Animal Science Department


Date of this Version



We assessed the effects of chilled water cooling perches on hen performance and physiological and behavioral parameters under “natural” high temperatures during the 2013 summer with a 4-hour acute heating episode. White Leghorns at 16 wk of age (N = 162) were randomly assigned to 18 cages (n = 9) arranged into 3 units. Each unit was assigned to one of the 3 treatments through 32 wk of age: 1) cooled perches, 2) air perches, and 3) no perches. Chilled water (10◦C) was circulated through the cooled perches when cage ambient temperature exceeded 25C. At the age of 27.6 wk, hens were subjected to a 4-hour acute heating episode of 33.3C and plasma corticosterone was determined within 2 hours. Egg production was recorded daily. Feed intake and egg and shell quality were measured at 5-week intervals. Feather condition, foot health, adrenal and liver weights, plasma corticosterone, and heat shock protein 70 mRNA were determined at the end of the study at 32 wk of age. The proportion of hens per cage perching, feeding, drinking, panting, and wing spreading was evaluated over one d every 5 wks and on the d of acute heat stress. There were no treatment effects on the measured physiological and production traits except for nail length. Nails were shorter for cooled perch hens than control (P = 0.002) but not air perch hens. Panting and wing spread were observed only on the day of acute heat stress. The onset of both behaviors was delayed for cooled perch hens, and they perched more than air perch hens following acute heat stress (P = 0.001) and at the age 21.4 wk (P = 0.023). Cooled perch hens drank less than control (P = 0.019) but not air perch hens at the age 21.4 wk. These results indicate that thermally cooled perches reduced thermoregulatory behaviors during acute heat stress, but did not affect their performance and physiological parameters under the ambient temperature imposed during this study