Cleaning in the Era of Cage-Free Layer Housing

Posted by Jones-Hamilton Co. on Jul 14, 2020
Jones-Hamilton Co.

Layer housing has changed dramatically in recent years with the U.S. egg industry adjusting to the demands of companies that have pledged to source only cage-free eggs. Approximately 18-20% of egg production in the U.S. is now cage-free with more producers slated to make the change in five to six years.

The shift in housing type brings with it new challenges in cleaning as thorough cleaning is only possible after birds move out. Hens remain in the house for up to 80+ weeks. While many houses provide outdoor access for birds which decreases the amount of manure buildup, the length of time birds are in the house allows a significant amount of manure, dust, feed, and other organic matter to accumulate.


In addition, the number of birds in layer houses is high as compared to breeder houses since capacity is based on available roost space. High levels of dust accumulate due to the number of birds combined with the presence of the scratch area, which generates dust from the dirt floor. 

With the independent nature of the layer industry, cage-free houses are diverse in their build. Unlike most broiler houses which exchange air through tunnel ventilation, air exchange in layer houses often occurs with attic fans or other methods that do not remove dust from the environment. A significant amount of dust accumulates on exhaust fans, cables, and winch-controlled equipment such as cables, chain feeders, and waterlines. Dust or feather-covered fans have significantly decreased air moving capacity, especially if the dust becomes wet. Fans may become unable to reach target rotation speeds, which can be very detrimental to ventilation efficiency.

Plus, manure is easily stuck to equipment such as nest mats, slats, and roost pipes on top of feeders and drinkers which can reduce equipment longevity. While some growers will blow dust off equipment with birds in the house, many wait until downtime to clean. Last, a top goal in every layer house is to have cleaner eggs. Since the conditions in the layer house also affects the cleanliness of the collected eggs, working toward a cleaner production environment can help with this goal.

Simplify Cleaning with SWASH™ Products 

With just three to four weeks of downtime between flocks, layer producers have a lot to do to prepare for the next 80+ weeks. Tools to simplify and streamline the cleaning process can cut down on labor and improve cleanliness for the next flock. 

SWASH™ is a proprietary liquid that inhibits the ability of dust, soil, and other organic matter to build up on surfaces, increasing the efficiency of cleaning processes and improving overall hygiene. In layer houses, producers can benefit from several products in the SWASH™ product line for use on:

  • Cool cell pads. Dirt and mineral build-up can increase utility bills due to inefficient airflow. When added to clean sump water, SWASHCOOL-CELL works to extend life and maximize the efficiency of pads.
  • Exhaust fans, attic fans, feed, and water lines. When applied to thoroughly clean surfaces, SWASHDUST-REPEL creates a barrier that keeps dust from adhering and makes dust that does stick easily to rinse off while also deterring condensation to prevent dust from turning into the thick cake that can impact ventilation equipment performance.
  • Slats, nests, egg belts, roost pipes. After thoroughly cleaning, apply SWASHHOUSE to help shorten time-intensive cleaning processes without sacrificing cleaning standards or introducing corrosive or hazardous products. SWASHHOUSE reduces the buildup of manure and other moist organic matter, decreasing cleaning time, and improving hygiene. When birds step in manure and then transfer the material to pipes, corrosion can occur. SWASHHOUSE creates a barrier that helps extend the life of equipment; a barrier that remains until removed with high-pressure water. 
  • Egg room equipment. While layer houses are cleaned intermittently, egg rooms are cleaned daily to combat the build-up of feathers, manure, and other organic material in an effort to keep eggs clean. Depending on the surface, several SWASH™ products could be used to maintain a cleaner environment and help prepare surfaces for the application of registered disinfectants.

What cage-free cleaning challenges do you face?

We want to hear from you! What are the biggest cleaning challenges you face in the cage-free environment and what processes work best for you? 

Topics: SWASH


SWASH™ is owned by Jones-Hamilton Co., a leading provider of science-backed solutions to the animal agriculture industry. Led by industry veterans who understand the challenges faced by producers, the SWASH™ team is dedicated to providing reliable, high-quality chemicals backed by dependable customer service and knowledgeable technical support. Our team knows that every penny matters and works continuously to ensure value, maximize efficacy, and enhance the bottom line.


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