How to Spot Signs and Prevent Heat Stress in Chickens

Click here for the original article from Veterinary & Poultry Supply, Inc., one of the vendors featured in our August Henny & Roo box.

Heat stress and exhaustion in chickens can be deadly if it’s not caught in time. We’re in the heat of summer now. Backyard chicken owners need to be watching their flocks for signs of heat stress.

What is Heat Stress?
What is heat stress in poultry? Heat stress is a condition in chickens (and other poultry) caused by high temperatures, especially when combined with high relative humidity and low air speed. A few predisposing factors include genetics, feather cover, acclimation to heat, drinking water temperature and availability. Older birds, heavy breeds and broilers are typically more susceptible to heat stress.

Severe heat stress can cause drops in production efficiency and increased mortality rates in your flock. You may notice reduced growth rates, egg production and hatching rates. Heat stress can also cause a change in egg quality. You may notice smaller eggs, thinner shells and overall poor internal egg quality.
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Signs of Heat Stress in Chickens
If you notice any of the following symptoms in your chickens they could be exhibiting signs of dehydration, heat stress or exhaustion:

  1. Labored breathing and panting
  2. Pale combs/wattles
  3. Lifting wings away from body
  4. Lethargy
  5. Diarrhea
  6. Seizures/convulsions

Ways to Combat Heat Stress in Chickens

  1. First and foremost, make sure your flock has access to clean, cool water at all times! This is crucial!
  2. Supplement lost electrolytes. More on this below.
  3. Provide protection from the sun. Shade, misters, and even wading pools are a welcome relief from the heat.
  4. Don’t crowd your flock. Your poultry need space to move away from the body heat of other birds.
  5. Feed during the cooler times of the day. Digestion generates heat and birds will be less likely to eat during the hotter parts of the day.
  6. Keep your birds calm. Don’t let children, dogs or other pets chase or disturb your flock.

Electrolytes for Chickens with Heat Stress

It’s always a good idea to keep emergency medical supplies on hand for your flock. Keeping electrolytes in stock can help you get through the hot summer months.

Heat stress can deplete the chicken’s body of electrolytes. A water soluble electrolyte powder can be used during times of heat stress to help replenish electrolytes that have been lost. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the package when using electrolytes. Electrolytes also increase your bird’s water intake, which is definitely a good thing when trying to help them cool off.

Electrolyte Tip: When you mix up an electrolyte solution, try freezing it in ice cube trays. You can add the cubes to your flock’s drinking water as needed as an additional way to cool them down.

This month’s Henny & Roo subscription box includes a 4 oz pack of our AgriLabs Vitamins & Electrolytes PLUS. You can pick up an August box for backyard chicken keepers that’s packed with goodies backyard chicken owners will love!

Get more Vitamins & Electrolytes PLUS and other products to keep your flock healthy at Veterinary & Poultry Supply, Inc.

 

How to tell when a chicken is ready to lay

If you’re a new chicken keeper who is raising your flock from chicks hatched this spring, you’re likely anxiously awaiting your first egg! While pullets (female chickens under one-year) reach point-of-lay at different times based on breed, size, and even weather, there are a few signs you can look for to determine if your chickens are getting ready to lay their first eggs.

Age. Most pullets will begin laying between 16 and 24 weeks of age, depending on breed. Once a pullet has produced her first egg, expect that she will lay almost daily, with frequency again being determined by breed.

Squatting. Pullets reaching sexual maturity will squat when you reach to pet them or pick them up. This is a sure sign that the bird will lay her first egg in the next week or two.

Red Combs and Wattles. Your pullets will develop deeper red combs and wattles as they take on a more mature, full-grown appearance and point-of-lay

August 2016 box - Copy
The August Henny & Roo box featured faux eggs, along with 7 other useful items for backyard chicken keepers.

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Time Spent in Coop. As your pullets get closer to laying their first egg, you might find them scratching around in the nesting box and desiring more privacy. Be sure to keep their nesting box bedding fresh and dry by replacing often. You can encourage pullets to lay in the nesting box by placing the imitation eggs in this month’s Henny & Roo box in the nesting box. Remove the imitation eggs when your flock starts laying real ones. It’s very difficult to break a pullet’s habit of laying outside the nesting box, so start them off right by showing them where they should lay.

If your pullet is spending days in the nesting box and appears to be straining without laying an egg, she may be egg-bound and you should contact your veterinarian for advice.

Vocalizations. You’ll think your pullet is announcing to the world that her egg is coming when you hear her new (often loud) sounds in the nesting box! Or, your pullet may be standing near the nesting box squawking loudly – that’s often because there in another chicken sitting where she wants to lay her egg. Some hens do discover their voices when they are ready to lay. It’s yet another sign eggs are coming soon.

Keep an eye on your pullets for these signs that eggs and near, then get ready for the big surprise and sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you look into the nesting box and see that first egg. Ask any experienced chicken keeper and they’ll tell you, collecting those eggs never gets old. Now, the only question is, how will you cook that first egg?

The Henny & Roo monthly chicken surprise box contains useful, high-quality items for backyard chicken keepers. Subscribe today to get our monthly box, or check out our one-time purchases in our Shop.

 

August boxes arrived!

Our August boxes have arrived in the homes of our subscribers, and we were so happy to share these products. Our goal was to delight chicken keepers with some summery goodness, prepare for pullets reaching point-of-lay, and support the older chickens with some fun treats.

August 2016 box

In their August boxes, our subscribers found:

We’ve got more great items planned for September, so now is the time to join our flock. Subscribe today – our next box ships 9/1/16!