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Langley youth wins 4-H Canada Science Fair

Mac Dykeman’s project tested different additives for chicken bedding to reduce ammonia levels
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Mac Dykeman, daughter of Langley MLA Megan Dykeman, is a winner of the 4-H Canada Science Fair for her project exploring an innovative approach to reducing ammonia in chicken bedding.

Ammonia in chicken coops forms from the breakdown of uric acid and feces in the litter. While this occurs year round, the amount of ammonia builds due to the limited amount of fresh air in the barn in the winter.

Dykeman’s project tested the effectivenes of Prussian Blue and Prussian Blue, plus Biochar as an ammonia control additive for chicken bedding, and she found that Prussian Blue can adsorb ammonia while Biochar has no effect.

“Closer to the ground is where all the ammonia is gathering and it can affect the chickens because they are much closer to the ground, so that means having the windows open in the barn doesn’t deal with the majority of ammonia at the floor,” Dykeman said.

Currently, bedding additives Alum and Zeolite are used, but are harmful to chickens and humans.

Living on a poultry farm made Dykeman aware of the effect ammonia has on chickens, and she became increasingly aware of the environmental pollutant impacts as well.

Some negative effects of ammonia on chickens include respiratory tract damage, skin and eye irritation, and decrease in their ability to lay eggs.

RELATED: Langley youth walks home with two awards at national level science fair

“This is why I wanted to explore a bedding additive, because if ammonia is close to the ground having a solution in the bedding seemed more logical than having an ammonia capture system up on the wall.”

Ammonia is measured in parts per million, ppm, which is the mass of a chemical per unit volume of water. In Canada, the acceptable limit for ammonia levels in a barn is 25 ppm — although research varies on that number — and 50 ppm for humans during an average eight hour workday.

“Now I’m working on refining an innovative way to integrate the Prussian Blue with the beds that’s more commercially viable. This test was in a smaller capacity, so for large commerical poultry operations, how do we get the Prussian Blue in the bedding.”

Dykeman and the other winners will move onto the Canada Wide Science Fair, which takes place in Edmonton, Alta. from May 14 to 19, where they will compete and present their projects.

IN OTHER NEWS: Canada gets its first hands-free vertical farming facility

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Kyler Emerson

About the Author: Kyler Emerson

I'm excited to start my journalism career in Langley and meet our community.
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