Morgan Watts column: Poultry heat stress

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 4, 2021

By Morgan Watts
N.C. Cooperative Extension

I’m sure everyone has noticed at this point that summer is here. It is pretty clear with temperature 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 things to do for your indoor or outdoor dogs/cats, 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 with your backyard poultry. Most of the time, your birds will acclimate themselves to warmer weather with time. However, if we have heat surges, that is when they tend to experience stress the most.

The most common thing is that 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 could 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 offhand.

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

It’s always a good practice to provide fresh, clean water on a daily basis. This is something that should be a given. Sometimes, 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. I prefer with my own chickens 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 making 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 amount of 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 produces heat during digestion.

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

Morgan Watts is livestock agent with the Rowan County Extension.

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