Insulated mobile poultry housing is giving a 35% energy saving on an organic chicken farm in Devon.

Cathy and Ben Wetherden used to rear chicks in uninsulated converted cattle sheds, where they would aim to maintain a temperature of 28C. “It was a struggle to keep the rest of the shed warm so we had to confine the chicks under the brooder to prevent them from wandering off and getting chilled,” explained Cathy.

In very cold weather the brooders would have to remain on until the pullets were five weeks old, resulting in 1000 litres of LPG being used for every 2500 pullets reared.

Gas consumption

However, since moving from the Carey valley to a new farm at Hittisleigh, they have invested in 18 fully-insulated mobile poultry arks from ARM Buildings. Despite these being situated over 183m (600ft) above sea level, gas consumption has dropped significantly.

Since the arks are mobile, more expensive bottled gas has to be used. This costs £32.96 per 47kg bottle but because the buildings are so efficient, only 1.5 bottles are used for each 9.1×5.5m (30×18 ft) house which holds 500 pullets.

“The brooders are always off by four weeks, even in really cold weather,” commented Cathy.

“But one of the greatest benefits is that we don’t have to move the chicks from a brooder to a rearing house with all the stress that entails. They have access to the entire ark from day one because the whole house is warm.

“I calculate that the financial saving, factoring in the rental of the old bulk tank, is roughly 35% per bird, despite the increased cost of gas. At current prices, this probably amounts to well over £20 per batch per house.”