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Beat the heat: Phytogenics for heat stress in poultry

Just like you and me, most poultry experience heat stress during their lifetime, even if they don’t live in a warm climate, where poultry are often raised. With average temperatures rising due to climate change, more birds encounter heat stress than ever before.

With a thermo-neutral zone of 18 to 36° C (64 to 97° degrees F.), birds can maintain their normal body temperature of 41° C (106° F.) when ambient temperatures are in this range. But when the mercury surpasses poultry’s thermo-neutral zone, birds’ natural ability to cool themselves diminishes. Unlike humans, birds don’t sweat to cool themselves. Instead, they rely on panting, wing lifting and water evaporation, which all expend energy.

Evaporation of just 1 gram of water burns 540 calories of body heat.


Heat stress in poultry reduces appetite...

…and ultimately feed intake, and then there may also be a significant impact on gut resilience. All these negative aspects can lead to reduced intestinal absorption surface area and compromised intestinal barrier Integrity. 


When heat stress in poultry strikes, production efficiency may fall.

What does heat stress in poultry mean to producers? It’s simple economics: production cost per unit e.g., meat and eggs increases and consequently profitability decreases.

Heat stress relief is simply the right thing to do, and many producers use tools, such as fans and evaporative cooling, to mitigate heat stress.

While these tools help cool birds from the outside, there are tools that “cool” birds from the inside, maintaining feed intake and gut resilience and consequently support the animal during uncomfortable conditions:

Ever heard of phytogenic as “cool-from-the-inside” tools?

They comprise a wide range of plants, like herbs, spices and essential oils, coming from 100-plus different plant oils, extracts and tinctures.

Supplementing phytogenics may allow poultry producers to feed a more concentrated diet. It’s a thoroughly researched, best management practice in times of heat stress. Birds typically eat less when it’s hot and humid because eating expends energy.

With a more nutrient-dense diet via PFAs, birds consume the necessary nutrients and foster gut resilience.

What’s so cool about PFAs?

 iThese natural products harness the power of nature to enhance palatability, which results in greater feed intake and nutrient digestion.

Plus, selected phytogenics have shown to exert antioxidant effects in several trials. For example, thyme oil is known for supporting the body’s own antioxidant forces and intestinal integrity, resulting in higher ileal digestibility – key for supporting meat and egg production.

Moreover, it was shown that thyme oil reduces malondialdehyde (MDA) content in the enterocytes. Increased MDA can lead to breast meat catabolism i.e., breakdown of muscle protein.

Take home messages:

  • Heat stress not only reduces feed intake, it also impacts gut resilience
  • phytogenics can improve feed intake and support well-being of poultry 
  • PFAs allow poultry producers to feed a more concentrated diet and simultaneously maintaining gut resilience

References available upon request

How do you deal with heat stress?

Anne Oberdorf

Anne Oberdorf

Anne has always been fascinated by the unknown, the diversity and beauty of nature. Her love for nature brought her to Delacon in 2018 after studying agricultural sciences, where she worked as Technical Communications Manager and later as Product Manager Aquaculture. Since February 2021, she has been taking a new, natural career path outside of Delacon.

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