Chicken Farmers to Try Trees to Cut Odors
SALISBURY, Md. Chicken farmer Sang Park pays to have his poultry houses cleaned three times a year. But his neighbors still complain about the odor from his operation.
"They don't like chicken houses," Park said. "They say they smell bad, but depending on the wind direction and temperature, you can only smell them a couple of hundred feet away."
Resident Darrell McFadden disagreed. He said that on hot summer mornings he regrets moving to the Lower Shore from Baltimore.
"We came here for some fresh air, but we certainly didn't get that," McFadden told The (Salisbury) Daily Times.
A collaboration between Delmarva Poultry Industry and the University of Delaware may bring a solution.
University researchers found that planting trees around chicken houses can reduce odor. A $52,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will pay for a full-time employee and equipment to start planting trees by next spring.
Bill Satterfield, executive director of the industry group, said DPI will supplement the grant with free consultations for growers interested in reducing odor.
He said new ventilation systems have been replacing older models in recent years to provide more fresh air for the flock, thereby promoting better egg production. But those ventilation systems may cause worsen the smell for humans outside, he said.
A study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency found that poultry farms account for 26.7 percent of ammonia emissions from manmade sources, according to the Virginia Cooperative Extension.
By capturing those emissions, Satterfield said the trees help improve air quality overall.
But some local residents are not optimistic that DPI's program will make their environment odor-free.
"They might block the view of the houses, but they're not offensive to me. The unattractive part is the smell," said Stanley Morris of Salisbury, who used to live next to a chicken house. "It's only going to help if they plant 100 acres of rose bushes."
Salisbury resident Shane Casey said poultry farms near his home were already there when he moved in two years ago, so he can't complain about the smell.
"It's actually not as bad as we thought it would be," he said. "I don't think it smells that much, but it could be because I've gotten used to it."
Satterfield said the trees could have an extra benefit besides smell reduction. Should avian flu appear on another chicken farm on the peninsula, trees could be natural barriers to reduce the spread of dust or feathers to other farms, maybe cutting back on disease spread.
He said there's no reason to worry the trees would attract wild birds, possibly creating a transmission route for avian flu to get in the food supply.
"Those wild birds would not get into our chicken houses, so the chances are slim to none it would get to the houses," said Satterfield, who pointed out that poultry workers wear special shoes inside the houses to prevent tracking in disease from outside.
Satterfield said the tree plantings could take several years to reach all 2,000 poultry farms on the peninsula.
Source: Associated Press