Better Poultry Flooring Options
The Advantages of (Dura-Slat) Plastic Flooring
For any commercial producer, the health and welfare of your animals is a central concern. Chickens are susceptible to a variety of environmental illnesses, due to the presence of their feces and the sanitary conditions of the facility. While traditional flooring has been around for about as long as folks have been raising chickens, the savvy commercial producer needs to maximize bird production in every way. This means, in part, finding ways to reduce the outbreak of disease in the chicken house. While any industry can be slow to change, poultry production innovation is afoot. Literally.
In recent years, forward-thinking producers are discovering the advantages of plastic flooring in their production facilities. The use of easy to clean, hygienic plastic slat flooring can change the entire operation’s approach to managing manure and time, and help maintain good bird health in commercial flocks. These flooring sections allow most waste to fall through slats, similar to hog barns, which keeps confined spaces cleaner and drier, while not causing stress to the animal’s feet. This flooring option also resists rot and bacteria, making them a smart choice all around.
Clean And Simple
Dura-Slat, a smooth, non-porous plastic flooring system, is high-impact, wear-resistant polypropylene that performs better—it won’t rust or deteriorate from water and disinfectant exposure—than alternative traditional poultry flooring like litter, wood slats, wire flooring, etc. Typically, this flooring is raised above the ground with waste falling through the slats, which means animals are much more likely to avoid the parasites commonly found in feces. Because it’s made of plastic, cleaning is much easier with the use of a power washer. It also dries more quickly than traditional flooring which promotes an overall drier environment.
In young or high-producing birds, chicken house climate is a critical consideration. Many infectious diseases common to layers, for example, are a result of contact with, in part, wet litter and the effects of humidity and moisture in the facility. While optimal humidity in chicken houses can lead to better growth and feed conversion, elevated humidity can lead to disease. An elevated relative humidity in a production facility, or any structure, for that matter, can result in accumulated condensation. Microorganisms flourish in wet, humid environments; in the chicken house this can mean poor bird health.
Unlike more common wood-slat flooring often used on poultry farms, Dura-Slat’s plastic technology resists microorganism build-up, which is common when wood starts to deteriorate with age and use. This flooring is treated to fight the occurrence of Salmonella, E. Coli, Staph, and Pneumonia. Consequently, Dura-Slat flooring can help keep your birds healthier and more comfortable. Additionally, the chances of foot discomfort and bumblefoot can also be mitigated with plastic flooring which won’t splinter or warp over time.
In one field study, conducted over a year and a half at a commercial North Carolinian farm, the mortality rate in a facility using Dura-Slat plastic flooring was reduced to 6.8 percent compared to a mortality rate of 12.4 percent in a hen house using a wood floor. While the test measured the mortality rate in a single house with a single generation of birds, the numbers are encouraging. Producers will be interested to see if additional study bears similar results long-term. The longer the bird-life, the greater the profit.
Easy to Replace
Plastic flooring like Dura-Slat comes in sections that are easy to secure, connect, and, if needed, replace. If a section is faulty or if a piece of heavy equipment breaks a section, that area can be isolated and replaced with little to no downtime. This is important. Chickens are prone to stress which can result in poor health and lower productivity. Operations that are able to function normally, with minimal downtime disruption to the birds, will produce the most profits.
A New Standard
While any industry can be slow to change, the benefits of plastic flooring are being borne out in research and in practice. Producers know that any means of improving the welfare of their birds likely means increased productivity and increased profits. Because of its affordability, durability, and advantages in biosecurity, we may see plastic slat flooring become the new standard in responsible poultry management.
Do you use plastic flooring in your facility? Tell us your experience in the comments section!