It is hot, and the chickens are hot. They open their beaks to pant like dogs and their little necks wiggle with each breath. They hold their wings slightly away from their sides to let the cool air next to their bodies, which makes them look large and proud, and would give them an air of grandeur if they did not also look uncomfortable. This afternoon, I watched one little chick purposefully scratch the ground, then the sink down onto it, and I imagined that the soil felt cool and damp on her hot little belly. I almost felt cooler just watching her. She kept panting, though, and I decided the chickens could use some help.
I walked back to the house and turned on the hose, knowing that many chicken farmers spray their chickens with a gentle mist of water to cool them on the very hot afternoons. My husband has done this several times, but it was my first time. I could not shake the idea that I was causing some kind of mischief, and I tried to make the water come out slowly, gently, and soothingly. The water burst out from the hose in a big, wide mist, and the chickens peeped with surprise and fled to the other side of their shelter. I sprayed them as though they were plants, and when they were all damp, I turned around made sure that those in the yard were not left out. As soon as the water stopped they settled down quickly. None of them were panting. Either they were cooler, or they were too surprised to pant.