Poultry farming is big business. Chicken is the most popular table meat in the world, and eggs consumed worldwide as a source of protein.
Whereas poultry historically came from small farms, today the trend is toward factory farming. For example, according to the American Egg Board, there are currently 177 US companies with flocks of 75,000 or more laying hens that produce 99% of the eggs in the US. In the broiler chicken industry, approximately 40 companies process 9 billion birds each year for the US and export market.
Whether they end up as broilers or egg-laying hens, caged or cage-free, most factory-farm chicks are grown in poultry houses that hold thousands of birds each. In order to maximize weight gain of broilers or egg production of hens, constant environmental monitoring of these houses is required.
Ventilation of poultry houses is designed to balance the requirements of bird health and growth with energy costs. Like an office building, too little ventilation leads to poor air quality. Too much ventilation raises heating and cooling costs. To balance these variables, farmers typically monitor air temperature and humidity. However, modern farms monitor carbon dioxide levels too.
Like temperature and humidity, proper carbon dioxide levels have been shown to increase poultry production. For example, chicks metabolize their food more slowly under high-CO2 levels. By regulating CO2, growers can shorten the time it takes to transform the chicks into broilers or egg laying hens.
Also like office buildings, CO2 levels serve as the “canary in the mineshaft” for determining the total air quality. High levels of CO2 correspond to high levels of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide from manure, and carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide from gas/oil heaters. Like humans, all of these chemicals can be detrimental to the health and well-being of the birds.
Studies by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences show that in poultry houses, CO2 levels should be kept below 5,000ppm, and ideally below 3,500ppm. In the EU, the standard for poultry houses is < 2,500ppm. Many of our poultry farm clients use the 1% CO2 IAQ Transmitter/Controller to maximize the balance between production and energy efficiency.
While poultry farmers typically use the rule of thumb that relative humidity between 60-80% results in acceptable indoor air quality, the introduction of CO2 controllers can further fine-tune air quality, resulting in improved poultry growth and output.