’m not a big fan of muddy chicken runs either. In fact, a too-muddy run can be a problem (and here’s how to fix it). So I don’t worry about providing a muddy area for them to play.
Instead, I focus on providing shade, using a mister, and using ice-cold treats to help our chickens stay cool. I’ve even put in a little wading pool with water for them to play in.
Note: using a clean kitty litter pan works well as a wading pool – except when more than one chicken wants a turn at the same time!
Then, make sure you’re also using the tricks and tips from earlier in this article to keep their food, water, and coop cool – and you’re going to have some pretty spoiled chickens who stay safe and cool – no matter what the outside temperature is.
How Do You Know if Your Chicken is too Hot? Chickens that are too hot will seek water, shade, and even hide in their coop. They will open their beaks and appear to pant. They may also spread out their wings and flop about in an attempt to cool down. An overheated chicken will need water and to cool down immediately or they may experience heat-related complications or die.
How Hot is Too Hot for Chickens? Temperatures over 90 degrees can begin to be too hot for a chicken. Watch their behavior to know if a chicken is overheating and treat appropriately with water or other measures.
What Do You Feed Chickens on a Hot Day? On hot days, feed chickens their regular feed. They won’t need more than 10% of their diet as treats. Carbohydrate-rich treats, like scratch, will help chickens stay warm and can be skipped on hot days.
It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to also learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- Damerow, Gail. Building Chicken Coops. Storey Communications, 1999.
- Fiske, George B. Poultry Architecture: a Practical Guide for Construction of Poultry Houses, Coops and Yards, One Hundred Illustrations. Orange Judd Company, 1909.
- Frame, David D. “Basics for Raising Backyard Chickens.” DigitalCommons@USU, digitalcommons.usu.edu/extension_curall/1295/.
- Litt, Robert, and Hannah Litt. A Chicken in Every Yard: the Urban Farm Stores Guide to Chicken Keeping. Ten Speed Press, 2011.
- Riggs, Pammy, et al. Keeping Chickens for Dummies. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.