Melted Snow Patterns on Chicken House Roofs

Snow pattern shows no loss of heat.

Snow pattern shows no loss of heat.

Somethings are out of site, out of mind.  It isn’t an easy task to climb up in the attic and see what is going on with the distribution of insulation or if there is an attic box not siting just right.  Melted snow patterns can indicate potential areas of poor insulation and house looseness.  This morning we had our first light dusting of snow with some additional snow being predicted for the weekend.  Looking at how the snow melts on a roof can be a good indicator of some potential missed opportunities for conserving on fuel  and being able to maintain consistent temperatures in the house.

Here are few pictures I took this morning.  The first picture shows snow evenly distributed with no bare spots. This is a good indicator that there is minimal leakage of heat around the tunnel inlet curtain, the attic boards are closed, and the insulation is intact. The second picture shows melted snow on the tunnel inlet dog box roof metal.  This indicates there is leakage around the tunnel inlet.  The inlet area may not be fully closed due to the tunnel inlet being poorly sealed.  The third picture shows a melted spot on the roof that is about half way down the dog box.  This would indicate a possible attic door not being closed or that the insulation is not intact.  In this particular instance, the insulation has been compromised in an area just above a heater.  The ceiling material was replaced but the insulation was not and there is an area of the curtain that is not fully meeting up fascia board due to shrinkage.  Identifying these issues and correcting them in a timely manner, will improve performance by improving bird comfort, floor conditions. and reduce fuel usage.

Melted snow at the tunnel curtain shows areas of heat being lost.

Melted snow at the tunnel curtain shows areas of heat being lost.

Melted snow in an area where insulation is not intact.

Melted snow in an area where insulation is not intact.

Hormone use in poultry – an expert speaks up

Here is a factual and well produced video from an extension colleague on the facts surrounding hormone use in commercial chicken production. In this video our friend, Dr. Susan Watkins, from the University of Arkansas, spells out the biological, economical and legal reasons why hormone use in modern broiler production is simply wrong. Those of us involved in this noble profession have a responsibility to let folks know that are in our circle of influence how we produce this  safe, nutritious and affordable food. I hope this video helps.

Hormone use in Poultry

It is amazing the amount of misinformation about antibotic use in commercial poultry. Attached is a recent article published last week by Mike Czarick and Brian Fairchild in their monthly Newsletter. This article articulates seven major reasons hormones aren’t used in modern meat bird production.  This was reprinted by permission from the University of Georgia.

Hormone Use in Poultry

Spring cleaning for poultry houses

Many poultry farms have or will soon be cleaning out for spring. Some farms in the area are learning to handle and manage a new litter product – baled, kiln-dried shavings.  These bales are approximately 700 pounds and are filled with compressed dry (10 percent moisture) shavings.  In many cases baled litter can be delivered weeks, even months ahead of a scheduled cleanout. This fact alone allows for cleanouts and rebedding to occur in a narrower window of time.

Many farms clean out their poultry houses during spring

Baled, kiln-dried shavings. Compressing the shavings significantly reduces transportation cost to the farm. This dry bedding also helps promote fuel savings and bird health

These bales can be moved and placed equidistant down the interior of the poultry house using a set of forks

These bales can be moved and placed equidistant down the interior of the poultry house using a set of forks

The outer poly and interior netting can be removed using a knife or box cutter.


These shaving can then be “ pushed around” using a front end loader or the forks.

The final process (and the most critical) is leveling the litter. This can best be accomplished using a Harley rake, a rotary rake, or a hay rake. The picture below is a picture of a Harley rake . This piece of equipment has a counter-rotating drum with teeth that under high RPM’s scatters and levels the shavings using the gauge wheels for depth. These devices can be rented and are used by the landscaping business to groom top soil.

Harley rake

The result from this process is a level floor. This allows for easier leveling of water and feed lines to improve feed and water access for day-old chicks.

Level bedding inside a poultry house


Switchgrass as poultry bedding

The University of Delaware and Maryland and Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. (DPI)  is currently working to evaluate processed Switchgrass (Panicum vergatum) as a potential bedding material. Pictured here is a 4 year old switch grass planting in Chestertown, Md., which is predicted to yield 5 to 8 tons per acre.

Four-year old switchgrass field

Switchgrass is harvested in mid winter to early spring and requires no nutrient or watering requirements. The grass is then baled in square or round bales and can be field stored for processing in the spring. Pen studies suggest that switchgrass should be processed to less than 1 inch length for poultry bedding.

Switchgrass bedding in a poultry house in Greenwood, Del.

Here is a picture of young chicks on switch grass bedding  in a brood chamber in a Greenwood Del. farm.  The Project would like to thank the DDA, DPI, Ernest Seed Company and Amick Farms for their collaboration on this evaluation. Pictures courtesy of Jennifer Timmons.

Heating and ventilation issues in poultry houses

A smoke test will indicate where energy leaks exist

On Monday afternoon, Feb. 13, I visited a farm outside Millsboro that was experiencing heating and ventilation problems. This farm had purchased two new high performance timer fans and was only able to pull .05 static pressure.

After much investigation a smoke test revealed that air was leaking around the foundation where the sill plate meets the block foundation. I recommended to the grower that he seal this area with a commercial sealer. Static pressure tests are performed on a closed poultry house with 2- 36 inch fans or one 48 inch fan running to pull a vacuum. All areas should be completely closed to pull maximum static pressure.

Smoke from an insect fogger (using baby oil), a commercial smoke stick or even a bee smoker can then be used to direct smoke outside the house along the foundation, sidewall or any suspect areas where the affected area will pull the smoke into the building. This leak can now be easily seen. ~ Bill Brown

Local news article highlights challenges to the poultry industry

Thanks to Ron MacArthur for his recent article in the Cape Gazette (Feb. 10) 2012.

2011: A challenging year for the poultry industry

A perfect storm of economic, weather and regulatory factors combined to make 2011 one of the most challenging years on record for area poultry farmers.

Leading the storm is the escalating price of corn and soybean meal used to feed chickens, which makes up two-thirds of farmers’ costs. Delmarva’s poultry farmers spent $1 billion on feed in 2011, a 40 percent increase, or $400 million, from the previous year, which cuts right into farmers’ bottom lines.

Read the complete Cape Gazette article here

Responsible manure practices

Environmentally responsible manure pile

Many poultry farms across the Delmarva are now cleaning out their poultry barns and staging these nutrients for use as an organic fertilizer. All farmers on the shore operate their farms under state approved science-based nutrient management plans. These plans ( many of which are now P based) allow farmers to use poultry litter at a  phosphorus crop removal rate. Many farmers also use a p site index which factors in soil and land characteristics to determine if manure can be used on site specific fields . This picture shows a properly environmentally responsible manure pile. Its conical shape and height  maximizes nutrient retention while its location away from ditching and the use of crop residues eliminate the possibility to soluble surface transport.