Recognizing Heat Stress in Poultry

Recognizing Heat Stress in Poultry

From excess rain to droughts and record-breaking heat, weather patterns have an enormous impact on farmland and livestock. When it comes to poultry, we need to pay attention to the signs and impact of poultry heat stress---which can be devastating for the animals as well as the farmer's livelihood.

Here is how to recognize heat stress in poultry as well as tips on preventing it:

Signs of Heat Stress in Poultry

When it comes to heat stress, there are both visible and invisible signs to keep in mind such as:

  • Panting
  • Gasping
  • Wings spreading
  • Light body weight
  • Wet droppings
  • Increased thirst
  • Cannibalism
  • Slowness and lethargy
  • Depressed appetite
  • Depressed growth rate
  • Decrease in egg weight
  • Reduced fertility

Poultry will drink more and eat less when heat stress occurs. Appetite is decreased by 1.5% for each degree of environmental temperature that rises above 68 degrees F.

As far as invisible signs, you'll find:

  • Rising pH levels of blood plasma
  • Falling pH levels within cells
  • Increased urine and electrolyte output
  • Stress hormones appear in the blood
  • Heat shock proteins shut down metabolic reaction


In the most severe cases, heat stress can result in organ damage and death.

Handling Heat Stress in Poultry

Unfortunately, giving poultry water is not enough to alleviate the dangers of heat stress. Surprisingly, this only worsens the problem by causing the birds to lose extra electrolytes. Restoring the electrolyte balance as well as pH levels of the blood can improve symptoms.

Additional ways to manage heat stress in poultry is supplementing with vitamins, delaying activity in the barn, and providing shade for pastured poultry.

Environmental conditions that are best for poultry ranges between 60 and 75 degrees F. This is the temperature where heat production is the lowest. If the indoor temperature reaches 85 F, behavior changes occur where poultry will decrease feed intake.

Once the environment reaches 100 F, this can provide as fatal as the core body temperature increases to lethal levels.

In terms of humidity, 85 degrees F and humidity higher than 50 percent places poultry in the danger zone. At 90 degrees F and 50% humidity, this risk is the most extreme and can result in death. High humidity levels can worsen heat stress even more and result in death.

Preventing Heat Stress

One of the best ways to handle heat stress in poultry is preventing it in the first place. Kestrel Meters and Kestrel DROPs, small rugged environmental data loggers can help you achieve an ideal environment that keeps poultry happy and healthy, allowing poultry to thrive through all seasons of the year. Consider our Kestrel DROP meters for convenient environmental tracking and more.

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