Commercial hatcheries typically infuse hydrogen peroxide or formaldehyde gas into hatching cabinets to reduce airborne pathogens that may lead to disease transmission during the hatch. A nonchemical option, an electrostatic space charge system (ESCS), was customized for full-sized commercial hatching cabinets and was tested extensively in broiler hatcheries. The ESCS cleans air by transferring a strong negative electrostatic charge to dust and microorganisms that are aerosolized during the hatch and collecting the charged particles on grounded plates or surfaces. In studies with three poultry companies, the ESCS resulted in significant (P < 0.0001) reductions of airborne dust of 77%–79%, in Enterobacteriaceae and fungus levels not significantly different (P ≥ 0.05) from those with formaldehyde, and in 93%–96% lower Enterobacteriaceae than with no treatment or with hydrogen peroxide treatment (P < 0.01). The ESCS significantly (P < 0.05) reduced airborne Salmonella by 33%–83% compared with no treatment or hydrogen peroxide treatment.
Results of this study suggest that the ESCS is a viable alternative to chemical treatment for reducing airborne pathogens in full-sized commercial hatchers, and it also provides dust control and containment, which should be helpful in reducing cross contamination and loading of ventilation ducts within different areas of the hatchery.