Arkansas poultry growers are running heaters and ventilators in their chicken houses as temperatures have fallen into the single digits, a University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture poultry expert said.

With early-January temperatures forecast to stay at or below freezing, “some growers won’t get any sleep at all,” said Dustan Clark, Extension poultry health veterinarian for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. “I talked to one grower today and he’s been 48 hours without sleep.

“Growers will be working hard … to get things done and monitor the birds, checking everything they can. Some will be spending their nights in the chicken houses.”

Effects of the cold on poultry depend on the age of the bird.

“In the commercial poultry houses, the day-old chicks are kept somewhere in the temperature range of 90 to 94 degrees,” he said. “The cold weather will mean that the growers will be running more heat to keep the birds comfortable.”

As the birds age, they are more able to produce their own heat.

“Older birds generate about 5 Btu per pound of body weight, so a 6-pound bird would be generating about 30 Btu of heat,” Clark said.

As the birds produce heat, they also produce a lot of moisture from respiration and excretion.

“The grower has to ventilate the house, as usual, to reduce humidity and keep the birds from getting too hot. The house temperature is about 60 in those older, heavier birds.”

As these older birds produce heat, they require more calories.

“The older the bird, the more ventilating will be done to keep the birds at the correct temperature so the birds will eat more.”

Growers with backyard hobby flocks will have to supplement heat or have a windbreak for the birds to hunker down. “Those birds will have to hunt down a cedar tree to get in.”

Since backyard flocks tend to lay eggs in the spring, hobby growers most likely won’t have to worry about keeping chicks warm.

For more information about managing poultry, visit www.uaex.edu or contact your county Extension office.