Broiler chickens are selected to undergo a rapid six-week hatch-to-slaughter growth phase to attain large body and muscle mass. Broilers have relatively high resting and locomotor metabolic costs suggesting that adaptive thermoregulatory mechanisms are required to dissipate excess heat. Using thermal imaging in the growing broiler we characterised the trajectory of radiative and convective cooling in still air across broiler development. Scaling of head, tarsus and toe surface area did not deviate from body mass2/3 while torso area increased with positive allometry, body mass0.82, reflecting increased feather coverage and/or disproportionate abdominal/thoracic growth. Despite relatively increased area, the body became less effective for heat transfer presumably due to increasing feather coverage. Conversely, the magnitude of heat exchange from the distal hindlimbs was improved in larger birds. Overall capacity to transfer heat by convection and radiation in still air was attenuated over development, since the proportion of resting metabolic rate accounted for decreased in standing and sitting postures. This physiological constraint could be ameliorated by increased latent heat transfer or provision of environmental ventilation, which we modelled according to industrial guidelines. Based on models, higher airspeeds coincided with improved convective cooling that assisted in maintaining the proportion of RMR accounted for by convective and radiative heat transfer. These data highlight the potentially adverse thermoregulatory effects of rapid growth rate and body mass increases, which may contribute to the increased sedentary resting and decreased locomotor behaviour observed in large broilers.
- Air velocity
- Thermal imaging