Understanding and controlling environmental conditions is crucial to successful poultry production and welfare. Heat stress is one of the most important environmental stressors challenging poultry production worldwide. The detrimental effects of heat stress on broilers and laying hens range from reduced growth and egg production to decreased poultry and egg quality and safety. Moreover, the negative impact of heat stress on poultry welfare has recently attracted increasing public awareness and concern. Much information has been published on the effects of heat stress on productivity and immune response in poultry. However, our knowledge of basic mechanisms associated to the reported effects, as well as related to poultry behavior and welfare under heat stress conditions is in fact scarce. Intervention strategies to deal with heat stress conditions have been the focus of many published studies. Nevertheless, effectiveness of most of the interventions has been variable or inconsistent. This review focuses on the scientific evidence available on the importance and impact of heat stress in poultry production, with emphasis on broilers and laying hens.
Keywords: broilers; food safety; heat stress; laying hens; poultry; production; welfare.