Poultry Houses Between Flocks: Open or Closed?

The birds have moved out. It’s time to open the house and take a break, right? Not so fast. Leaving your poultry house open between flocks can actually cause more harm than good. How? An open house:

  • Looses core litter temperature
  • Shuts down the ammonia production from the litter
  • Causes beetles to migrate to the walls and ceiling where they can damage insulation
  • Makes viruses dormant
  • ….All of which can hurt the performance of the next flock.

Poultry House Heat: Open vs Closed

Let’s address the heat issue first. Chickens have a body temperature of 106 degrees. 23,000 birds can generate 400,000 – 600,000 BTUs per hour which is equal to 14-20 conventional pancake brooders or 110 to 150 gallons of propane per day! If you were offered 150 gallons of free propone per day, wouldn’t you take it?

By leaving a poultry house open after move out you are essentially losing this free resource. Closing the house tight between flocks will help reduce your gas bill significantly especially during preheat and week one.

Close Your House for Ammonia Purge

It’s no secret that heat purges ammonia from litter. The warmer the house is kept the more ammonia will convert and come off of the floor. Taking advantage of the natural heat provided by the birds that have just moved out allows you to save fuel and reduce the amount of ammonia you must deal with at the beginning of the next flock.

But there’s more to it than that. Once ammonia is converted to a gas it can be converted back to a liquid if water is present or the humidity in the house gets too high and causes it to sweat. If this occurs, it will be necessary to ventilate periodically. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Do not ventilate in the evening or early morning or moisture will be reintroduced to the house, mix with ammonia gas and fall to the floor
  • Ventilate when air is driest, usually between 10am and 4pm

Smart De-Caking for Heat Retention

Caked litter contains more moisture and therefore higher levels of ammonia, so it’s vital to de-cake your house right after move out to begin litter curing and minimize heat loss. While some heat will be lost during this process it will recover quickly once you’re done and it will enable you to purge more ammonia too. If you wait 24-48 hours the house temperature will be closer to the outside temperature and won’t recover as quickly.

During de-caking, keep these tips in mind:

  • Only disturb the areas that are caked without going too deep
  • Be sure to clean corners and side walls where cake is often thicker
  • For leveling, use a chain-link fence section with a few weights attached
  • Ventilate during this process for worker safety by opening vent boxes
  • Getting your next flock off to the best start possible begins long before they arrive. Contact your local Jones Hamilton Ag representative for more pointers on managing your litter.