By Katie Keiger
Poultry Times staff
GAINESVILLE, Ga. — From alarms to high-powered ventilation systems, the average broiler house today can have just as many technological options as an apartment building. Some advances can even allow the chicken houses to be automotive for a few hours at a time.
University of Georgia Extension poultry scientist Dr. Brian Fairchild sees the potential for this technology in broiler houses, especially houses with younger chicks which are more sensitive to temperature, in climate control.
The steel and wood structures that make up the frame of the houses can allow farmers can build their structures as tall as they want, but Fairchild suggests that lower ceilings can help prevent heat loss.
“Dropped ceilings protect the trusses and ceiling insulation by acting as a vapor barrier,” Fairchild said. A vapor area can act like extra insulation and help keep moisture from building up and allow the temperatures to stay constant in winter or summer.
Another way to keep heat in would be to have solid side walls instead of curtains. Though curtains are easier to maneuver, the costs of building a full size wall in the long run could be seen very soon with the reduced air leaks and improved efficiency of the air quality inside the rooms due to increased ventilation speeds.
Ventilation can also be improved, specifically in cold weather, by installing fans high on the house side wall or in the ceiling. According to Fairchild, air enters through inlets from above and the fans can direct the air to go down and mix with rising warmer air. Having controls on these fans can help further influence the temperature of the house by controlling how much air is being pushed down by the fans depending on the incoming air’s humidity and temperature, effectively saving as much as 30 percent of fuel costs.
To further assist with circulation, it is recommended to have a heat source at the floor since hotter air tends to rise and could easily be lost in large buildings.
Broiler houses heating systems are typically fueled through propane or natural gas, but whatever their heat source, Fairchild says that for chicks under two weeks of age need to have the floor temperature at 85 degrees F to 90 degrees F as they cannot regulate their body temperature yet.
During hot weather, tunnel ventilation is important to removing heat from the building, sometimes with a velocity as fast as 500 feet per minute. Fogging systems are often also used to provide extra cooling for the birds through water mist. The problem with this is that not all the air evaporated into mist. Fairchild said that this issue could be addressed by simply putting the evaporative cooling system outside the house, therefore eliminating moisture build up inside the house. The water that does accumulate outside can be caught by some recirculating systems with pads that trap and soak up leaks.
In recent years, technological innovations, especially in computing equipment, have made it possible for broiler houses to be monitored and adjusted with a simple turn of a nob. Some broiler houses have as many as six temperature controlling systems set up in different areas of the building, saving employees time and energy.
However, like all innovations, there are risks to using computers and electrical equipment, one of them being their dependability. Fairchild recommends all broiler houses having an alarm in place to ensure that if one of the systems goes off line, someone will be alerted as soon as possible.
To further reduce risks, generators are often set up too, so if there is a power outage, the problem can be put on hold for at least a few hours.