How To Spot Signs And Prevent Heat Stress In Chickens

by Caitlyn Andrews August 04, 2016

How to Spot Signs and Prevent Heat Stress in Poultry

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
  • Pale combs/wattles
  • Lifting wings away from body
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures/convulsions

    Backyard Hens in the Summer

    Above: Make sure your hens have a shaded area in their enclosure that is easily accessible to help them escape the heat. Photos for this article are courtesy of Henny & Roo.

    Ways to Combat Heat Stress in Chickens

    1. First and foremost, make sure your flock has access to clean, cool water at all times! This is crucial!
    2. Supplement lost electrolytes. More on this below.
    3. Provide protection from the sun. Shade, misters, and even wading pools are a welcome relief from the heat.
    4. Don't crowd your flock. Your poultry need space to move away from the body heat of other birds.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.

    Electrolyte Tip: When you mix up an electrolyte solution, try freezing it in ice cube trays. You can add the cubes to your flock's drinking water as needed as an additional way to cool them down.

    This month's Henny & Roo subscription box includes a 4 oz pack of our AgriLabs Vitamins & Electrolytes PLUS. You can pick up an August box for backyard chicken keepers that's packed with goodies backyard chicken owners will love!

    Keep Your Chickens Cool in the Summer

    You can't control the weather, but there are ways to help prevent heat stress in your flock. Click the picture below for more tips on keeping your chickens cool in the summer:

    Tips for Keeping Backyard Chickens Cool

    Caitlyn Andrews
    Caitlyn Andrews


    1 Response

    L. Mohammed Musthafa
    L. Mohammed Musthafa

    July 25, 2018

    Very useful information. Got to know this site through Google Search. Now I learned what is Heat Stroke in Chickens. Thanks.

    Leave a comment

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