Scientists from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Aarhus have discovered that the immune system and body weight of laying hens can be affected by a slight excess of heat in the growing period. A bit too much heat can be regarded as a mild form of stress.
Stimulating the immune system
While growing, chickens develop their natural immune system and stimulation of the immune system can therefore be used to improve the health of laying hens, according to senior scientist Birthe M. Damgaard from the Department of Animal Health, Welfare and Nutrition at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences (DJF).
Under production conditions this could be used to stimulate the hens’ natural immunological mechanisms to improve health and food safety, she added.
Protection against foreign material
The discovery showed that heat-stressed hens had fewer antibodies in their blood than the non-heat-stressed hens. However, they had more specialised killer cells that continuously circulate in the body to look out for foreign material.
The heat stress led to an increased production of killer cells that fight vira.