Heat stress is a condition in poultry farms that happens when high temperatures affect the optimum productivity of the birds. This especially happens when the high temperature is combined with relative humidity and low air speed. A few predisposing factors to this condition include genetics, feather cover, heat changes, relatively high drinking water temperature and inadequate water supply. Generally, older birds, heavy poultry breeds, and broilers are more susceptible to heat stress.
Heat stress is particularly common in Nigeria because of our hot climate and can affect birds in both rainy and dry season. Although naturally, the rainy season would have more impact than the dry season. Also, it happens frequently because a lot of poultry farmers are quite fond of overstocking their farms thereby reducing space per chicken. For example, if the stocking density is too high for the size and design of house and ventilation equipment, the temperature may rise dangerously since there will be more metabolic heat being added to the house air than was planned for. Radiant transfer from bird to bird is then greater and stagnant hot air is trapped between the birds.
Severe heat stress can cause drops in production efficiency and even mass death of chicken in the flock or poultry farm. You may notice reduced growth rates, reduced egg production, and decreasing hatching rates. Heat stress can also cause a change in egg quality such as smaller eggs, thinner shells and overall poor internal egg quality. Overall, this adversely affects the profit from the poultry enterprise.
How do you know your poultry birds are suffering from heat stress?
If you notice any of the following symptoms in your chickens, they could be exhibiting classical signs of heat stress:
How do you manage heat stress on your poultry farm?
Find below easy and practical management ways to manage cases of heat stress on your farm. This list is not exhaustive but they are sure to reduce the impact of heat stress on your birds.