Identifying and Peventing Heat Stress In Chicken
Heat stress and exhaustion in chickens can be deadly if it’s not caught in time. We’re in the heat of summer now. Backyard chicken owners need to be watching their flocks for signs of heat stress.
What is Heat Stress?
What is heat stress in poultry? Heat stress is a condition in chickens (and other poultry) caused by high temperatures, especially when combined with high relative humidity and low air speed. A few predisposing factors include genetics, feather cover, acclimation to heat, drinking water temperature, and availability.
Older birds, heavy breeds, and broilers are typically more susceptible to heat stress
Severe heat stress can cause drops in production efficiency and increased mortality rates in your flock.
You may notice reduced growth rates, egg production, and hatching rates. Heat stress can also cause a change in egg quality. You may notice smaller eggs, thinner shells and overall poor internal egg quality.
Signs of Heat Stress in Chickens
If you notice any of the following symptoms in your chickens they could be exhibiting signs of dehydration, heat stress or exhaustion:
Labored breathing and panting
Lifting wings away from body
Ways to Combat Heat Stress in Chickens
First and foremost, make sure your flock has access to clean, cool water at all times! This is crucial!
Supplement lost electrolytes. More on this below.
Provide protection from the sun. Shade, misters, and even wading pools are a welcome relief from the heat.
Don’t crowd your flock. Your poultry need space to move away from the body heat of other birds.
Feed during the cooler times of the day. Digestion generates heat and birds will be less likely to eat during the hotter parts of the day.
Keep your birds calm. Don’t let children, dogs or other pets chase or disturb your flock.
Electrolytes for Chickens with Heat Stress
It’s always a good idea to keep emergency medical supplies on hand for your flock. Keeping electrolytes in stock can help you get through the hot summer months.
Heat stress can deplete the chicken’s body of electrolytes. A water-soluble electrolyte powder can be used during times of heat stress to help replenish electrolytes that have been lost. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the package when using electrolytes. Electrolytes also increase your bird’s water intake, which is definitely a good thing when trying to help them cool off.
You can’t control the weather, but there are ways to help prevent heat stress in your flock.