Dealing with summertime heat is a great challenge for people in Louisiana. LSU AgCenter poultry specialist Dr. Theresia Lavergne says high heat and humidity combine to pose severe problems for all types of poultry.
"Under conditions of severe heat stress, poultry will have a reduced growth rate, decreased feed intake, poor feed conversion, decreased egg production, reduced hatchability rate, reduced egg shell quality, reduced egg size and reduced internal egg quality," Lavergne explained. "Additionally, heat stress can cause increased mortality."
All types and ages of poultry are susceptible to heat stress, but older poultry face a bigger risk. As poultry get older, they increase in size as well as insulation (feathering). Lavergne says this makes it harder for them to dissipate heat.
"The most obvious sign of heat stress in poultry is panting," the LSU AgCenter specialist says. "Poultry do not have sweat glands that can cool their skin, so instead they must use evaporation from their throat and respiratory system as a means of cooling themselves."
Lavergne points out that panting takes a lot of energy which, in turn, generates an appreciable amount of body heat for poultry.
"Ultimately, if poultry are not relieved of heat stress, their body temperature can continue to rise and increase the possibility of mortality," she stresses, "Fortunately there are several things you can do to help your home poultry flock handle heat stress."
"The heat of the summertime is unavoidable," Lavergne said. "However, by recognizing the signs of heat stress and taking steps to prevent heat stress in your home poultry flock, you can help keep your poultry comfortable and productive during the summertime."
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