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How to Keep Turkeys Cool in Summer – 10 Tips

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The livestock under your care may be affected by the summer’s high temperatures in the same way that the rest of us are. The effects of hot weather are worsened when there is also high humidity. Turkeys may be able to survive in such a harsh environment or during such an unseasonable season only with your support.

Whether your turkeys are free-range or barn-raised, in either case, you should take steps to keep your flock comfortable in hot weather. The most important things to pay attention to are proper ventilation, hydration, and cool, shady spots.

Read on if you want to know how to keep your turkeys from getting too hot in the summer, how to help them if they get overheated, and other useful tips to help them thrive this season.

Male and Female Turkey on a farmyard

When Is It Too Hot for a Turkey?

Temperatures between 40 and 75°F (4.4 to 23.8°C) is the ideal temperature range for a turkey’s comfort.

As a result, they are more susceptible to extreme heat than cold. The ability of a turkey to cool down depends on the temperature, humidity, and airflow of the air around it.

Because they are warm-blooded, turkeys must keep their internal temperature between 105 and 107°F (40 and 41°C), regardless of the weather. The bird’s temperature increases if the heat it produces outweighs the heat it loses.

Turkeys That Are at Risk of Overheating

  1. Birds with respiratory issues should receive extra attention when it’s hot because they cannot cool themselves through the natural process of panting.
  2. Older, heavier birds produce more internal heat and cannot cool themselves efficiently. 
  3. Toms may be more susceptible to stress from higher temperatures than hens because of their higher weight.

How Do Turkeys Become Cooler on a Hot Day?

Because they lack sweat glands, turkeys must find other ways to regulate their body temperature.

A turkey can cool down in the following ways:

  1. Their fast breathing helps dissipate body heat
  2. Body temperature can be lowered by coming into contact with cooler surfaces
  3. Heat is lost through the bare skin of the legs, feet, wattles, and comb
Turkeys on the farm

11 Signs of Overheating in a Turkey

To some extent, turkeys can control their body temperatures to adjust to the heat, but at a certain level, the heat becomes unbearable and practically uncontrollable. These birds will suffer or even die in excessive temperatures.

To take care of these birds correctly when it’s hot, you need to know how they react to heat stress.

These signs indicate that your turkeys may be overheating:

  1. Your turkey is panting 
  2. Your turkey is fluffing up its feathers and spreading its wings
  3. Your turkey’s wattles and comb may be pale
  4. Your turkey may drink more water than usual
  5. Your turkey may eat less
  6. Your turkey may appear agitated and out of character
  7. Your turkey could be aggressive or very passive
  8. Your turkey’s head may be tilting
  9. Your turkey hen may have smaller eggs
  10. Your turkey hen may be laying fewer eggs
  11. Your turkey’s eggs may have thin and easily broken shells

How to Help a Turkey With Heat Exhaustion or Heat Stroke?

  1. Right away, put your turkey somewhere cool.
  2. Submerge the turkey in water that is chilly but not icy.
  3. Try giving your turkey electrolytes to drink.

If your turkey’s health is in danger, you should always call your vet for help.

1. Access to Freshwater

Turkeys on the farm

To stay hydrated in the heat, turkeys require constant access to clean, fresh water. You should also make sure there is enough water for the entire flock, no matter how big the flock is.

Place several water sources so your turkeys can easily access them and not have to compete with each other to quench their thirst.

The availability of water sources shouldn’t cause any additional stress for birds.

2. Don’t Let the Water Go Stale

During the hot summer months, you may need to refill your turkey’s water more than once during the day.  

Water loses its taste and health benefits over time and will become stagnant.

Turkeys might not want to drink old water, which causes them to get dehydrated. Drinking unclean, stale water might also make your birds ill.

3. Keep the Water Cold

Ice cubes on wooden bucket on texture background

If you serve water in big troughs, you can place frozen water bottles in them to keep the temperature low.

Dropping ice cubes into the water is another good way to keep it cool for longer. You can also use frozen foods like fruits and vegetables instead of ice.

4. Use a Water Feeder or Water Nipples

The best way to keep water from getting dirty or spilling is to use a water feeder or water nipples.

Watering tools such as feeders and nipples are also easier to keep clean and control water supplementation.

Automated Food and water feeder for poultry farm

5. Electrolytes

Electrolytes are essential for the turkeys to retain water and prevent the harmful effects of heat stress.

When temperatures rise, birds will try to cool themselves by panting. However, excessive panting leads to electrolyte loss.

So, to keep the flock from dehydrating, it is important to give them clean water and electrolytes.

You can buy electrolyte supplements or make your own solution with just a few ingredients from your kitchen.

