During hot and humid weather conditions, chickens are especially sensitive and are at risk of overheating. Since chickens have a high normal body temperature, and no sweat glands, they reply on panting to release heat from their bodies, and are often seen raising their wings to allow heat to radiate from poorly feathered areas, such as under their wings. This practice can take awhile and requires more energy from the bird than by simply sweating. Eventually, without relief from the heat, birds will often tire with heat exhaustion.
When chickens pant excessively, it increases their respiratory rate that in turn, also influences egg laying. This is because the amount of ionized calcium in their body. For laying hens, since they require a high amount of calcium for eggshell formation, it often results in the increased development of thin-shelled or smaller eggs and/or decreased egg production.
There are several management strategies to utilize in order to prevent chickens from overheating.
- Always provide fresh, cool and clean water to all flock members: Position waterers in the shade, add ice, refill with cool water often, and check often.
- Provide multiple shade areas: There should be enough shade area, throughout all times of the day, for each member of the flock to go to in order to get out of the sun.
- Ensure good ventilation: Chickens that are in poorly ventilated areas are at a heightened risk of heat stress as it blocks air flow.
- Keep air moving: Provide fans and/or position the chicken's outside enclosure in such a way as to maximize wind exposure and good airflow. Alternatively, remove items that may be blocking air flow, such as trimming shrubs and trees, or relocating other structures to a different area.