We had a few hot days in a row, and Karen noticed that the broilers looked pretty stressed. It reminded us that modern hybrid broilers don’t like sunshine on hot days and often won’t leave the shade, even to drink. They can actually die of heat stress because of this.
Karen gently hosed down the birds to cool them off, and they recovered almost instantly.
The fix is to make sure every broiler pen has at least one waterer in the shade. In most pen designs, this means having a waterer at the back of the pen. We always use two waterers per pen in case one fails, and now we’ve got one in the front and one in the back.
This reluctance to leave the shade is most pronounced with modern hybrid meat chickens. Other types are less reluctant to go out in the noonday sun. My hens have waterers smack in the middle of the pasture with no shade at all, and they don’t hesitate to go there for a drink at high noon. Still, hens like shade. People sometimes complain that, when they see a free-range flock, the hens aren’t scattered decorously across the pasture, but are hanging around the henhouse. If the critics came back near sunrise or sunset, it would be a different story.