Symptoms and Prevention of Heat Stress in Poultry

Heat stress can greatly change your poultry’s health. Here are some tips on how to prevent heat stress during the summer.

  • Digestion generates body heat, so feed poultry during the coolest times of the day.
  • Severe heat stress can affect egg quality, egg size and hatchability. It can also increase the rate of mortality.
  • Heat-stressed birds consume less feed, so meat-type chickens (i.e., broilers) will grow more slowly and hens will produce fewer eggs—even more reasons to add adequate shade and ventilation.
  • Birds don’t have sweat glands, so they cool themselves by panting. Panting can be a sign of heat stress, and the act of panting can alter a bird’s electrolyte balance. If you suspect heat stress, talk to your veterinarian about adding electrolytes to your birds’ water.
  • One of the best ways to prevent heat stress is to prevent overcrowding. To instantly reduce the heat, reduce the number of birds in the house.
  • Avoid unnecessary activity. Summer heat places enough stress on birds. Take care not to disturb them during the hottest time of day.
  • Signs of an unhealthy chicken: - less active than the rest of the flock
    - the comb is pale and limp (the comb is a good barometer of health)
    - breast is concave and the keel bone becomes prominent
    - liquid diarrhea (versus a semisolid green and white splotch, which is normal)
    - unusual breathing or wheezing (some panting is normal in hot weather, but not to excess)
  • If one of your chickens exhibits any of these symptoms this summer, talk to your veterinarian.
Source material for this blog article was provided by Purina Mills, Inc. © 2007