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400 chickens die of heatstroke at N.H. farm after extreme temperatures last weekend

Vernon Family Farm lost 400 chickens Saturday.Vernon Family Farm

More than 400 chickens died in Saturday’s heat at a New Hampshire farm, according to the farm’s owner.

The chickens died of heatstroke at Vernon Family Farm in Newfields, N.H., around 5 p.m. Saturday when the temperature peaked and the farm could not save them, said Jeremiah Vernon, the farm’s owner.

“It was a pure loss of life, energy, and money. We did what we could. We put electrolytes in their water, held their feed until nighttime so we wouldn’t add additional water stress, and sprayed the pens with water. We were prepared for the heat, but despite all those efforts, [we] still had over 400 chickens die,” Vernon said.


High temperatures in the Newfields area reached 90 degrees Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

The chickens were worth $7,000, Vernon said, and were scheduled to be processed three days later. The farm also has ducks and geese, which survived.

“Chickens can survive up to 106 degrees, and then they reach critical phase and start dying. They were working all day until 5 p.m. to stay alive. It got so hot that after that it was just too much,” Vernon said.

The farm has about 6,000 chickens in total. The Vernons spent several thousand dollars on generators and ventilators to help other animals survive future heat waves, after the chickens died, Vernon said.

“They were the oldest chickens on the farm that we invested the most in, energy-wise and financially. The majority were from older age groups, but we did lose some younger ones,” Vernon said.

“Small farms and local farming is, by nature, at the will of the weather,” Vernon said. “All of us farmers have the desire to have the best for our animals, but financial reality and weather reality don’t always allow us to do that.”


Globe correspondent Sofia Saric contributed to this report. Alyssa Lukpat can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @AlyssaLukpat.