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The cleanest little chicken house in America.

Can you imagine living in an environment so clean and free of disease risk that you never get sick, take medicine, or need to be vaccinated?

"There are flocks of chickens that have lived at this laboratory, generation after generation, under just such conditions," says Charles W. Beard, the retired head of ARS' Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory, Athens, Georgia.

"This housing concept was developed at the Athens facility more than 20 years ago and is still evolving, as more sophisticated equipment and techniques become available," Beard says. "We call the system FAPP (filtered-air positive pressure) housing.

"We developed FAPP to supply chickens and fertile eggs for research on Newcastle disease, avian influenza, and infectious bronchitis, which cause heavy losses in infected flocks."

The system has been widely adopted by companies that produce eggs for use in growing vaccine viruses in germ-free embryonating eggs or cell cultures.

"The most important components of the FAPP system are clean air and positive pressure," says Bailey Mitchell, the agricultural engineer who designed and built the computer control system that runs the Athens FAPP facility. "Air entering the chicken house is filtered twice--first by a 35-percent-efficient filter and then by a 95-percent-efficient one. This ensures that no germ-bearing dust particles get in.

"The filtered air blown into the house raises the inside pressure. This positive pressure inside the FAPP house helps keep out unfiltered--and possibly germ-laden air--when the door is opened. Air blows outward, preventing unfiltered air from entering the facility," says Mitchell.

As an added precaution, workers in the FAPP houses do not go near any other poultry. "This is just one more way to ensure that the highly susceptible FAPP flocks with few natural antibodies remain free of disease. Caretakers must take showers and don clean clothes before entering the FAPP house."

Special air locks are used to remove eggs from the building and to take in feed. The birds eat only feed that has been heated by a pelleting process, and they sit on suspended slatted floors that allow the manure to drop through to sloped, concrete floors that are cleaned daily, says Mitchell.

"We also monitor the health of the chickens via blood tests, to be certain they haven't experienced infections," adds Beard.

The flocks begin as fertile eggs produced by previous FAPP flocks, which are hatched in the ultra-clean facility, brooded there as baby chicks, and held there for their productive lives.

Some eggs are also hatched to produce broiler and layer chickens for research on how they respond to vaccines and therapy designed to prevent or reduce disease losses. FAPP-raised chickens make such research more reliable and reproducible--for test results are not influenced or complicated by pre-existing infections.

Will the poultry industry ever expand the application of such special housing to include the hens that lay the eggs we eat or the broilers we barbecue for the backyard picnic? No one knows the answer to that question, but one thing is certain: FAPP housing, through its support of vaccine production and protection of valuable genetic stock, is already playing an important role in protecting our food supply.

The fact that nearly all disease-free chickens and eggs used worldwide for vaccine production and biological research are grown in FAPP houses speaks well for the value of this unique system first developed at this ARS laboratory.

Bailey W. Mitchell is at the USDA-ARS Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory, 934 College Station Rd., P.O. Box 546-3443, fax number (706) 546-3161.
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Title Annotation:filtered-air positive pressure housing for chickens and eggs
Author:Mazzola, Vince
Publication:Agricultural Research
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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