The Mid Atlantic Poultry Farmer a supplement to the Delmarva Farmer

Keeping young birds comfortable in hot weather


(Editor’s note: Jennifer Timmons is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.)

(May 2017) — Summer is quickly approaching and if this spring’s temperatures are any indication of upcoming summer temperatures, we are going to be in for an extremely hot summer.
One challenge I know producers face during summer weather is determining the best way to ventilate their young birds during extremely hot weather.
Poultry scientists from the National Poultry Technology Center at Auburn University published a newsletter which discussed some guidelines producers can follow to ventilate young birds.
This article will summarize some of the information provided in the “Tunnel Ventilating Younger Birds” newsletter; however, the complete newsletter can be found at the following website:
Tunnel ventilation technology has been routinely used by producers on Delmarva to cool birds for over 20 years and producers have learned how to manage tunnel houses as birds get older.
However, many producers are less certain with managing tunnel ventilation to keep young birds comfortable in very hot weather.
It is a challenge with tunnel ventilation to keep young birds comfortable without the risk of chilling the birds.
Managing tunnel ventilation for young birds is different from the way in which tunnel ventilation for older birds is managed.
Younger birds respond to tunnel air differently than older birds.
This newsletter reported that at an air temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the effective temperature felt by four week old birds as tunnel wind speed increases will be three to eight degrees lower than the effective temperature felt by market age birds.
The wind chill cooling impact is even larger for one day to three week old birds because they are much smaller and haven’t completely developed all of their feathers.
As always, it is recommended to begin ventilating young birds using side wall vents.
When the house temperature increases, more and more fans will come on in an attempt to cool the house. If the house temperature cannot be lowered enough to maintain bird comfort (most of the birds not panting), you may need to consider using tunnel ventilation.
However, tunnel ventilating very young birds should be done carefully to reduce the risk of chilling the birds.
The authors state that young birds should be tunnel ventilated “gently” and to use two fans and a partial tunnel inlet opening when beginning to ventilate young birds (zero to three weeks of age).
It is important to remain on the farm and observe the birds once the houses have been switched into tunnel.
If the birds still seem to be hot and panting, you may want to add another tunnel fan to add more air speed over the birds.
The authors note that running more than three tunnel fans (more air speed) may not provide any more benefit to the flock.
Instead, if the birds still seem to be uncomfortable switch back from three fans to two fans and add a small amount of water to the pads.
The water added to the pad should be limited and not added continuously.
Additionally, if possible, you may only want to add water to one side of the tunnel pad.
Remember to observe the birds to determine if they are comfortable.
It is noted in this newsletter that if the house is cooled to a point where no birds are panting, the temperature is probably too cool for the majority of the birds in the house.
The authors suggest the right temperature will most likely be reached when about 5-10 percent of the birds in the house are still panting.
Hopefully this summer will not be excessively hot, but if we do experience extremely high temperatures it is critical that the house temperature for chicks is maintained as close to their comfort zones as possible to promote bird health and performance throughout the flock.
Tunnel ventilating young birds, if done properly, is a useful tool for producers to help maintain chick comfort and get the flock off to a good start during very hot weather.
It is also recommended to consult with your flock supervisor prior to ventilating young birds for additional guidelines.