Poultry Litter Management Between Flocks

Failure to properly manage house and litter conditions during downtime can set you up for failure on the next flock. High litter moisture can result in high ammonia concentrations and humidity during brooding, which can allow bacteria to thrive and litter to cake over. Focus on removing moisture and purging ammonia from your last flock to set the stage for better performance for your next flock.

The Downside to Open End Doors

Leaving poultry house doors open between flocks:
• Decreases litter temperature which stops ammonia release
• Reduces air speed, minimizing moisture loss from the litter
• Causes beetles to migrate to areas they can damage (ie., insulation)
• Allows viruses to go dormant and gives wild animals houses access which can cause biosecurity issues

Purge Ammonia, Manage Moisture

Instead, keep doors closed and focus on maintaining temperature to purge ammonia and managing ventilation to remove moisture.
1. Decake to physically remove moisture from the house.
2. Evaporate moisture from the litter and then ventilate it from the air in the house.

The litter and the air must be warm with a relative humidity below 70% for effective moisture removal. Cold air doesn’t hold as much moisture and if air is too saturated (high relative humidity), it cannot accept the moisture.

Between Flock Litter Management Checklist

The catch crew has left. What now?

Keep Houses Closed

  • Keep end doors close to conserve heat from the previous flock to purge ammonia from the litter.
  • Use the birds’ natural heat to save fuel and reduce the amount of ammonia you must manage at the beginning of the next flock.

Ventilate to Remove Moisture 

  • Use minimal static pressure ventilation to remove moisture during the evenings and early mornings.
  • Increase ventilation during the driest times of day, usually 10am-4pm.
  • If condensation starts to form on the walls and equipment, more ventilation is needed.

Remove Caked Litter Immediately

Caked litter is 35-60% moisture by weight and keeps litter underneath the surface from drying out. De-cake immediately and remember:
• Only disturb the areas that are caked without going too deep
• Clean corners and side walls where cake is often thicker
• Open side vents and run fans while decaking for worker safety

Immediately after decaking, use a chain-link fence section with a few weights attached to level your litter and then close the houses giving them more time to ventilate and remove additional moisture before the next flock is placed.

Manage Drinker Lines

  • Fix leaking regulators or replace leaking nipples that can cause wetness in litter during brooding.
  • Follow your integrator’s regulations about waterline cleaning and sanitation.
  • Wash the outside of drinker lines to remove dust and insect debris. Cleaning lines will help reduce leaky nipples and remove potential contamination, which can support healthier chicks.

Pre-Heat Prior to Chick Placement 

In Summer: Turn on brooders 24-48 hours prior to chick arrival
In Winter: Turn on brooders 48-72 hours prior to chick arrival
Pre-heating litter above 80°F will help purge as much ammonia from the litter as possible prior to PLT application, which will extend its effectiveness.
Remember: Chicks placed on cold litter will lose body heat to the litter, resulting in huddling and decreased feed and water intake.