With winter weather causing steep temperature drops, poultry farmers are being urged to adjust their ventilation settings in order to avoid the bird welfare issues and reduced returns caused by wet litter.
According to ventilation, heating and controls specialist, Hydor, wet bedding has been proven to be a key cause of red marks on the feet and legs of chickens, also known as hock burns.
Thanks in part to the rise in demand for chicken feet in China, where they are seen as a delicacy, farmers can now receive a premium for unmarked feet and thighs, yet some are unable to exploit this opportunity.
One of the key causes of wet bedding is the presence of cold air at floor level, which can lead to condensation.
Shaun Morris, a commissioning engineer at Hydor has outlined some of the key steps that can be taken to avoid wet bedding. Shaun said: “A steep drop in temperature can catch farmers unawares, so it’s important to ensure that whatever system they have in place can adjust quickly and effectively to changes in the atmosphere to prevent a negative impact on poultry.
“One of the primary causes of wet bedding is cold air reaching the floor, whether through open inlets, or rapidly falling air. It’s a constant battle at this time of year and it’s essential that farmers adjust their air intake so that it comes in at a higher pressure during the winter, closing up side inlets to ensure cold air is dragged along the ceiling towards the roof fans, so that as it drops it loses some of its humidity and heats up before reaching the floor.”
According to Morris, sheds that are using older control systems are at the greatest risk. “A fully automated control system will be continually monitoring and adjusting for humidity, CO2 and ammonia, as well as temperature. In most cases inlets will remain closed when fans aren’t operating and will open during operation to ensure effective air movement. With older systems you can find the opposite is true, so if you say that a fan is operating for just 30 seconds in a five minute period partially opened vents could be allowing cold air to drop directly down to the floor for much of the time, resulting in wet patches around the edge of the shed.
“Dry litter is essential to ensuring chicken feet and legs are kept in the best possible condition and allowing farmer’s to secure their premiums.”