The Importance of Ventilation in Broiler Management

Ventilation is one of the most common challenges facing broiler growers in both conventional and closed-environment housing. Broilers should easily achieve their economic and genetic potential when they live in a specifically controlled environment that meets their needs. Ventilation systems are designed to automatically manage this environment for broilers, especially during the brooding period. Whether you use a tunnel- or cross-ventilation system or a combination of both, ventilation is necessary to create the optimum environment that broilers need to grow and develop during each stage of life.

The right system not only ensures adequate air exchange throughout the broiler house, but also removes excess moisture from the litter, maintains oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, and regulates temperature within the house. 

1. Maintain Air Quality

A key requirement of any minimum ventilation system is to meet the oxygen demand of the modern broiler chick and to ensure good distribution of fresh air throughout the broiler house. Oxygen is required for both the production of body heat and metabolism of nutrients essential for growth. During the first week, the carbon dioxide is primarily produced by the combustion of LPG and from the chicks themselves. A chick’s respiratory system is at near full capacity at comfort temperature. As the environment temperature drops, the chick must consume considerably higher levels of oxygen to stay comfortable. Ventilation systems remove carbon dioxide and supply chicks with the oxygen they need to develop healthy cardiovascular systems and to prevent problems such as ascites, which can occur if demand for oxygen increases by just five percent.

2. Remove Excess Moisture

The minimum ventilation systems are also responsible for removing excess moisture from the litter. Today’s modern broiler chicks consume nearly twice as much water at 28 days than they did 25 years ago. Approximately 75 percent of the water consumed daily is released as water vapor from the respiratory system or deposited along with the droppings as moisture in the litter.

The litter in a broiler house acts like a sponge. If the ventilation system cannot keep up with moisture deposited in the litter, the surface of the litter eventually becomes damp and slippery. Once moisture reaches the surface, no water can escape and the situation cannot be reversed. This is a dangerous and unsanitary environment, producing very high bacterial loads, ammonia odors, insect infestations and even footpad lesions. However, proper management of moisture levels should ensure oxygen and carbon dioxide levels are kept in check.

3. Regulate Temperature

The third function of the minimum ventilation system is to maintain the proper temperature distribution in the broiler house. Chicks are not thermo-competent until 14 days of age, and therefore rely on supplementary heat to keep them warm.

During the first seven days, chicks will more than quadruple their body weight. This is the only opportunity to achieve such growth in a single week. However, if chicks are cold, they are less active and they don’t eat. If they don’t eat, they don’t grow. Keeping chicks warm and ensuring adequate supplementary feed, access to fresh water and good minimum ventilation are crucial factors for determining a flock’s overall performance. 

Members of Cobb’s technical service team help customers establish their own successful ventilation systems by sharing knowledge from around the world. Customers living in similar climates often experience many of the same challenges and can benefit from each others’ expertise and best practices. Armed with an understanding of both automated and manual ventilation systems, customers can improve their operations and final performance.

Visit our Cobb Academy or Elements of Success video series for even more information on the importance of ventilation during brooding or in the hatchery

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