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It will come as no surprise that ventilation plays an important role in ensuring healthy poultry – improving animal welfare and flock productivity.

For a ventilation system to be effective though, it must be maintained correctly, even in colder months. A 12 month proactive maintenance programme including the following three steps will help minimise the risk of bird welfare issues and reduced returns.

1. Undertake a spring MOT

Spring is an ideal time to undertake a thorough review of all air movement systems ahead of the summer. First things first, fans should be operating correctly. This includes checking motors, fan blades and belts, and louvres. Then a thorough audit of the temperature, CO2, humidity sensors and vents within a shed should take place. How has the system been working over the last crop? How is the lighting, ventilation, and heating performing? If improvements need to be made, spring is the time.

2. Tackle heat stress in summer

You’ll no doubt be familiar with the notion that summer marks the start of an ongoing battle against heat stress. Ventilation systems should be continuously monitored, optimised, and upgraded where needed to keep birds in ideal conditions.

Ultimately though, the answer lies in making sure sheds can draw through as much air as possible. Faults with fans, inlets, control systems and sensors can reduce airflow and lead to heat stress. If you can see that a hot day is approaching, it could be worth over-ventilating the night before to drop the temperature by 2-3°C to help maintain optimum temperatures for birds, from 21 days into the cycle and throughout the hottest parts of the day.

If you have the capital to invest, you could even consider a summer ventilation system where the shed has summer inlets at the front and additional fans at the rear. With the side vents closed and the roof fans shut down, a tunnel ventilation effect is created for increased air speed and thermal comfort.

3. Avoid wet bedding in Autumn and Winter

Rapidly falling cold air can cause wet/sticky bedding during colder months, which can lead to red marks or hock burns on the feet and legs of chickens. To avoid cold air reaching the ground, you should make sure side inlets are closing correctly and increase the air pressure intake to direct cold air to the roof of a shed. This can be done by calibrating the air vents to provide narrower openings.

Ventilation often falls by the wayside in winter with the number of fans reduced and a big focus on heating and lighting. As well as checking that heaters are functioning, it’s important to check and replace fluorescent tubing on an annual basis to ensure the correct lux level on the floor for the birds. Heat exchangers are a good option too as they warm the incoming air with the stale air leaving the shed to reduce energy costs and avoid wet bedding.

For help forming a year-round ventilation plan, get in touch with us via our contact page.