Raising chickens and knowing everything about chickens are two very different things. Chickens are exciting animals to raise and enjoy, but most of us do not know everything about them. For instance, do you know if chickens can sweat or not?
Chickens do not sweat. Like other birds, chickens are not able to sweat because they do not have sweat glands on their bodies. Chickens must rely on their body’s ability to thermoregulate to release heat and cool off.
Remember that even though chickens have the ability to thermoregulate to some degree, they will sometimes need help staying cool in warm climates.
Chickens are hardy creatures that can often handle drastic changes in the weather. This makes them a great addition to most farms. Despite not being able to sweat, chickens are able to withstand hot temperatures but sometimes they may need a little help from us!
Why Can’t Chickens Sweat?
Birds, including chickens, do not have sweat glands. To be able to perspire, an animal must have sweat glands. Sweating helps animals cool their bodies off by releasing heat through the evaporation of sweat on their bodies. Chickens and other birds must rely on other systematic processes to release heat from their bodies.
4 Ways Chickens Stay Cool without Sweating
Chickens are able to stay cool during warm weather thanks to their unique ability to regulate their own body temperatures. This means that the chicken must use their own natural instincts to avoid overheating.
1. They Release Heat by Panting
Chickens release internal heat through panting. This panting includes a gular flutter, a quick throat movement that allows moisture to evaporate. This in turn releases heat from the chicken’s body, much like sweating does for us.
2. They Will Find Shade or Shelter
Chickens also seek immediate shade or shelter when they feel overheated. A good shady spot can be 10 or more degrees cooler than an area in the direct sunlight. Shaded areas will help them cool down quickly.
3. They Will Drink Water
A quick way for chickens to cool off and rehydrate is to find water as soon as possible. Water, especially in a shady area, will help cool down a chicken’s inner temperature. Overheating results in dehydration, which can be deadly if it gets out of hand.
4. They Fluff Their Wings
Chickens that are unable to cool down quickly by panting will also fluff their wings, allowing the heat beneath them to exit their body. The skin under their wings have little to no feathers making it a prime place for heat to escape. (source)
What Is Thermoregulation?
You may have heard that chickens are able to thermoregulate, but what does that mean? Thermoregulation means that chickens can regulate their own core body temperatures, in most situations.
Chickens can keep their internal temperature regulated despite changes in their external environment. In warm conditions, chickens will do a variety of things to release heat from their bodies. This includes seeking shelter or shade from the sun, panting, wing fluffing, and drinking water.
5 Ways to help your chickens stay cool
Although chickens can usually regulate their own body temperatures, they will need your help from time to time. Here are a few precautionary steps that you can take to keep your chickens safe during the summer months.
1. Provide Adequate Shelter or Shade
Make sure your coop or chicken enclosure has enough shade and plenty of space for all your chickens. This will allow them to escape direct sunlight when necessary. Also, make sure that there is sufficient air flow in your coop by opening windows or air vents if needed.
2. Make Sure They Have Plenty of Water
You never want your chickens to run out of water. Constant access to fresh water is a key component to keeping your chickens happy and healthy. Water could mean the difference between life and death for an overheating chicken.
3. Add Electrolytes to the Water Source
Electrolytes help rehydrate chickens and rebalance vital nutrients in their systems. It also helps them to drink more water, which in turn allows them to regulate their temperature.
4. Install a Fan in the Coop
Ventilation is vital for enclosed chicken coops. A simple fan can help keep your chickens cool during bouts of warm humid weather.
Wall mount fans designed for chicken coops and barns are the best choice. They are easy to install and can be either electrical or solar-powered. Be sure to mount it in an area that is inaccessible to chickens to prevent possible injuries.
5. Freeze Large Bottles of Water
Freezing large bottles of water overnight and placing them throughout the coop area during the day can help keep chickens from overheating. As the water inside the bottle melts, evaporative cooling will help the surrounding area cool down.
Additionally, chickens that are very hot can lay up next to the frozen water bottle to further aid them cooling down. The best thing is, this is easy to do with old two liter bottles or orange juice containers.
3 Signs of Overheating in Chickens
Overheating can result in a lack of egg production, a decrease in egg quality, poor growth, and even death. There are many signs of heat stressor heat stroke that you should watch out for when raising chickens. Detecting and correcting signs of overheating can save your chicken’s life.
1. Panting That Does Not Resolve
Chickens that are panting are already trying to combat rising body temperatures. Since they cannot sweat, they rely on the panting as a natural way to release heat. A chicken that continues to pant is inching towards the danger zone. (source)
Chickens that are experiencing heat stress may appear tired and may even be unable to walk without stopping or falling over. They will be exhausted from a lack of energy due to their rising internal temperature as a result of heat stress. (source)
3. Reduced Food Consumption With Increased Water Intake
An overheating chicken often is not interested in food at all and its food consumption will decline. In contrast, their water intake will drastically increase as they rehydrate and help cool down. (source)
How to Help an Overheating Chicken
If you notice the signs of heat stress in your chickens, it is important to take quick action. You should always consult a veterinarian if your chicken continues to deteriorate. This is not something that can wait until morning, as it will likely be too late.
1. Move Them to a Cooler Area
The first thing you should do is immediately move the chicken to a cooler area. A shaded spot is almost always cooler than an area in direct sunlight. Cool, circulated area from a fan can help cool your chicken down even quicker.
2. Give Them Water
Place cool, fresh water close to your chicken to allow them to drink without having to stand up. Make sure the chicken cannot drop their head in the water. That can result in drowning for a lethargic chicken.
3. Monitor Their Recovery
Stay with your chicken to make sure that it is recovering, and signs of life are beginning to return. If you can, help them stay sitting upright and do not let them fall over. If you do not see any improvement, you should consider contacting your vet for assistance.
Chickens might not be able to sweat, but that does not seem to phase them. Instead, chickens have developed their own ways to release heat and keep themselves as cool as possible in hot weather. They even will pant, like cows and horses do, to release heat and prevent overheating. How cool is that?