September 8, 2023
At a Glance
- Proper ventilation, adequate water are essential
- Live poultry should never be brought into the home
- Division of Ag fact sheets available for free download
With the extreme heat felt across much of the United States this summer, agricultural producers need to take measures not just to protect themselves and their laborers, but also their crops and livestock as well.
Zac Williams, extension poultry husbandry and management specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said that for both commercial producers and backyard hobbyists, keeping chickens alive through the summer heat comes down to a few basics.
“Keep the air moving and keep the water cool,” Williams said. “For commercial producers, that means making sure your ventilation system, including exhaust fans and evaporative cooling pads, are working properly. For backyard chicken keepers, that means making sure there’s shade available.
“In either instance, chickens need cool water, and plenty of it,” he said. “It’s not enough to just put out adequate amounts of water in the morning. It’s going to get warm, and that’s just not as effective. In commercial houses, managers need to flush those water lines multiple times a day for the same reason.”
Williams said that if backyard chicken keepers want to put out fans for their flocks, that’s fine. They should not, however, bring live poultry into their homes to avail them of the air conditioning.
“You can bring all kinds of diseases into your house doing that,” Williams said. “I’d never recommend anyone bring chickens into their house.”
Williams warned that if chickens do begin suffering from heat stress, producers will begin seeing production losses. It can be very difficult to bring poultry back from a heat-related illness, so it’s best to be proactive.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” he said. “Chickens are actually kind of hardy. But if it gets up to 100, all you can do is give them the tools they need to survive.”
He also noted that some producers may add electrolytes to their flocks’ water supply, which can help the animals endure the heat of summer.
Commercial chicken houses in Arkansas produced more than 7.3 billion pounds of chicken meat in 2022, and produced $693 million in eggs.
The Division of Agriculture has several free publications available that producers may find useful, including research-proven techniques for Getting Broiler Houses Ready for the Summer and sprinkler systems that help keep flocks cool.
Source: University of Arkansas
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