Hens and Heat

We are heading into the sweltering days of summer and I cannot over-emphasize how essential it is to keep a close eye on your hens. Heat can be deadly to your flock. Chickens die from heatstroke and they die from dehydration. Even if the heat isn’t lethal, you might notice them eating less and laying fewer eggs.

I’ve written about how to help your chickens cope with heat here. Today I literally pulled another bag out of my collection of tricks. Green beans are one of the few veggies that everyone in my family eats and so every year I plant a large row of green beans in the garden. But, every year I harvest far more than we can consume fresh. I freeze the excess into bags. When I can’t keep up with the abundance, and the beans get big and tough, I share them with the goats (watch them scarf them down and burp on this video.)

frozen bags


I confess to not really liking beans that have been frozen, even when vacuum-packed. Still, every summer I freeze them in hopes that this will be the year that I find the perfect use for them over the winter. I never do, and I always have a few bags left over from the previous year’s harvest, but they don’t go to waste. On scorching hot days I offer these frozen blocks to the hens.

The pullets have never seen such a thing before, but they investigate and start pecking. (Note that I have put an extra waterer in the shade, which is the best thing that you can do for your chickens when it gets hot.)



The Gems know all about these frozen treats and attack the block with enthusiasm. Despite the lethargy that comes on during a heat wave, these green beans will get them to cool off a bit from the frozen bits they’re swallowing, and provide more water and greens to their diet.


Better yet, the green beans, which I put effort and energy into processing and freezing, won’t go to waste. Win-win all around.


  1. Green bean ices!

    No need for those here, it is the old English ‘Midsummer’s Day’ today (24 June) I have had to put on my winter base-layer and socks; and the light is on in my studio… at 3pm in the afternoon!
    I’d not mind but we actually need rain, and that isn’t likely.

    The forecast says we may have a little heatwave at the end of the week… just for a couple of days.
    C xx

    • Your cold and rainy weather has even made the news here. They say you’re in for a 5-year cycle of the stuff. Time for you to grow northern rainforest plants? Hanging mosses?

      • Except in our little corner of the UK we rarely get any rain… just the clouds and the blustery wind. Hanging mosses would just dry out and blow away :-D

  2. Great idea. I always have some sort of veggie in the freezer. I’m in south Mississippi and my new chicks arrived on the 18th. I’m a little concerned with the sweltering heat. I bought a misting hose and we have plenty of shade. We have dogs, and during the summer we give them ice in their water and often hose them down – basically anything we know would cool us off, we do to them. Of all the different ways to keep animals cool in the summer — my question is: is there anything you *wouldn’t* do to keep them cool that is bad for them.

    • Unless they’re keeled over, dying of heat stroke, I wouldn’t dunk them in water. Wet hens really do get mad :)

      • Understand about not ‘dunking’ a hen. But is there any reason you wouldn’t try a misting spray bottle or intermittent misting attachment to a hose set up in a corner? I’ve never raised chickens, but raised many caged birds and even the non-bathers always seemed to learn to enjoy a spray bottle mist on a hot day. They even spread their wings slightly and a spray is followed by much muttering, preening and primping. No idea if chickens would enjoy it. I do know that rabbits can suffer from heat stroke very easily; I used a cooling mat for mine on brutal days. Seemed to help; she would barely get off it on 90+ days.

        • A lot of folks in really hot states, like Texas, set up misters. Some also hose off the coops. All good. It’s soaking the bird’s feathers that is inadvisable.

  3. Terry, I’ve always thought that in the case of peas or green beans that they had to be cooked before giving them to hens?

    • Nope. You can feed right from the garden (or freezer, although the green beans in the freezer are blanched first.)

  4. I feed ours cold melon and cukes, but the main thing we do is to put half gallon milk jugs filled with water and frozen in their water fountains. Since our pen is covered, plus they have a large tree just beside the pen, ours don’t get a lot of strong, hot direct sunlight. The water outside is in the shade all day, plus there is always one inside the coop available. We also have a fan outside the east coop window and in the summer, that is turned on day and night. We have lost a hen or two over the past two hot and dry summer’s, but it was older girls that just couldn’t handle the heat at all. It happens, but we do our best to keep them a fresh supply of cool water, shade and if they are inside a breeze.
    The dogs hate to even go outside unless it’s early morning or late evening. They are addicted to the AC :-)

    • All excellent suggestions. I’ve half-filled the plastic waterers and put them in the freezer, then topped off with fresh water before setting out. That keeps it chilly for awhile. I’ll also hose down the run in the morning.

