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.