Optional Ready Products:

  • Sav-A-Chick, Vitamins & Electrolytes
  • Durvet, Vitamins, and Electrolytes for Poultry
  • Plus
  • Vet Qingdao Animal Health, SupraPlus© 
  • PlusVet Qingdao Animal Health, PhytoShield©

Electrolyte DIY Solution for Poultry:

Mix about three liters of water with the following:

  • Eight tablespoons of sugar
  • Half a teaspoon of salt
  • Half a teaspoon of baking soda

Follow the directions on the package when giving electrolytes to your turkeys and ensure you talk to your vet before trying a solution you made yourself.

6. Shade

Turkey resting in the shade under a tree

Turkeys, when kept outside, must have constant, all-day access to shady areas, and these spaces must be large enough to accommodate the entire flock.

One of the best solutions is natural plant cover provided by shrubs, trees, and plants.

Use tarps or dark shade cloths for a quick and inexpensive approach to providing shelter from the sun for birds if plants are not an option.

7. Prevent Overcrowding

Shot of a flock of turkeys together in a barn on the farm

When there are too many turkeys in a coop or barn, the heat from the whole flock raises each turkey’s body temperature.

To ensure your birds have the best living conditions, you must follow a few rules to figure out how much space you will need for your flock. Remember that turkeys are large and need more space than your average bird.

Enclosure Space 

You’ll need a minimum of 25 square feet of outdoor run for each bird.

Coop or Barn Space

  • 2–2.5 square feet per turkey aged 0–8 weeks
  • 3-4 square feet per turkey aged 8-16 weeks
  • 5-8 square feet per turkey at 16-20 weeks
  • 6-10 square feet per turkey from 20 weeks to adolescent size

8. Ventilation

A birdhouse can quickly get too hot and stuffy if it lacks airflow. Whether you choose to house your turkeys in a barn or a coop, be sure there is adequate ventilation.

Air exchange and air circulation are the two main functions of ventilation. Air exchange includes cooling, removing toxic substances and gases, and bringing in fresh air and oxygen.

Coop ventilation 

White turkey in coop on a farm

A sufficient number of windows, doors, vents, and other openings in the coop allow fresh air to enter and maintain cooler temperatures during the summer.

One square foot of ventilation per 10 square feet of floor space is a good rule of thumb for sizing ventilation in a coop.

Always ensure that the shutters and safety grills are clean and do not block airflow. As an added ventilation precaution, consider putting cooling fans in your coop if traditional ventilation is insufficient.

Barn Ventilation

There are several types of ventilation for bird barns, including ridge ventilation, length ventilation, tunnel ventilation, and cross ventilation.

In addition to the ventilation system, circulation fans are installed in poultry houses to boost air movement at the floor level. This allows poultry farms to adjust the temperature to protect the birds from overheating.

Keep in mind a few straightforward extra precautions if you also raise turkeys in a barn:

Belts on fans should be checked and replaced annually. Inefficient fans might lose as much as 20–30% of their output due to worn or loose belts.

Do not park any vehicles or place large objects against the walls of birdhouses, as they may block airflow through the vents in the buildings’ walls.

9. Dust Baths

Wild turkey taking a dust bath

Turkeys’ body temperatures drop when they come into contact with cooler surfaces.

When the turkey settles in its chosen spot for its dust bath, it digs into the earth’s deeper layers, where it is damp and cool. Taking a dust bath is important for turkeys as it’s a way to control their body temperature.

Regular dust baths are also good for turkeys because it keeps their feathers clean and helps keep parasites away. 

To help your turkeys cool off, moisten the places where they like to dust bathe and watch them have a relaxing mud spa.

10. Frozen Snacks

Give your turkeys a nutrient boost while keeping them cool with frozen goodies.

Nothing beats refreshing fruits or vegetables in the summer heat. Alternatively, frozen herbs can also be used. Turkeys will go wild for these treats, whether offered frozen or in their water.

Check out the list below for a selection of healthy vitamin coolers:

Frozen Vegetables & Herbs:

Frozen vegetables such as green peas, brussels sprouts and baby carrots in storage boxes on concrete background
  • Sweetcorn
  • Peas 
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Pumpkins 
  • Cucumbers
  • Kale
  • Oregano
  • Parsley 
  • Basil


Frozen Strawberry with crystals of ice on blue background
  • Watermelon
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Apples 

Final Thoughts

Enclosed turkeys require human assistance to maintain their body temperature effectively during hot weather. Turkeys are huge birds that cool themselves mostly by panting with their tiny beaks.

If your turkey run lacks natural protection from the sun in form of tree shades, you must install homemade or commercial alternatives.

Remember also that electrolytes can be given as a preventive measure or as first-aid to a turkey that has overheated.

Nothing is more essential in warm weather than a steady fresh water supply.


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