  5. We are going into a heat wave later this week and I always start worrying about the chickens. They have plenty of shade and water and dirt, but it seems so hard for them to breathe when it’s over 100 and so dry. If I see one that’s having a really hard time, I put her in a crate and bring her in the house for the day. I also trickle the hose under our redwood tree which creates a cooler ground for them to lounge on. They like standing in the little puddles and I wonder if cooling their feet helps to cool their whole body. And of course they like drinking straight from the hose. I like the idea of freezing plastic water bottle to add to the waterers. And I will try the green beans too.

  6. My rabbit also liked the frozen water bottles, as well as the chickens. She would lie next to one.
    I also had some flat blue ice bars for ice chests that my chickens would actually sit on–not for the bunny, though. Didn’t trust her not to chew them.

    • Rabbits suffer from heat even worse than chickens! Phoebe has already claimed the cooler concrete under the nesting boxes. I tried the frozen water bottles for Candy, but she despised them. Perhaps Phoebe will cozy up to one. What helps in my run is that there is cool damp dirt in the shade to the side of the house that the rabbit and the chickens sit in and stay cool in.

  7. Looking out our window this A.M., one would never guess it was summer………It is blowing and thundering down rain! But the calendar says the heat is coming, so all of these ideas are great. I had a glut of Blackberries last summer so have bags of them still in the freezer. I bet the Hens will enjoy them around the time we are hopefully picking fresh ones. That would be this Aug. when if it is going to get really hot here…it would be then.

  8. Great advice! Thank you! As a first time chicken Mama, I’m getting nervous about summer.

  9. Hi everyone! I’m thrilled to have discovered this marvelous site. Terry…I’ll be taking you out for a “cup of coffee”, soon. I’m also a new Mama for my 9 various 6 and 7 week old chickens. They were introduced to the coop about 1 week ago. It’s very HOT where we live right now and my little ones have only been out on their playground (previous kdgn teacher term) for about 1 week. We don’t free range (I wish), so they spend much of their day in a 10 x20 outdoor fenced area that is half covered by a hard roof. They seem very happy to go back and forth all day long from the coop to their yard. When evening comes and they go back into the coop on their own…I find them huddled and cowering in the corner closed to the pop door…seeming distressed by listening to their noises. They can’t seem to climb on each other enough. I could sure use some advice on why they are doing this and how I might help them become more comfortable upon returning to the coop for the night. As a side note…before I had introduced them to their outdoor yard, many or most of them were roosting at night on the perches provided. Any advice and direction would be so very much appreciated. Thanks so much.

    • I am no expert and would defer to Terry, but trying to think like a young chicken (not easy in retirement), maybe they are seeking the comfort of a more enclosed space within the larger coop space where they can huddle or cuddle together and feel safe within a smaller space like they when they were babies. A pet carrier or two with bedding that they could freely go in and out of?

      • Christina Rose, this is a caring response, but you’re thinking like a person and not a chicken :) Chickens don’t seek enclosed spaces for sleep or security, but they do want to be next to each other. Learning roosting behavior is important. Once one pullet figures it out, they all will.

        • Thank you, I agree! Perching and perching together is their nature and preference. It’s interesting to watch yours maneuver around on the different perches and with different people getting ready for bed!

    • Are they truly cowering, or are they being sociable? Also, chicks are often vocal before bedtime. Yours are also young enough to still want to be sleeping in a pile. You might find that in a week their behavior changes. But, if it is a roosting problem, observe and see if your youngsters are exploring the roosts during the day. They should be. If not, there’s something about the roosts that they don’t like. Are they a different size or shape than the ones they had in the brooder? Are they too high off of the ground? Are the roosts in a dark corner that the chicks can’t see by the time they go in at night? If you gently set the chicks on the roosts at night, do they stay put?

      • I was having this same problem with them piling up under the waterer in a corner. I tried putting them on the roost and they jumped off and went back to corner. This was several days ago, and last nite I checked on them and five were roosting on the roost. Other two were on floor watching me, but one was my 7 week old leghorn. I’m sure that one would go on roost as soon I as left. I think they were adjusting to new coop, and with a little patience on my part and a little bravery on their part, they found their way just like Terry said they would. Hope this helps.

  10. Here in the Northeast we are hitting a MAJOR heat wave. This article was excellent!

  11. Terry, I’m not letting my husband see this blog post. He would prefer ALL of our home grown green beans to be mailed to Pip and Caper. I think he hires rabbits to chew the tops off my green bean seedlings…

  12. In the U.K. we had the wettest summer for fifty years last year and the coldest for about fifty years this year (what is going on!) You said it has been forecast to stay like this for the next five years, well some of the forecasts say the next ten to twenty years! Please!! All we can do is stay positive and say what do they know anyway, they often get next week wrong!

