Heat stress is one of the leading causes of chicken deaths and can be a huge issue for backyard flock owners, especially new owners. It is important to recognize the symptoms of heat stress and take action quickly to keep your chickens healthy and happy.
Because birds cannot sweat, they have a difficult time keeping themselves cool. Birds rely on panting instead. Increased panting in laying hens causes an imbalance in the blood pH, which, in turn, decreases the blood calcium and bicarbonate levels, resulting in thin-shelled eggs. Additionally, a majority of the content of an egg is water, so laying hens need to be kept well-hydrated. Heat stress can cause layers to stop laying altogether. Heat stress also results in reduced feed intake, weight loss and sometimes even death.
Keeping birds comfortable is essential for maintaining a healthy, productive flock and preventing mortality levels from becoming excessively high. Keep in mind that your biggest, most productive birds are often at the greatest risk for heat stress. The normal body temperature of a bird is 106° F. If the internal body temperature reaches 113° to 117° F, death from heart failure is a threat. Birds are most comfortable — and most productive — in a temperature range of 50° to 68° F. Birds can do well in temperatures up to around 80° F, but above this, heat stress symptoms can begin to manifest, especially if the weather conditions change rapidly. Proper ventilation in your coop is especially critical during high heat and humidity. Consult with your local cooperative extension agent or conduct research online to find the proper fan size for your square footage and bird stocking rate. Realize that the temperature in your coop or penned area may be different from the ambient temperature due to bird density, radiant heat, etc., so be sure to take temperature readings at bird level. For the most part, you can use common sense steps to keep your birds hydrated and cool.
Signs of heat stress in birds:
- Gasping and panting
- Spreading wings
- Extremely pale combs and wattles
- Reduced egg size, weight and shell quality
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Lowered resistance to disease
- Increased cannibalism
- Increased mortality
The ULTRALYX® Farm Flock Supplement Block is a highly concentrated supplement that will help deliver essential electrolytes to birds, in addition to any protein and energy that birds may be missing due to decreased overall feed intake. The ULTRALYX Farm Flock Supplement Block also delivers minerals and vitamins needed by birds to help combat the negative effects of stress on their immunity and production. Since these convenient blocks are available 24/7, birds can access them at night during cooler periods, when eating is more comfortable. Additionally, the distraction of pecking at the individual whole grains in the block can help keep birds occupied and decrease incidences of cannibalism and aggressive pecking caused by stress.
In summary, heat stress is a very real danger for backyard chickens and other poultry, especially during sudden heat waves. Be vigilant for the signs for heat stress, and follow the proper management techniques to help birds maintain their body temperature and minimize stress. ULTRALYX Farm Flock Supplement Blocks can be a part of your overall management plan to help fortify birds nutritionally and keep them occupied so they will be less likely to turn on each other during stressful periods.
ULTRALYX Farm Flock Supplement Blocks help provide essential electrolytes and nutrients for stressed birds while also serving as a distraction to help reduce incidences of aggressive pecking.
Tips for combating heat stress:
- Provide clean, cool water at all times. During extreme weather, birds can drink up to five times the water that they would in more temperate conditions. Also, make sure there are enough watering stations so that all birds can have free access to water, regardless of their place in the pecking order.
- Be sure to give birds access to shade. Position chicken tractors and coops accordingly. Provide temporary shade if necessary.
- Don’t overcrowd birds. Reduce the number of birds kept in an individual house or area. By reducing the number of birds, you will also decrease the amount of body heat produced.
- If practical, install a fan or mister, especially during the times of highest heat and humidity.
- Avoid excessive activity during the hottest part of the day. Do not collect eggs or otherwise disturb birds during this time.
- Feed early in the morning, during the coolest part of the day. The act of digestion produces heat.
- Provide refrigerated or frozen fruits and vegetables as a refreshing treat to help reduce the birds’ internal body temperatures.
- Supplement electrolytes to make up for losses from panting, increased urine output and reduced feed intake. You can add electrolytes to their drinking water. Another source of electrolytes is the ULTRALYX Farm Flock Supplement Block.
Visit your local ULTRALYX dealer for more information on our available ULTRALYX products or call 1-888-718-3493 to speak to an ULTRALYX representative.