Ammonia is a gas. It is highly soluble in water when it comes in contact with the inner lining (mucous membrane) of the respiratory tract following inhalation, or in contact with the eyes. It dissolves in the mucus (the liquid produced by the mucous membrane) and produces a highly irritating chemical substance ammonium hydroxide, which produces very damaging effects.
Ammonia production in a poultry shed depends on:
- Inadequate ventilation. Improper ventilation “can lead to wet litter. Ammonia fumes develop in wet litter and droppings.
- Wet litter (increased moisture). When litter moisture is between 20 – 25%, ammonia is usually not produced. Ammonia production starts when moisture exceeds 30% and increases further as the temperature rises. Wet litter exposes to more coccidiosis.
Harmful Effects of Ammonia
- Ammonia damages the respiratory system and thus predisposes to infections, such as E.. coli infection,
infectious coryza, and Ranikhet disease.
- Decreases growth rate.
- Ammonia also reduces body weight and feed efficiency.
- Ammonia reduces feed consumption and growth rate. Egg production could also be affected.
Ammonia, in a concentration of 150 ppm and above, sometimes causes ‘ammonia blindness’ in broilers, also known as ‘ammonia burn’. It is caused by ammonia fumes coming out from poorly managed litter in an ill-ventilated house.
Affected birds keep their eyes closed, stand depressingly with ruffled feathers, and are reluctant to move. The eyelids are swollen. The condition usually affects both eyes. Affected birds do not eat and become weak.
- Ensure proper ventilation.
- Ensure proper litter management.