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Keeping Farm Animals Cool in the Heat of Summer

The heat wave these last few days has taken a toll on all of us emotionally and physically. I have heard story after story about the loss of animals due to the heat. While this will always happen, there are ways to help your animals get through the hot days of summer.

Rabbits ~ Keep them in a shady and well-ventilated area. Put frozen bottles of water in their hutches. Give your bunnies ceramic tiles to lay on.

Chickens ~ Chickens open their beaks and spread their wings when they are extremely hot. Ice their water and/or check to make sure it is cool. Give the chickens frozen food: bananas, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, corn, etc. Shade, shade, shade. Misters. Shallow dishes of water or puddles in the coop area. Having water to wade through is one of the best ways to cool off chickens. Put frozen gallon jugs of water in the chicken area. Make sure the coop or chicken area is well ventilated with plenty of shade. If it is too hot in the nesting boxes, block access to them to prevent hens from using them. Set up temporary nesting boxes in a cooler location in the coop, run, or yard using a large basket, milk crate, or cardboard box adding shallow bedding. Place a large, plastic bucket or trash can on its side in a shady spot adding frozen water bottles/jugs inside it for chickens to rest alongside. Freeze water in cake pans and place underneath stepping stones in the shade for the birds to lay on. Hose down the roof of the coop and areas around the coop frequently to facilitate evaporative cooling.

Livestock ~ Goats are among the most heat tolerant livestock, as are, surprisingly, sheep—their wool actually protects them from extreme heat as well as cold. Pigs and cattle are among the least heat-tolerant livestock.

The signs of heat stress are more subtle with livestock than, say, dogs who pant heavily. Horses become visibly wet with sweat, but pigs, goats, sheep, and cows don’t have the type of sweat glands that help them cool off. Instead their snouts may be wet to the touch from sweat, and their mouths may hang open slightly. Classic signs of heatstroke in all livestock include lethargy, disorientation, trembling, and lack of appetite.

If such symptoms occur, immediately move the animal into the shade, provide chilled drinking water, and gently spray them down with a hose. It’s a good idea to keep electrolytes on hand, which can be mixed into drinking water to revive an overheated, dehydrated animal. Electrolytes should be available at your local feed store, though in a pinch you can make your own with common household items—here is a handy recipe:


½ teaspoon potassium chloride

1 teaspoon sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)

1 teaspoon sodium chloride (table salt)

1 tablespoon sucrose (sugar)

1 gallon water

And here are 5 steps you can take to keep your animals cool in hopes that you never get to that point:

Place watering troughs in the shade. Freeze plastic tubs of water overnight to create ice blocks for cooling watering troughs down to a more refreshing temperature.

Ample space in the shade should be available. If you lack the shade of large trees, the next best thing is an open-sided shade structure in your pasture. This may be as simple as four wooden posts with a tarp or shade cloth strung between them, or you can invest in a lightweight movable shade structure.

If you must keep your animals in a barn or other enclosed structure, ample ventilation is essential You need multiple heavy duty livestock fans for larger facilities. Just be sure to mount fans off the ground so your animals will not be at risk of knocking them over, injuring themselves with the blades, or chewing on electrical cords.

Rig up a sprinkler system to keep your animals cool on the hottest days. Use a sprinkler timer to water a shaded area in the barnyard for five or 10 minutes every hour. If you must keep your animals confined in a barn during hot weather, install a livestock misting system in conjunction with your fans.

Finally, an overheated animal would relish something cold to chew on. Freeze excess fruit and vegetables and offer them to your animals as a special treat in the heat of the day.

I hope this information helps during the long, hot days of summer...

Other ideas are welcome. Please list them in the comments section.

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