Chicks were conditioned by exposure to heat stress (36 +/- 1 C; to 80% RH) for 24 h at the age of 5, or 5 and 7 d. During conditioning, weight gain was depressed. Due to accelerated growth during the postconditioning period, a complete compensation for lost weight gain was achieved by the group conditioned at 5 d, but only a partial compensation was obtained in the group conditioned at both 5 and 7 d. At the age of 42 d, challenge with acute heat stress (35 +/- 1 C; 20 to 30% RH) resulted in a large increase in cloacal temperature of the controls and a more moderate increase in the conditioned chickens. Mortality during the thermal challenge was significantly higher in the control than that of the previously exposed (conditioned) groups. Conditioning at an early age resulted in hemodynamic changes (significant decrease in heart weight and hematocrit) and reduced plasma triiodothyronine (T3) concentration. The results suggest that reduced T3 and hemodynamic changes may be part of the mechanism associated with improved thermotolerance by early age temperature conditioning.