Is it normal for chickens to pant during hot weather?

Q. My flock free-ranges. With the warm weather, I went out this afternoon to top up their water and saw them breathing with their beaks open. Is this normal or could they be sick?

A. Julie Moore says: Your flock was panting and this is perfectly normal in hot weather. As chickens have no sweat glands, they must rely on other means of losing heat as temperatures rise. By panting your hens are driving off body heat in the form of water vapour. When panting, a hen inhales cool air into her respiratory system. Heat that would otherwise be making the chicken’s body warm is instead used to convert water into water vapour that the chicken then exhales in its breath. By driving off the excess body heat, this helps to keep the chicken cool. While panting has a cooling effect, it causes birds to become thirstier so you are correct to give your flock fresh, cool, clean water throughout the day during hot weather. In that way they can properly regulate their body temperature. Without sufficient water, birds will begin to exhibit signs of heat stress which can be life threatening.

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