    You must know how the British love to talk about the weather (when not talking about chickens). All I can say at the moment is that while you are advising about how to care for chooks in a heat wave, that’s one problem that doesn’t apply. Every cloud has a silver lining! We have to stay positive. But great advise for those of you in hot climes that need it.

    Would frozen peas be good for the chickens in hot weather? I used to give cooked peas when they were little which they loved but seeing your frozen beans, I wondered about frozen peas. Good info as always, sorry to go on a bit, it’s just a case of don’t get us British started on the weather!

    • Frozen peas are great here in the heat, but perhaps you chilled and wet Brits need to feed the chooks pea soup? :)

  13. Hey thanks for the idea.. I have some sort of forgotten fruit in the bottom of the freezer and didn’t think about the chickens until this idea.

  14. I used to give mine thawed frozen mixed vegetables–included diced carrots, corn, peas, lima beans, string beans. Is that ok?

  15. Great idea about the frozen veggies, my girls have been spending most of these miserable days in the shed where it is cooler, they had 1/2 a cold canteloupe for breakfast with some romaine there has been a couple less eggs this week but thats ok I have three dz in the refrigerator too hot to cook, luckily the dogs like them for dinner

  16. Great idea about the frozen vegetables. I guess fruits and more would be good, too. I freeze used 2 liter soda bottles full of water to put in my top-fill waterer. Also, I have numerous empty vitamin “jars” made of plastic that I use to freeze large blocks of ice for the waterer, or to put in a shady spot in the yard. Last year, when the chicks were still in a temp coop/dog pen, they would often stand with one foot on a frozen soda bottle, one foot on the ground!

  17. I put ice in their waterer and give them a gallon jug of ice. I freeze the jug of water; then, cut the side out and lay it down on the jugs’s handle side. They love it!

  18. I set a fan up to blow into their run. Only thing is I have to watch for pop-up storms because the fan is not in a sheltered area.

  19. Thanks Terry and Christina Rose for responding to my dilemma about my 6 and 7 week old chickens having an issue about settling back into the coop in the evening after being outdoors in the run during the day. When I said they were cowering…what they do is, some stand and peck at the corner they are in and eventually pile up on or around one another. It’s usually 5 of the 9 at first, then one or two more join them. They are extremely noisy. To me, their noises sound desperate. There is always the same one, Daisy, who never joins them. She perches like a great example for all. Bless her! It is very possible, that because I am so new at this, they are behaving as they should for their age. I shall follow your directions and let you know how things are going. Because it has been so hot, I worry about them piling up on one another in the heat. Thanks so much.

  20. Glad to hear that I can give frozen peas. I loved the idea but wondered if they were OK. I like to give them nice cold melons too. I wish I were home in the middle of the day when the heat is at it’s worst to give them these treats but alas I am stuck in a cubicle wondering how they are. They are always fine and happy to see me and the treats coming in the evening! I worry about the heat in the coop at night. I plan to put in a window that can be left open at night ( covered with hardware cloth) Do your barns get very hot at night and if so, how do you cool it down?

    • The windows in the Little Barn are not well-designed. I need to figure out how to open them and still have them safely secure with hardware cloth. Until then, they get latched at night. The cupola keeps the temps in a safe range. We also have a box fan to move the air a bit when it is really bad (the hens don’t like it blowing on them unless it’s brutal out.)

  21. Ahh…thanks for that. I was thinking about a fan but our coop isn’t huge. I wouldn’t want it blowing right on them but last night they looked like they might have actually enjoyed it. ( wings out and beaks open) I might be able to hook up a fan where it would blow the air towards the ceiling to at least keep the air moving. Your thoughts?

    • Use your judgement. The box fan in my barn is old and weak and a tad noisy (why it’s now in the barn.) I don’t know how much the chickens would like a fan if it was a nicer model :)

  22. My henhouse is a remodeled child’s playhouse that we bought. It is insulated and came with a small ceiling fan. Will it be ok to keep the fan on? The temperature has been in the upper 90’s here and the fan sure made it nice while I was painting inside.

    • Fans are good as long as the wiring is safe. Be aware that chickens create a lot of dust, which can spark and cause fires. Do safety checks at least monthly.

  23. Do you have any suggestions about how to cover the windows with hardware cloth? Right now, there are regular house windows, double paned with regular screens. The outside is vinyl siding.

  24. Hi terry! We had a chicken overheat today and came to this post to learn what to do for her. I just wanted to let you know that the link provided above in the second paragraph didn’t work. Fortunately our girl seems to be on the mend, but I would still like to read your article about it if I could! Thanks!