Avoid heat stress in your backyard flock

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Heat stress is one of the leading causes of chicken deaths and can be a huge issue for backyard flock owners, especially new owners. It is important to recognize the symptoms of heat stress and take action quickly to keep your chickens healthy and happy.

Because birds cannot sweat, they have a difficult time keeping themselves cool. Birds instead rely on panting. Increased panting in laying hens causes an imbalance in blood pH which in turn decreases blood calcium and bicarbonate levels, resulting in thin-shelled eggs. Additionally, a majority of egg content is water, so laying hens need to be kept well hydrated. Heat stress can cause layers to stop laying all together. Heat stress also results in reduced feed intake, weight loss and sometimes even death.

Keeping birds comfortable is essential for maintaining healthy, productive birds and preventing excessive mortality in your flock. Keep in mind that your biggest, most productive birds are often at greatest risk for heat stress. The normal body temperature of a bird is 106° F. If internal body temperature reaches 113° to 117° F, death from heart failure is a danger. Birds are most comfortable in temperatures of 50° to 68° F and are most productive in this temperature range. Birds can do well up to temperatures around 80° F but above this heat stress symptoms can begin to appear, especially if weather conditions change rapidly. Proper ventilation in your coop is especially critical during high heat and humidity. Consult with your local Cooperative Extension agent or research on-line to find the proper fan size for your square footage and bird stocking rate. Realize that the temperature in your coop or penned area may be different than ambient temperature due to bird density, radiant heat, etc., so be sure to take temperature readings at bird level. For the most part, use common sense steps in keeping birds hydrated and cool. 

Signs of Heat Stress in Birds:

  • Gasping and panting
  • Spreading wings
  • Lethargy
  • Extremely pale combs and wattles
  • Reduced egg size, weight and shell quality
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lowered resistance to disease
  • Increased cannibalism
  • Increased mortality

The STOCKADE® Poultry Pro-Vita-Min Supplement Block is a highly concentrated supplement that will help deliver essential electrolytes to birds in addition to missing protein and energy due to decreased overall feed intake. The STOCKADE® Poultry Pro-Vita-Min Supplement Block also delivers minerals and vitamins needed by birds to help combat the negative effects caused by stress on immunity and production. Because these convenient blocks are available 24/7 birds can access them at night during cooler periods when eating is more comfortable. Also the distraction of pecking at the individual whole grains in the block can help keep birds occupied and lessen the incidence of cannibalism and aggressive pecking caused by stress.

In summary, heat stress is a very real danger for backyard chickens and other poultry, especially during sudden heat waves. Be vigilant for the signs for heat stress and follow proper management techniques to help birds maintain their body temperature and minimize stress. STOCKADE® Poultry Pro-Vita-Min Supplement Blocks can be a part of your overall management plan to keep birds fortified nutritionally and keeping them occupied so as to not turn on each other in stressful periods. Contact your local dealer for more information about availability or call 800-835-0306.


  • Provide clean, cool water at all times. Birds can drink up to 5 times the water that they would under temperate conditions. Also, make sure there are enough watering stations so that all birds have free access to water, regardless of their position in the pecking order.
  • Be sure to give birds access to shade. Position chicken tractors and coops accordingly. Provide temporary shade if necessary.
  • Don’t overcrowd birds. Reduce the number of birds kept in an individual house or area. By reducing the number of birds, you will reduce the amount of body heat produced.
  • If practical, install a fan or mister, especially during times of highest heat and humidity.
  • Avoid excessive activity during the hottest part of the day. Do not collect eggs or otherwise disturb them during this time.
  • Feed early in the morning during the coolest part of the day. The act of digestion produces heat.
  • Provide refrigerated or frozen fruits and vegetables as a refreshing treat to help them reduce internal body temps.
  • Supplement electrolytes to make up for losses from panting, increased urine output and reduced feed intake. You can add electrolytes to their drinking water. Another source of electrolytes is the STOCKADE® Poultry Pro-Vita-Min Supplement Block.