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

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