10 Signs of Chickens in Heat Stress
Keeping cool can save a life!
Summer is here!
While their feathers are beautiful, all that fluff is tough on our feathered fam. Unlike people, chickens don't have sweat glands nor do their feathers allow for a cool breeze to take that summer heat off. Because of that, it’s important to stay vigilant about keeping your flock cool in the summer to prevent heat stress.
What is heat stress?
Heat stress is additional stress to the body due to increased temperatures. A chicken’s normal body temperature is around 104°F, so a chicken does a lot better in colder weather than it does in hot weather! Heat stress can damage organs, cause egg deformation, and even death.
What affects heat tolerance?
Genetics, feather coverage, age, weight, and drinking water temperature all affect a chicken’s heat tolerance. If you have cool drinking water, your bird can cool from the inside out. Similarly, if a chicken has fewer feathers, air can get in between them and cool the skin.
Signs of Heat Stress:
1. Panting & Rapid Breathing
Much like dogs, chickens release heat by panting to dissipate the heat. Look out for panting (beaks open) and rapid breathing.
2. Pale Combs/Wattles
The combs and wattles are a chicken’s only direct access of skin to air, so a lot of the heat leaves through there. Keeping the wattles cool will help your chicken regulate its body temperature.
3. Loss of Electrolytes
Similarly to how your high school coach encouraged you to drink Gatorade after a hot practice, sometimes your chickens need a helping hand. When you notice your chickens showing signs of heat stress, they’ve likely lost some electrolytes which need to be replenished.
4. Wings Outstretched and Feathers Erect
Air is our planet’s best insulator. We could get into the thermodynamics, but what you do need to know is that your chickens are doing everything they can to get some air in between their feathers. When they overheat, they’ll stretch out their wings and lift their feathers in hopes of catching a cool breeze.
5. Bird Stop Eating & Drink Large Amounts of Water
Just like your desire to guzzle water after hot day, your hen will start drinking A LOT more water. Unfortunately, her nutritional needs don’t change, so it’s important she’s still eating enough feed. To make sure she’s getting all the protein and calcium to make healthy eggs, try these nutritious snacks.
What goes in must come out. All of that extra water can lead to watery diarrhea, which means more electrolytes lost.
7. Chicken Becomes Droopy
A malnourished chicken suffering from heat stress is about as energetic as an old pug. In order to conserve what precious energy she has, your chicken becomes lethargic. She doesn’t have any energy to do much of anything else.
8. Decrease in Egg Production Decreases, Thin Shells
With her body under lots of stress to keep cool, egg production decreases. Calcium isn’t absorbed which leads to soft shells. Eggs are mostly water, and with dehydration, there isn’t enough for both of them.
9. Staggering, Disorientation and Seizures
This is when heat stress can turn into heat stroke. Immediate action is necessary to save your bird!
10. Collapse of System and Death
If nothing is done to save your chicken, he or she will die from organ failure due to dehydration and heat.