Ammonia gas in poultry houses seriously affects bird health. The gas results from the chemical decomposition of uric acid in droppings by certain bacteria in the litter, and is further influenced by moisture content, pH and litter temperature. The main factors affecting atmospheric ammonia concentration in poultry houses are litter conditions and air movement (ventilation). Poor ventilation, loose droppings, and faulty, over filled or low positioned drinkers are common causes of wet litter in poultry houses. High levels of ammonia have a negative impact on overall livability, weight gain, feed conversion, condemnation rate at processing and the immune system of the birds.
Proper litter management and ventilation will minimize ammonia levels, improve productivity, reduce the likelihood of respiratory diseases,
improve the birds’ welfare and provide a pleasant, safe environment for workers. The problem is that many broiler producers have difficulty in measuring ammonia concentration in an affordable, reliable, and consistent way. Without measurement, they are unaware of harmful levels of ammonia in their houses and how to control it.
There are a number of tools available to producers that can help them determine ammonia levels in their houses. While some cost hundreds of dollars and require frequent calibration, there are a number of low cost, easy to use and relatively accurate options that can be used to determine whether ammonia has reached harmful levels (Table 1).