As American dual-purpose birds, Orpingtons are a good weight for meat and produce plenty of eggs per week.
So they are one of the more popular breeds of chicken for backyard flocks.
Orpington chickens are cold- and heat-hardy but have specific requirements for surviving the heat.
Despite being large meat birds, Orpingtons are moderately heat tolerant. Orpingtons have a decent heat tolerance with plenty of shade, water, and good ventilation. Their dense feathers and larger size tend to make their bodies hotter, but it’s easy to get around.
With thoughtful coop design and location and some ideas for keeping cool, these gentle birds can survive the summer heat just fine.
Keep reading to learn more about how Orpingtons can beat the heat.
Orpington Coop Design and Location
A chicken coop with plenty of space for each chicken is necessary to keep your birds happy and healthy in both hot and cold temperatures.
As a larger dual-purpose chicken, Orpingtons need about 5-10′ square feet per bird but handle confinement fairly well.
Dual-purpose refers to how Orpington’s lay good eggs and make efficient meat birds.
Further Reading: Why Orpington chickens are good for meat
Put your coop where it will get plenty of good afternoon shade.
Make sure you have enough ventilation in your coop; there should be a minimum of 5″ inches of ventilation on the shortest side of the coop.
The minimum height for a coop is 3.5′ feet tall on the lowest side of a sloped coop for standard chickens, so make sure there is a little extra room for your Orpingtons.
Many backyard chicken keepers use removable panels and screens for the sides to ensure their coops are well-ventilated during the summer months.
While opening up your coop during hot temperatures, remember to still protect against predators.
Further Reading: Do Orpington chickens fly and how to keep them contained
The Chicken Run
Orpingtons are like any other breed of chicken; they appreciate a good-sized run or chicken yard.
The run should be well-protected and have at least partial shade for your flock to escape the sun.
Standard, common chicken breeds will need 8-10′ square feet of space outside the coop for stretching out, dust bathing, and foraging, so again, plan a little extra space for these larger birds.
While Orpingtons are a somewhat heat-tolerant chicken breed, they still need plenty of shade.
Effects of Hot Weather On Orpington Chickens
A standard-size chicken has a normal body temperature of 105-107° degrees Fahrenheit (42°C), so their body heat is higher than humans,’ and they can tolerate less heat.
Chickens will usually be less active, drink more water, and eat less food during hot weather.
This is not necessarily a cause for concern, as they are simply trying to keep cool.
Egg production will decrease in heat, as it takes extra water to produce eggs.
Sometimes a chicken will develop diarrhea with all the extra water they are drinking.
This will dehydrate them and deregulate their body because of the loss of electrolytes, so make sure you keep an eye out for this.
Broody Orpington Hens
Broody hens have a higher body temperature and have special consideration during hot weather as their fluffy feathers keep all their heat in to incubate the eggs.
Easy access to fresh water is a must for all your chickens, especially the broodies during a heat wave.
Keep a waterer near the broody hen’s nest so she will be more inclined to just pop over and get a drink.
Picking your broody up and placing her outside the coop or, at the very least, on the other side of the coop will encourage her to take care of herself on the way back to the nest, grab a bite to eat, or take a drink.
A sudden spike in temperatures instead of a gradual increase is very dangerous for a broody hen, so keep a close eye on how they are doing during warmer temperatures.
Signs of Heat Stress
Chickens hold their wings away from their bodies and lift their feathers in hot weather to cool off.
One sign of serious heat stress is rapid, labored breathing, such as panting hard.
Chickens’ combs and wattles become pale when stressed, as they use the higher concentration of capillaries to cool off.
A chicken may stagger or become disoriented.
Your birds may become droopy and lethargic and lay on their sides in hot temperatures; this requires immediate attention and cool-down.
Treatment of Heat Stress
Chickens do not sweat, so they lack this method of cooling down and do not handle higher temperatures with ease.
Hot weather is very dangerous for chickens, extreme heat even more so.
If you notice signs of heat stress such as panting, holding its wings away from its body, lethargy, or even more serious seizure or convulsions, it’s time to act immediately.
Take the chicken out of the sun or hot coop into the shade (or cool house!) and wet them down with cool water – not cold!
Do NOT dunk your chicken into cold water as it could send them into shock and kill them.
How to Prevent Heat Stress
It is important to provide plenty of space for your chickens and have good shade to keep your birds cool.
Do not keep waterers in the sun where they will heat up; keep them in the shade and as cool as possible.
Make sure you have plenty of waterers for your chickens, and keep them fresh and clean daily.
During the hottest part of the day, put ice cubes in waterers to cool them down.
A note: feeding high-calorie food such as corn will not overheat your chickens.
Give your chickens frozen treats, such as corn or peas, in muffin tins to keep your flock cool.
The cold food will give them some relief from the heat.
Chickens also enjoy wading through water in a kiddie pool or even a plastic tub to cool off.
Some backyard chicken keepers in hot climates run fans through the coop to increase airflow and help cool their chickens off.
Backyard chicken owners often place frozen jugs of water in front of the fans to decrease the temperature.
Hose down the chickens’ area; the evaporating water will cool things off.