Sprinkling system in cage-free henhouse
Concerns over animal welfare have led to pledges of sourcing only cage-free eggs by many U.S. food retailers and restaurants. However, cage-free housing poses many environmental challenges, such as high particulate matter or dust levels. Dust levels in cage-free hen houses are six to nine times higher than conventional cage system due to hen activates (e.g. dustbathing or foraging) on litter floors. Higher levels of dust can carry more airborne microorganisms which, once inhaled, may cause infection or trigger respiratory diseases to animals and/or their caretakers. A UGA poultry engineering specialist is studying an engineering method for dust suppression in cage-free henhouse. A sprinkling system was designed for spraying water on the litter floor of a cage-free house. The best spray dosage based on litter depth was identified during the lab-scale and a field verification study in a commercial cage-free henhouse. In addition, the system was applied to reduce heat stress of birds by spraying water on birds directly in hot weather. The cost-effective water sprinkling system tested by UGA could suppress up to 50 percent of the dust levels in the commercial cage-free henhouses without causing ammonia issues. The cost of dust suppression system is over 70 percent lower than most existing dust suppression methods such as electrostatic precipitator and dry filter.