Backyard poultry heat stress tips

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 15, 2016

By Morgan Watts

Rowan Cooperative Extension

SALISBURY — I’m sure everyone has noticed at this point that summer is here in full swing. It is pretty clear with temperatures reaching in the mid- to high 90s on a daily basis, not to mention this humidity that we have going on most days.

Summertime can be very stressful on all types of animals. You read a lot about tips and tricks to do for your indoor or outdoor pets, but what about your backyard poultry? Summertime can be just as stressful for them.

Heat stress can cause a variety of production issues for you in your backyard poultry. Most of the time your birds will acclimate themselves to warmer weather with time. However, if heat surges occur, that is when they tend to experience the most stress.

Normally the most common thing is the heat will cause a decrease in egg production, which I am sure you have noticed by now, if that is the case for you. Other problems could be reduction in growth rate and a reduction in feed intake.

If you are raising these birds for your own consumption, this can be hard, as it will put you behind and you will be using more feed to reach that target weight. Other problems associated with heat would be a reduced egg size, egg quality and hatchability rate. These are effects that can be a problem but probably not something you will notice right off hand.

Knowing when and what to do in these stressful hot days can make a difference in the severity of the issues. I hope I can provide some guidelines to take into consideration when protecting your poultry from heat stress.

It is always good practice to provide fresh, clean water on a daily basis. This is something that should be a given. Normally just the location of the water needs some adjustments. Water needs to be in a location that is easy for all of your birds to reach and it needs to be available 24/7. With my own chickens, I prefer that the water is in a shaded area of the pen to help keep it cool.

If you are extremely concerned about your birds and the heat, consider adding an electrolyte to their water. Another thing to consider is to make sure your water containers are the right size for even your smallest birds.

You should also avoid overcrowding by making sure your birds have plenty of space available. This arrangement will help reduce the amount of body heat and will give them ample room to move around. You should also make sure your coop or pen is well ventilated and offers the correct amount of shade. Last but definitely not least, you should also consider feeding your birds during the coolest part of the day as poultry produce heat during digestion.

For more information on these practices and heat stress in your backyard poultry, contact Morgan Watts, Rowan County livestock Extension agent, at 704-216-8970 or stop by our office at 2727-A Old Concord Road.