Chicken House Attics Can be Tapped to Warm Broilers

Using the warm air that rises into the attic of the poultry house can help reduce fuel bills in winter, according to new research from the Agricultural Research Service in Mississippi.
calendar icon 2 February 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

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.

ARS agricultural engineer, Joseph Purswell, who led the study, explained: “Energy costs are far and away the largest financial inputs for producers. 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 per cent of the time.

"In one study in mild weather conditions, the technology reduced fuel use by 35 per cent"

Mr 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 per cent. In one study in mild weather conditions, the technology reduced fuel use by 35 per cent.

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 three years, Mr 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.

February 2010
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