A dynamic mechanistic anaylsis of the thermal interaction between a broiler chicken and its surrounding environment.
Chickens, being open thermodynamic systems, maintain a constant exchange of energy and matter with their surrounding environment. In order to avoid reaching thermodynamic equilibrium with the environment the bird makes use of homeostatic mechanisms. These ensure the reduction of the entropy of the system to values that guarantee its integrality. The thermoregulatory response is a major component of the homeostatic machinery of living systems. This induces modifications of physiological parameters of the bird, taking the system “bird” to a new steady state. The achievement of this new state is possible only if the thermoregulatory mechanisms of the birds are able to counteract the environmental demand/burden. A successful thermoregulatory response depends not only on the achievement of that steady state, but also on the compatibility of the value of those parameters with life (especially regarding the value achieved by body temperature) as well as on the time of exposure to the environmental perturbation. Based on those premises, this thesis presents a mechanistic analysis of the thermal interaction between a broiler and its surroundings. The first section of the document introduces the reader to the general concepts of thermodynamics of living systems and physics of heat exchange. The second use mechanistic simulation techniques to represent the environment, the thermal and thermoregulatory properties of a broiler chicken and the interaction between bird and environment. Finally, the third section describes a conceptual simulation model able to predict, over a given period of time, the response of a bird to environmental conditions above those associated with least thermoregulatory effort. Various simulation exercises are reported, the objectives being to study the behaviour of certain variables and to question the validity of current theories of thermoregulation in environmental physiology.
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