Skin surface temperature of broiler chickens is correlated to body core temperature and is indicative of their thermoregulatory status

Poult Sci. 2012 Jan;91(1):175-88. doi: 10.3382/ps.2011-01497.


Extreme thermal conditions may dramatically affect the performance of broilers and other domestic animals, thereby impairing animal welfare and causing economic losses. Although body core temperature is the parameter that best reflects a bird's thermal status, practical and physiological obstacles make it irrelevant as a source of information on the thermal status of commercial flocks. Advances in the technology of infrared thermal imaging have enabled highly accurate, noncontact, and noninvasive measurements of skin surface temperature. Providing that skin surface temperature correlates with body temperature, this technology could enable acquisition of reliable information on the thermal status of animals, thereby improving diagnoses of environmental stress in a flock. This study of broiler chickens found a strong positive correlation between body core temperature and facial surface temperature, as recorded by infrared thermal imaging. The correlation was equally strong at all ages from 8 to 36 d during exposure to acute heat stress with or without proper ventilation and after acclimation to chronic heat exposure. A similar correlation was found by measurements in commercial flocks of broilers. Measurements of blood plasma concentrations of corticosterone, thyroid hormones, and arginine vasotocin confirmed that metabolic activity was low after acclimation to chronic exposure to heat, whereas ventilation was at least as efficient as acclimation in reducing thermal stress but did not impair metabolism. In light of these novel results, commercial benefits of infrared thermal imaging technology are suggested, especially in climate control for commercial poultry flocks. The application of this technique to other domestic animals should be investigated in future experiments.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization
  • Age Distribution
  • Animal Welfare
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation*
  • Chickens / metabolism
  • Chickens / physiology*
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Face / physiology
  • Heat-Shock Response*
  • Israel
  • Male
  • Radioimmunoassay / veterinary*
  • Radiometry / instrumentation
  • Radiometry / methods
  • Radiometry / veterinary
  • Random Allocation
  • Skin Temperature*
  • Thyroid Hormones / blood
  • Vasotocin / blood
  • Ventilation


  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Vasotocin
  • Corticosterone