Power Washer’s Guidebook Agriculture—Cleaning Poultry Houses, Part II

Power Washer’s Guidebook: Agriculture—Cleaning Poultry Houses, Part II

By Terri Perrin / Published January 2024

Contract Cleaner Pressure Cleaning Poultry House

Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a two-part article. Part I of “Cleaning Poultry Houses” was published in the December 2023 issue and can be read here: Pressure Washer’s Guidebook: Agriculture – Cleaning Poultry Houses Part I

Chemicals—From time to time, a grower will need the poultry houses treated with disinfectant. Be aware that birds are very sensitive to chemical odors. Normally water alone accomplishes the job of cleaning, but not disinfecting, a poultry house. It is important to wash the entire poultry house first, and then apply the disinfectant to the clean surfaces.

If a producer wants you to use a disinfectant or insecticide, the producer will usually supply it for you. If asked to apply any chemicals, you would definitely need to wear appropriate respiratory PPE, such as an N-95 (or similar) mask.

Disease Prevention—Moving from farm to farm, the most common precaution that has to be taken is with regard to Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT)—an acute, highly contagious respiratory disease primarily affecting chickens. (See sidebar on page 50.) If ILT has been identified in a chicken house, it is recommended that Quatricide® detergent/disinfectant be used to rinse off any areas of your equipment (tires, hoses, etc.) that may have come in contact with the litter/floor, as well as your rubber boots and rain suit, once the job is completed. (Keep Quatricide® in your vehicle.) Soiled clothes must go into a plastic bag, be tied up, and then be washed immediately once you get home.

In an online article published by Compressed Air Best Practices Magazine®, Nancy Aulisa writes the following:

Formaldehyde is [also] widely used by the poultry industry, as a disinfectant in brooder houses, hatcheries and hatchery vehicles. It is highly effective in the reduction of contamination levels caused by bacteria, viruses and molds throughout the production process. Using formaldehyde as the primary disinfection agent will control key organisms, such as Salmonella, Pseudomonas, Proteus, E. coli, H. capsulatum, Staphylococcus, Streptococci and Aspergillus.

But be aware that formaldehyde is highly toxic to humans, regardless of the method of intake (i.e., via skin contact, ingestion, or inhalation). “At room temperature it is a colorless gas characterized by a pungent odor,” explains Aulisa. “Even with very short-term exposure, formaldehyde will cause irritation to the eyes, including pain, redness, and blurred vision; followed by sneezing, soreness, coughing, shortness of breath, headaches, and nausea. Exposure to elevated levels can lead to accumulation of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema).” Obviously, if you are asked to use formaldehyde, get some training from your product representative, talk to the poultry producer, and be sure to wear appropriate PPE!

Read the full article at www.airbestpractices.com/industries/food/formaldehyde-monitoring-poultry-industry.


Just because a grower says he or she has cleaned the tunnel fans themselves does not mean the fans have been thoroughly cleaned. The dirtier the fan, the more time it takes to clean it. Be wary of the owner-cleaned houses, which in some cases can be exceptionally dirty. Inspect the components carefully before committing to a technique or agreement with the owner.


Billing depends on the current market in the region where the work is being done. Most contractors charge by the piece, but be aware of the grower’s environment. The dirtier the surface is, the higher the charge is.

For example, tunnel fans are $10 each, brooders $2 each, stir fans $2 each, water lines $45 to $60 per house, wall wash $45–$60 per house, tunnel curtains/doors $30–$50 per house, and vent doors $4 each. A whole house wash down starts at $1.25 per linear foot, depending on how dirty the houses are. Most poultry farms will have at least two houses, while four to six is common, and a few have 12 houses.

Chickens inside Poultry Houses

If you are going to spend a lot of time serving chicken farms, they are usually all in the same geographical area, close to feed mills and/or processing plants. Factor in the cost of fuel/ travel expenses. It is not unreasonable to charge 50 cents a mile.


Always carry a grease gun, high-quality grease, and a spray lube. The price charged for washing fans can include greasing the bearing blocks and lubing belt tensioners.

It is important to listen to the grower describe what he or she wants cleaned and then ask questions. By assessing the overall environment and the state of the components, one can make suggestions on cleaning other areas, too.

