Home Caring for Your Flock How Chickens Cool Themselves

How Chickens Cool Themselves

by Jamelyn

For chickens, extreme heat is more dangerous than frigid cold weather. The optimal temperature for chickens is 70 to 75 degrees F. In this temperature range, chickens have optimal health, energy, and egg production levels. When temperatures rise above 85 degrees F, chickens will start to pant and engage in other behaviors to cool off their bodies.

Chickens are able to handle heat on their own by making adjustments in their behavior and moving to a cool, shady space if one is available. Chickens do not sweat, so they have other mechanisms to naturally regulate their internal temperature, such as panting, spreading their wings, and dust bathing.

Keep reading to find out how chickens maintain their body temperature in hot weather.

Comb & Wattle

A chicken’s comb and wattle serve as a type of radiator which lowers a chicken’s temperature. The comb and wattle consist of a network of capillaries that move blood. These capillaries cause the comb and wattle to have their bright red color. As the blood circulates through the body, it is cooled and then travels back through the body as cooled blood; thereby allowing the chicken to cool off.

Certain breeds of chickens, like Leghorns, Minorcas, and Anconas, have extra large combs. These large combs allow them to tolerate heat much better than breeds will small or pea combs. Large combs are more prone to frostbite or injury so watch out for this if you have any of these breeds of chickens.

A healthy chicken’s comb will be bright red and stand upright. When a chicken has not had enough water or is dehydrated, their wattle will loose some of its red color and becomes shrunken. Give your chicken some water and shade and their comb should perk back up. For more about keeping chickens cool, read 9 Ways to Keep Chickens Cool During the Summer.


Another way a chicken will naturally regulate their temperature is through panting. Panting usually happens around 85 degrees F in full-grown chickens and around 100 degrees F for chicks. Through panting, a chicken is able to move hot air out of their respiratory system through a system of air sacs. The air moves out of a chicken’s lungs in one direction so it will not mix with hot air and is able to allow the chicken to cool off quicker.

The first summer we had chicks they seemed to handle the heat much better than a year later after they were full-grown. Chicks have less feathers and a lower body temperature, so they are able to handle heat better than a large, fully feathered chicken. On the other hand, chicks have a difficult time maintaining body heat in cool weather, while full-grown chickens have no problem keeping warm.

Chickens loose water through panting so make sure to provide extra drinking water during hot weather. All this panting can also cause moisture build-up in their coop, which can occur if your chickens are escaping the heat by going into the coop or they go there during the day to lay eggs. Get a fan for your coop to blow out the moisture and to provide better ventilation. Ventilation is a vital part of any chicken coop design, which is why I consider it The Most Important Aspect of a Chicken Coop.

These chickens are hot! The two in the front are panting and both have their wings spread slightly from their bodies. You can see their kiddie pool in the background.

Gular Flutter

If panting isn’t enough to cool the chicken, they will start to rapidly vibrate their throat muscles, which is called “gular flutter.” This technique allows for evaporation inside the chicken’s mouth and throat, accounting for up to a third of total heat dissipation. When chickens are hot enough, they will both pant and vibrate their throat muscles. You can also notice that wild birds engage in gular flutter on really hot days.

Spread Wings

Chickens that are hot will stand with their wings slightly spread from their bodies. This posture allows more air flow around their bodies and aides in cooling. When a chicken’s wings are spread from their bodies, the air can blow on their body where their wings attach (on a human, this would be their underarm).

Chickens will also stretch one wing down, where you can see their flight feathers, while they are standing as another way to cool off their body. They will usually stand like this for only a few seconds so unless you spend a lot of time with your chickens or are able to watch them throughout the day, this might be a cute stance you never see.

Watery Droppings

In hot weather, you will find your chickens eat less and drink more. Chickens are able to transfer heat from their bodies by increasing water consumption. All this extra water will cause their droppings to be more watery and loose than normal.

Make sure the water you provide your chickens is cool as some chickens will stop drinking water if it’s dirty or too warm. This can prevent a bad situation (a hot chicken) from becoming worse (a heat stressed chicken).

Dust Bathing

On extra hot days, chickens will also find a shady spot to dust bathe, often laying still with a leg or wing stretched out from their body. In addition to cleaning their feathers and skin, the coolness of the dirt and ground will help cool off hot chickens.

My chickens have learned how to crawl under the chicken wire fence for their expanded run and escape to the cool dirt in the garden in the late afternoons. They will sit under the tomato plants, perfectly still, and you wouldn’t have any idea they were there if you didn’t know that we have chickens. My chickens are Barred Plymouth Rocks and when they are in the shade, their markings make them almost disappear! To learn more about Barred Plymouth Rocks, read The Best Chicken Breed for Beginners.

Make sure you have a shaded area where your chickens can dust bathe during the day.

These chickens are enjoying a dust bath in the garden’s cool dirt.

While chickens have techniques for cooling themselves in hot weather, it’s important to understand that extreme heat, especially if it is prolonged or accompanied by high humidity, can be deadly to chickens. Chickens have a core internal temperature of around 106 degrees F, which is higher than mammals. If a chicken’s core temperature gets above 115 degrees F, they can experience severe illness or death.

If you are raising chickens in your backyard in a hot or humid climate, consider implementing the methods described in 9 Ways to Keep Chickens Cool During Summer.

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