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Chicken House Attics
Can Be Tapped To Warm Broilers

Chickens like to stay warm, but insulating, ventilating, and heating their houses can be expensive, especially when fuel prices are high. Fortunately, new technology developed by scientists at the ARS Poultry Research Unit in Mississippi State, Mississippi, and colleagues at Mississippi State University (MSU) could help reduce those costs.

“Energy costs are far and away the largest financial inputs for producers,” says ARS agricultural engineer Joseph Purswell, who led the study. “Reducing energy costs means increasing profitability.”

Most broiler houses have attics, and the scientists found the air that gathers there can be as much as 20˚F warmer than the air outside. The attic air is at least 5˚F warmer about 70 percent of the time.

Purswell worked with MSU professor Berry Lott, now retired, to develop a ventilation system that uses ceiling inlets to redistribute solar-heated attic air, as opposed to bringing in cooler, outside air. Starting in 2006, Purswell and Lott gathered data from a Mississippi chicken producer who installed several broiler houses based on their design.

The scientists concluded that circulating the warmer attic air within the chicken houses reduced the demand for heating fuel by about 20 to 25 percent. In one study in mild weather conditions, the technology reduced fuel use by 35 percent.

Similar technology has been applied to swine and layer facilities, but this is the first research to examine whether the technology works with broiler houses, which have a significantly different construction.

Commercial interest in the technology has increased with rising fuel prices over the past 3 years, Purswell says. “Now producers throughout the broiler belt are requesting information on how to take advantage of this technology.”

The ventilation system has benefits beyond reducing fuel use. Attic ventilation also reduces moisture and ammonia within the houses, which helps improve air quality.—By Laura McGinnis, formerly with ARS.

Joseph L. Purswell is in the USDA-ARS Poultry Research Unit, 606 Spring St., Mississippi State, MS 39762; (662) 320-7480.

"Chicken House Attics Can Be Tapped To Warm Broilers" was published in the February 2010 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

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