While you will seldom get requests for any exterior cleaning, it does happen. Frost recalls that this past summer, McDonald’s restaurant corporate team members were planning a tour of some local farms. The poultry producer requested the sidewalks and the concrete pads by the feed silos, etc. be cleaned in advance.

Find something that you can do for free that is advantageous to the grower. You can begin with giving feedback. If components are worn or not working properly, reporting this to the grower is usually greatly appreciated.

The entrance to the poultry house can get pretty crusty, and your client would be happy to see it cleaned up. Supplying something a little extra that they don’t pay for is good business.

Look at empty Poultry House


There is a lot of electrical equipment inside poultry houses. Whether it is a 220-V outlet or an electric motor for a tunnel fan, stir fans, light fixtures, open receptacles, thermostats, solenoids, etc., care must be taken to locate the breakers for each electrical link. Turn off the circuit breakers. (Note: Most everything manufactured for poultry house use is sealed against dust and water. That does not mean the grower has maintained these, so always be wary.)

Be sure to develop a strategy for proper ventilation during the cleaning process. The small vents along the side of the chicken house and one door at the cool cell end may not be sufficient to counter long exposure to the ammonia given off by decaying organic matter, such as chicken droppings.

Up close look at pressure washing gun


Arrive at a good understanding with the owner before beginning a job. Determine what will be cleaned and what expectations the owner has.


Brad Frost founded Sud n Clean Power Washing in Arkadelphia, AR, in 2009. Soon after discovering Cleaner Times magazine, he learned about and joined the PWNA. His company has grown to encompass residential and commercial house washing and flat washing, as well as poultry houses.

The National Chicken Council (NCC) is a non-profit trade association that serves as the voice for the U.S. broiler chicken industry.


There are several diseases that can occur with birds, but they are very rare. The two that most lay people are aware of (and can pronounce) are avian influenza (bird flu) and salmonellosis.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) explains that avian influenza, or “bird flu,” refers to the disease caused by infection with bird influenza Type A viruses. These viruses naturally spread among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. Bird flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with bird flu viruses have occurred.

People usually get salmonellosis by eating contaminated food, such as chicken or eggs. However, many different species of animals—including poultry, reptiles, amphibians, and farm animals—can carry salmonella and pass it in their feces. Baby chicks and ducklings are especially likely to pass salmonella to people.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA), human infection [from most zoonotic avian diseases] usually occurs by direct contact if one receives a bite from an infected bird, or indirectly by inhaling dust from the feathers or excrement of birds. Knowing this, proper ventilation and PPE may be required Photo by when working in poultry houses.


If you’re planning to work in this agricultural sector, it’s imperative that you know a little about poultry. While we can’t answer the age-old question—which came first, the chicken or the egg?—we can provide some insight into common terms you may encounter on the job.

“I wish I had had a reference list like this when I started working with poultry producers,” says Frost with a laugh. “It may have saved me a few embarrassing moments as I learned the industry jargon and got to know my customers better!”

Poultry includes any domesticated bird kept for producing eggs or meat, such as chickens, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, turkeys, and Rock Cornish hens; game birds such as pheasant, squab, and guinea fowl; as well as ostrich, emu, and rhea.

  • Chicken—a generic term used to describe both male and female birds
  • Broilers, roasters, and fryers—meat birds
  • Layers—hens that produce eggs
  • Eggs are classified as poultry, not dairy products
  • Chick or peep—a baby chicken
  • Hen—female over 12 months old
  • Pullet—female under 12 months of age
  • Rooster or Cock—male over 12 months of age
  • Cockerel—a male under 12 months of age
  • Comb—the fleshy, red outgrowth on top of a chicken’s head. The comb is primarily for display, but it also serves to cool the bird in hot weather. In hens, the comb is an indicator of egg production status. Roosters have larger combs.
  • Wattle—the elongated fleshy skin that hangs under the beak
  • Brood—to care for baby chicks or eggs but may also refer to a group of chicks

To “finish” a bird means the completion of growth, ideal weight, ideal size, and perfection of plumage.

Chickens can fly for short distances—enough to clear obstacles or reach a perch.

A group (or barnful) of chickens is called a flock.

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