Experienced pullet farmers know the first three days is the most critical time in a chicken’s life. And in colder winter climates the right insulation of the pullet starter house can make all the difference in the profitability of raising healthy chickens. Greg Fortkamp, a third-generation poultry farmer in Fort Recovery, OH, (avg. Jan. low 15 degrees F/avg. high 32 degrees F) used AgriThane high performance spray foam insulation (SPF) by U.S. company, NCFI Polyurethanes on his 48 ft. x 305 ft., metal, cage-free pullet house to ensure more of his 30,000 pullets survive and get the best possible start to life.
“Baby chicks are unable to thermoregulate their body temperature,” says Fortkamp, whose pullets come in at a fragile one-day old. “They need a well-regulated and consistent thermal comfort zone. The temperature must be maintained between ambient temperatures of 88 degrees F to 92 degree F, and humidity levels of 60 percent or higher. That can’t be done without SPF insulation.”
Fortkamp says “cage-free” pullet houses, or a barn structure in which the pullets are not kept in cages and allowed to range freely in the space, are high maintenance. “Cage-free allows for more comfort behavior, which is important for body maintenance such as stretching, flapping, shaking, and preening, and there’s more opportunity for natural stimulation, but is hard to regulate and keep consistent.” According to Fortkamp cage-free buildings require the farmer to plan well, and fully insulate and ventilate the building.
Fortkamp says he chose AgriThane for four “great” reasons: “I own an insulation company, Fortkamp Foam, so I’ve seen first-hand how SPF comes out of the spray gun, fills every crack and crevice, and cures in place to form a monolithic building envelope. This spray-in-place insulation seals air leaks and doesn’t require a separate vapor or water barrier. It allows building ventilation to work the way it was designed.”
Secondly, he says, “I know and trust NCFI. They pioneered SPF foam in the 1960s, so they know their products and they know application. Their customer support for guys like me is the best. AgriThane is a great winter foam—better than any other foam I’ve used.”
Thirdly, “It provides excellent insulation and gives farmers better control of temperature and humidity. That greatly the reduces mortality rate of pullets, meaning we end up with more healthy hens.”
Last, but certainly not least, “It saves big money. We put our first group of pullets through in 2008 and we used between 700-750 gals of propane. This year, in single digit temperatures, we used only 110 gals. That’s over 80 percent savings thanks to AgriThane, and help from an updated ventilation system, that goes right to the bottom-line.”
Fortkamp’s father built his first layer house when his son was only one-year-old. “My grandpa had poultry houses in the early 70s on. So, I’m just carrying on a family tradition.” He continues, “This barn was built in the 1980s as a cage layer house then remodeled in 2007 as a cage-free pullet starter house. We had some major wind damage in 2009, and that’s when I decided to use AgriThane to insulate the steel siding.”