Ask the Vet: Enhanced biosecurity on broiler barns

What are some ways to improve cleaning and disinfection after a disease challenge?
Tom Inglis
May 31, 2018
By Tom Inglis
One best practice is to wash and disinfect all boots, coveralls and equipment used for pushing out the barns.
One best practice is to wash and disinfect all boots, coveralls and equipment used for pushing out the barns. PHOTO CREDIT: Chicken Farmers of Canada
In a chicken industry that is minimizing the use of antibiotics, our ability to provide an optimal clean environment is paramount. This can be achieved through cleaning and disinfection (C&D) and strict biosecurity.

The Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC), within their on-farm food and safety program (OFFSAP), clearly outlines the procedural C&D steps to follow in-between healthy flocks.

The manual further elaborates on situations in which the broiler farm has encountered a viral disease challenge, such as Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT), and recommends that poultry producers thoroughly C&D the facility.

This article will examine enhanced C&D methods after a disease outbreak (viral or bacterial) on your farm and reinforce some of the basics.

Six primary areas are identified within an enhanced C&D process: pest control; removal of organic material/feed, washing; disinfection; fogging; and waterline management. All of these areas will play a role in helping the farm achieve a clean barn environment after a disease outbreak.

Rodent control  
As soon as the birds have been shipped, heightened pest control measures should be applied to help control rodents, beetles and flies. These are known pests within poultry facilities and can be important vectors for infectious disease.

Rodent control is a central part of a biosecurity program as they can be the source of contamination in feed, water and barn environments. When birds are shipped their food source (feed) is removed. This provides an excellent opportunity to increase the rodenticide pressure.

Rodents have a keen sense of smell so maintaining fresh bait in the traps will help keep it free of mould and moisture. Some additional baiting tips include: securing bait in stations; bait near high activity areas; and cover more areas with less quantity.

It is important to shuttle rodenticides to ensure the rodent population isn’t building up resistance and continually offer new products. Producers could also consider subcontracting rodent control.

Insect pressures
Darkling beetles serve as a constant pest for broiler farmers and can contribute significantly to disease transmission, increased feed conversions, and structural damage to barns.

Some of the diseases that darkling beetles are known to carry include Infectious Bursal Disease, Reovirus, Avian Influenza, Newcastle disease, Salmonella, Campylobacter and E.coli.

Prompt treatment of the barn environment with a labelled insecticide is key to the success of controlling the darkling beetle population. Maintaining heat in the barn after the birds have been shipped and turning the lights off will keep beetles in the manure, allowing application of the insecticide along the edges of the barn (clear a three foot area along the walls).

When the barn cools and the lights are turned on the beetles will escape back into the walls, travelling over the insecticide. A second application on the floor and three feet up the walls is warranted after the barn is cleaned and before adding new bedding.

A common spot for beetles to hide is under the feed pans. It is recommended to spray under the pans as per the labelled insecticide after bedding has been added.

Managing the fly population within a facility is accomplished by using approved baits and sprays. Fogging the barn after the birds have been removed with an aerosol insecticide will help to eliminate adult flies.

Best management suggestions
Enhanced pest management is key after a disease challenge in a flock but it doesn’t negate the importance of a thorough clean and disinfect of the barn. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Remove all residual feed within the hoppers/feedlines/pans. Leftover feed can diminish the effectiveness of your pest control program. Remove all manure from the barns and store/spread the contaminated manure offsite and away from the farm. This is important as some litter can harbor viruses/bacteria and could potentially re-infect facilities.  
  • A thorough blow down must be completed to successfully remove all the organic material, dust and feathers. This includes heaters, fan blades, light fixtures, louvers, vents, ceiling, feed pans, walls, floor and any other equipment in the barn.
  • Hot water wash all surfaces with a detergent. Apply the detergent at low pressure first and allow an adequate amount of time to soak. Pressure wash with hot water (not over 140°F) before the detergent dries on the surface. Surfaces to be washed include walls, fans, louvers, vents, drinkers and feeders. Wash all service rooms and mortality buckets. Be mindful of any exposed electrical devices as these might need to be hand washed.
  • Wash and disinfect all boots, coveralls and equipment used for pushing out the barns. Take careful attention to the inside of the tire wells on skid steers and loaders.
  • Disinfect, as per the label, all exposed surfaces in the barn once cleaned and dried. Allow a minimum of 10 minutes contact time. In the winter, when the temperature is cooler, increase the disinfectant contact time to a minimum of 20 minutes.  
  • With cycles of repeated disease challenge, it is recommended to fog the barn with a disinfectant. This can be done with a hot fogging system or a cold fogging system. The old method of fumigating the barn with Formalin was also very effective. But because formaldehyde is extremely toxic and all safety precautions must be followed exactly, we do not recommend this practice.
  • Waterlines must be flushed and cleaned with a suitable product and protocol.  
These steps are key for lowering the risk of the next flock being exposed to a similar disease challenge. Enhanced C&D takes a lot of elbow grease but has lasting implications on overall bird health.

Ask the Vet hits the podcast waves
Canadian Poultry magazine’s Ask the Vet Q&As have built a strong following in print. Now we’re continuing these important conversations online in a new podcast series. Listen to our first audio Q&A on canadianpoultrymag.com, where we discuss the important topic of Salmonella  and the poultry industry with Tom Inglis of Poultry Health Services. Read a preview of that conversation below.

Why is Salmonella such an important issue for the poultry industry?
Part of the answer is Salmonella  is a bacteria that doesn’t cause problems for poultry. It can actually be considered part of their natural flora. With chickens and turkeys, it doesn’t cause the birds any problems. But it’s a food safety issue, particularly with egg consumption where we still serve eggs sunny side up. It’s very important that we control the Salmonella passed on through the birds to any of the poultry products that we develop.

Are all strains of Salmonella the same?
No, that’s part of the challenge. There’s an amazing diversity of Salmonellas. There’s about 2,500 species that are described. There are about 30 of them that we follow closely for human illness. There’s a big difference in the strains. Many of them are well adapted to birds and so they don’t show any signs of carrying the bacteria.

What is changing for Salmonella control in the poultry industry?
I think it’s evolving quite quickly. It’s still one of the most important food borne illnesses in the world. Some of the best statistics are out of the U.S. and the Centre for Disease Control, which estimate 1.2 million illnesses a year, as many as 450 deaths and 23,000 hospitalizations. There’s even a significant impact in terms of days off work and the economic impact of people being ill. So it’s a very important illness for humans.

One of the big changes is initially all of our programs were developed to control Salmonella Pullorum  and Salmonella Gallinarum, which are two strains that actually affect chickens and turkeys.

We’ve eradicated those diseases essentially, but most of our monitoring programs are still focused on Salmonella Pullorum and Salmonella Gallinarum. So we’re trying to adapt testing and catch up to increased expectations to public health and consumers and the industry itself to be able to detect Salmonella more quickly, respond to it and develop integrated programs to control it.


Tom Inglis is managing partner and founder of Poultry Health Services, which provides diagnostic and flock health consulting for producers and allied industry. Please send questions for the Ask the Vet column to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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