Coping with the Summer Weather - Heat Stress in Birds

Coping with the Summer Weather - Heat Stress in Birds

Many of us have been enjoying the beautiful weather we have been experiencing recently, a trip to the beach, a nice chilled drink and an ice cream here and there!

But what about our feathered companions? The combination of humidity and heat we have had can be extremely detrimental to the health of birds, across all the species. Unlike us, they do not have sweat glands and so overheating can easily occur.

In commercial poultry housing, it is possible to adjust the temperatures within the houses depending on what the weather is doing. However, even in these situations overheating can become a problem.

It is essential that birds are routinely assessed to see whether they are showing any clinical signs of heat stress which include:

  • Open mouth breathing to try and release heat
  • Stretching out their wings to try and lose heat. (It is not well feathered under the wings and so this is an area birds can try to lose heat from)
  • Increased respiratory rate, you may see guler flutter (the skin either side of the neck below the beak moves as the bird breathes)
  • Decreased activity
  • Increased water consumption with decreased feed consumption
  • In egg laying birds, production will decrease
  • In severe cases, death

We can help birds by:-

  • Ensuring there is a constant supply of cool water (be careful water doesn’t also get hot!)
  • Increasing the amount of fans within housing to circulate cool air, try to minimise areas where air cannot circulate
  • Provide areas of shade
  • Allow birds more space so they can spread themselves out
  • Administer electrolytes such as Quill Lyte Plus via drinking water to replenish those that the bird loses through decreased feed intake and increased water intake
  • Consult a veterinarian if you think you have an issue as heat stress can make the birds susceptible to further disease

Take care, and enjoy the weather!!

By Hannah Griffiths, Poultry & Game Bird Vet

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