A total of 360 fertile eggs from a broiler breeder strain (Ross 308) were used for in ovo feeding (IOF) of 0, 100 and 200 mg/kg Silybum marianum water extract at 17.5 d of incubation. After hatching, 240 chicks were transferred to the experimental cages. The diets consisted of two types; one of them without extract and the other one containing 100 mg/kg of Silybum marianum extract. Then chicks were exposed to elevated temperatures 4°C above optimum from 7 to 28 d of age for 4 h per d and after 28 d they were kept at optimum temperature. The chicks were divided into 6 treatments with 4 replicates as a completely randomised 2 × 3 factorial design. There was no effect of IOF of Silybum marianum extract on hatchability, body weight (BW) of hatched chicks or hatched chick BW/initial egg weight ratio. Chickens fed on the diet containing the extract had the highest feed intake, daily weight gains (DWGs), final BW and lowest feed conversion ratio. At 28 d, the weights of heart, spleen and bursa of birds in the treatment groups given extract were higher, but abdominal fat weights were lower. At 42 d in those fed extract in the diet, the weights of spleen and bursa were higher and abdominal fat weights were lower than the other groups. No differences were observed between groups in body temperature before application of the higher temperature but at 21 d and 28 d the body temperature of chicks given the Silybum marianum extract was lower than the other treatments during the elevated temperatures. In birds fed on the extract in the diet, HDL and cholesterol concentrations were lowest at 28 d, whereas blood glucose levels were higher in the other treatments. At 42 d the cholesterol concentration was significantly lower in birds given extract in their diet. These results indicated that dietary feeding of Silybum marianum extract resulted in an improvement in performance, immunity and carcass characteristics and decreased the adverse effects of the higher temperatures, specifically in reducing blood fat reduction, but IOF of the extract did not have an effect.