Alleviating Heat Stress In Chickens
Poultry are prone to heat stress during periods of high temperatures and humidity. While chickens do acclimate to heat over time, sudden heat waves can cause trouble. Managing the effects of heat stress is challenging, but necessary for poultry producers.
When under severe heat stress, production efficiency drops and mortality risk rises. All chickens are susceptible to heat stress, but particularly older birds. High temperatures and humidity levels cause reduced growth rates, egg production and hatching rates. The effects of heat stress also cause smaller egg size, thin egg shells and poor internal egg quality.
Hot weather is synonymous with summertime, so become familiar with the signs of heat stress and how to lessen its impact. Doing so keeps your poultry productive and comfortable.
How Chickens Cool Themselves
A chicken's normal body temperature hovers near 104 to 107 degrees Fahrenheit. It's not difficult for them to maintain a healthy body temperature when the air is at least 10 to 15 degrees below that.
During times of extreme temperatures, producers must dissipate the excess body heat of their flock quickly. When a chicken's body temperature reaches 113 to 117 degrees Fahrenheit, it is in danger.
Without sweat glands to cool their skin, birds rely on their respiratory system. Chickens pant to cool themselves, as the panting evaporates water from the throat to lower body temperature.
Chicken Heat Stress Management
Poultry producers can take a number of measures to help their chickens survive the effects of heat stress. Here are some tips for controlling poultry heat stress:
- Water is instrumental to chickens surviving hot weather. Have very cool, clean drinking water available at all times in accessible locations.
- Supplement drinking water with electrolytes. Panting alters the chickens' electrolytes, so adding electrolytes helps re-balance them. It also increases the birds' water intake, and the more water they drink the better. Make sure to discuss any supplementation with a Southern States Store or your local vet.
- Birds in heat stress are not inclined to eat during the heat of the day, so feed chickens during the coolest part of the day. Digestion naturally produces heat.
- Keep chickens in a well-ventilated area with adequate air flow. Move heat away from them by placing circulation fans to blow with prevailing winds. Remove the shutters from continuously operating fans to increase air flow. Continue moving the air as temperatures drop through the day and into the night. An ongoing cooling breeze makes a big difference in how chickens manage the heat.
- Install some type of evaporative cooling, such as a misting or fogging system. Water on the chickens' bodies helps to cool them.
- Inspect emergency generators and temperature alarm systems. Keep fans, evaporative systems and other cooling equipment in good working order to maximize efficiency.
- Avoid overcrowding the chickens. It reduces body heat, as well as the corresponding amount of heat the ventilation system must move out of the poultry house. Provide shady areas if the birds are outdoors. During the heat of the day, don't disturb the birds. Let them rest.
- Regularly remove any accumulated litter from the chicken house, as decomposition produces heat. Removal also keeps pests to a minimum.
- Reduce radiant heat in the poultry house with adequate ceiling insulation.
- Outside of the chicken house, tall grass and weeds restrict air flow, while bare ground can reflect heat into the house. Low cut grass is best as it helps to absorb the sun and heat.
Additional Poultry Resources
Find out more information by talking to your local Southern States store. Use our Store Locator Tool to find the closest location, telephone number, directions, store specials & more!