Heat stress in poultry production can greatly hamper production and reduces the profitability of the poultry industry. High temperature can have a major impact on the performance of poultry birds when coupled with high humidity, the combination can be critical. There is, therefore, need to reconsider the management of poultry houses and equipment used in hot weather so that heat stress can be minimized. Heat stress in poultry production not only causes suffering but death in severe cases.
What is heat stress?
Poultry birds are encounter heat stress when they have difficulty achieving a balance between body heat produced and body heat loss. This can occur at all ages and species of poultry birds. Heat is generated in poultry birds by essential body processes metabolism which includes maintenance, growth and egg production. Heat produced is affected by body weight, species and breed, level of production, level of feed intake, feed quality and the amount of exercise.
Poultry birds are susceptible to high environmental temperature due to:
• The absence of sweat gland
• Feathered body
• Fatty nature
• High body temperature
Signs of heat stress in chickens
Poultry birds are suffering from heat stress when any of the following signs are evident:
• Reduce feed intake
• Increase in water consumption
• Fast open mouth panting,
• Birds trying to move away from the flock
• wing spreading
• Squatting close to the ground.
• By adjusting the position of their feathers, the birds are trying to lose heat.
• By gasping they are losing water in their breath and cooling themselves by evaporation from the surface of the lungs.
• Egg production drops
• Reduced egg size, poorer egg shell quality
How to reduce heat stress in poultry
The following tips help to reduce heat stress in poultry birds:
• Make sure birds have cool, clean water.
• Add electrolytes to water. Electrolytes will help to balance the electrolytes in birds, plus birds will drink more water.
• Feed birds during cooler parts of the day, since birds produce heat while they digest.
• Make sure poultry pens are well-ventilated and comfortable. Poultry houses should be constructed in East-west direction.
• Proper insulation of the poultry pen
• Where possible, reduce stocking density of birds during hot weather
• Plant shade trees around the poultry houses
Conclusion: Adequate management helps to reduce heat stress and increase productivity in poultry birds.
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