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Thermal Image Technology Improves Poultry Houses

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January 7, 2020

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about how thermal image technology improves poultry houses. Hello, I'm Amy Myers and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Tom Tabler, Mississippi State University Extension Poultry specialist. Tom, many growers ask you to visit their poultry houses to help address various environmental and management issues.

One of the most important is house temperature control. Why is that?

Tom Tabler: Well, there's several things we have to worry about in a chicken house. Temperature, ventilation, feed and water, if we give the chickens those things in the right amounts they're going to do well. Temperature is one of the most important parts, because it will change over the life of that flock of chickens. It doesn't always stay the same all the time.

And again, if we give them what they want, they grow well, they convert feed well. If we don't give them what they want, they don't do either one of those very well and that can affect your bottom line in terms of what kind of paycheck you're going to get.

Amy Myers: That sounds like a really good reason to control your temperature. What temperatures exactly must we keep our chickens at?

Tom Tabler: Temperature's going to change a lot over the life of that flock, because when poultry growers get baby chickens from the company they grow for, they get those chicks the day that they hatch out of the egg and they're a baby chicken. They like to be 90, 92 degrees, but as they grow up the temperature that they are comfortable at is going to change.

So, fortunately, most chicken houses today have automatic controllers on them that will ramp that temperature down a little bit every day. Chickens don't like great big swings in temperature, and fortunately that controller can ramp it down a half a degree today, a full degree tomorrow. So, that chicken is not really noticing there's a big change going on, but what may be comfortable when that chick is a baby at 90, 92 degrees, is not very comfortable when that chicken gets to be closer to market age, which may be more like 62 to 65 degrees whenever they reach a market age.

Amy Myers: And if it does get ... Drops too quickly or increase too quickly what can happen?

Tom Tabler: They can get sick, they can also die. Again, when a chicken is too cold it's not comfortable. It's not going to perform well. It's under a lot of stress. Same way when we get too cold. We're under a lot of stress if we just constantly have to live in the cold. Also, whenever they're too cold they're going to use a lot of their feed energy to keep themselves warm in place of gaining weight, which is again, very hard on the bottom line and what the chicken check's going to be whenever you sell.

Whenever they get too hot, same way in the summertime, people can overheat, have heat strokes, chickens do the same thing. They can overheat, they can have heat strokes, they can die from the heat.

Amy Myers: I understand that thermal imaging technology is now being used to help producers. How does that work

Tom Tabler: A thermal camera basically takes images of what you aim the camera at, whether it's the wall, whether it's the ceiling, whether it's your load out door, whether it's the entrance door that you go in and out of the chicken house with. That camera uses colors to tell you what's going on inside that chicken house. Whether the color is blue, if it's cold, whether the color is red, if it's hot. You can aim that camera at your vapor barrier, at the attic of your chicken house and it will tell you whether you've got adequate insulation in that attic without you having to get on a ladder and crawl up into the attic with a flashlight and shine around, and look and see whether you've got insulation.

The camera can find that and you will notice that on the camera itself by looking at how that color changes. Same way if you're looking at a sidewall, whether it's a solid sidewall house or a curtain sided house, whether there is adequate insulation behind that curtain or sidewall, that thermal camera will pick up in color.

So, if you're seeing a lot of different colors instead of the same color all over the wall, or the same color all over your vapor barrier, that's telling you, you've got conditions inside that house that may be not comfortable to what that chicken likes to do, just because you don't have enough insulation.

Amy Myers: What can a poultry producer do if he, or she wants Extension to come to their place and use this thermal imaging technology at their poultry house?

Tom Tabler: Thermal cameras are very, very expensive, but I actually have access to one and this is a free service that the Extension Service offers to folks. If you're interested and would like me to come down and bring my camera you can go to the Poultry Science website, the number is at the bottom of the screen. That number is 662-325-3416. Tell one of the ladies that answers the phone that you would like for me to come. The only thing I ask is that, before I do come contact your service tech, let that person know, because bio security is a huge issue and I don't go places unless the company representative knows.

Amy Myers: Again, the number 662-325-3416, or Google Mississippi State University Poultry Science. Today we've been speaking with Tom Tabler, Poultry Specialist. I'm Amy Myers and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Department: Poultry Science

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