What is Heat Stress?
Heat stress is a major concern in broiler production and all broiler farmers in the tropics must have had their share. This also affects the way that farmers plan for broiler rearing from day 1 to marketing. Failure to effectively and promptly manage heat in broiler chickens can be disastrous. Many farmers have lost a significant percentage of their total flock to heat stress. Even at 4 weeks of age, transporting broilers can be a major issue, especially when done in the afternoon without the use of special van with provision for temperature control. The solution to heat stress in broiler production begins from knowing that it can be a problem. When you know it, you can then consider the following factors that can help you succeed as a broiler farmer.
Broilers are usually raised on deep litter with good bedding material. However, they can also be raised in broiler cages. While this article is not centered on discussing the pros and cons of each of the housing types, it is noteworthy to mention that the cage system allows for a higher stocking density while the deep litter system eliminates breast blisters that may be found in broilers raised in cages.
Back to my point about good housing. To prevent heat stress, the housing must provide cross ventilation. That is, it must allow fresh air to enter the house and remove heat from the flock. As basic as this measure is, it can determine whether your broiler production will be a success or not.
Where possible, it is important that you provide additional shade for the broilers, apart from the roof of their house. This ensures that the atmospheric temperature is kept cool. You can achieve this by planting trees around your broiler house. It is easier to provide additional shade for the chickens if you are operating a backyard broiler farm. However, commercial broiler farmers also embrace the option of providing shade for their birds.
Some farmers believe that increasing the stocking density would help them to maximize profit. However, the reverse is the case. In fact, my belief is that if you should overstock your broiler house, natural forces will come to help you remove the excess and more when the birds grow. Higher stocking densities cause increased heat production and will at best do your farm no good.
After you have taken care of the housing and ventilation, cool water is another thing that can prevent heat stress. One way to always provide cool water for your chicken is by providing enough shade for their water. Commercial farms ensure that the water tank is not exposed to direct sun. For backyard broiler farming, you can add ice to their water to keep them cool during the hot days. You might have to repeat this step a few times a day to ensure that your birds remain cool during hot periods. You can also read How Broiler Chickens Respond to Cold Water.
This is only applicable in commercial broiler farms where electricity is not an issue. Electric cooling fans are installed in broiler pens to keep the house temperature low. Because this can be an additional cost, it is usually adopted in large commercial farms where the profit can justify the cost.
If you really want to make profit as a broiler farmer, you need to understand how to keep your meat-making machines cool. Because they need it.