They say raising poultry is all about feed, water, heat and light. But in the summer, beating the heat is a top priority. Severe heat stress can affect egg quality, size and hatchability. It can also increase the rate of mortality. Here are some tips:
Keep Birds Cool
- Even free-range birds need access to shade. If there is none, create some.
- Ventilation is critical. Make sure nothing obstructs the flow of fresh air, and don’t allow ammonia to accumulate.
- Use a misting fan or fogging system in a well-ventilated area.
- Avoid unnecessary activity. Don’t disturb birds during the hottest time of day. Digestion generates body heat, so feed during the coolest hours.
Water Is Essential
- Provide unlimited access to fresh, clean water. It’s essential.
- Position water containers in the shade. If water is too hot (or too cold) chickens won’t drink enough and egg production will suffer.
- Adjust waterers to shoulder height to help keep litter dry.
- Baby turkeys sometimes need extra coaxing to drink water. One trick is to put a few bright-colored marbles in their water. As they peck at the marbles, their beaks will slip into the water. Eventually, they’ll get the hang of it. (Remove marbles before birds get big enough to swallow them.)
- Grown ducks need access to water one or two inches deep in order to groom themselves. While swimming water is not a requirement, fresh drinking water is.
Keep Water Clean
- If food, bedding or feces gets into drinking water, change the water.
- Ducklings and goslings love to play in water and will quickly soil it. Use a dispenser that allows only their bills to enter. Put distance between feed and water dispensers to prevent cross contamination.
- Germs multiply fast in summer heat. Disinfect incubators, feeders, water containers and other equipment regularly, particularly between broods.
Signs of Trouble
- Heat-stressed birds consume less feed, so meat-type chickens (i.e., broilers) grow more slowly and hens produce fewer eggs.
- Birds don’t have sweat glands so they cool themselves by panting, which can alter their electrolyte balance. If you suspect heat stress, ask your veterinarian about adding electrolytes to water.
- Telltale signs of an unhealthy chicken:
– less active than the rest of the flock
– comb is pale and limp (the comb is a good barometer of health)
– breast is concave and the keel bone becomes prominent
– liquid diarrhea (versus a semisolid green and white splotch, which is normal)
– unusual breathing or wheezing (some panting is normal in hot weather, but not to excess)
If one of your chickens exhibits any of these symptoms, talk to your veterinarian.
Keep in mind, birds experience a major moult (shedding feathers) in late summer, so don’t be surprised if they temporarily devote most of their calories to replacing their feathers and maintaining body temperature instead of producing eggs. Be sure to provide a good quality feed during this time.
Source material for this blog article was provided by Purina Mills, Inc. © 2009