Poultry farmer wears mask among the chickens

Poultry farmer wears mask among the chickens

23 October 2023

Dust from manure and feathers can be unhealthy and cause so-called pigeon fanciers’ lung. Poultry farmers with aviary systems are particularly at risk. FFP2/FFP3 dust masks are not really sufficient. That’s why poultry farm Marpa, owned by Paul and Maria Geens in the Flemish town of Hoogstraten, uses Arbin Kite air hoods, which provide much higher protection.

In the middle of a beautiful Flemish agricultural landscape between Hoogstraten and its neighbouring village of Wortel, we found the modern and sustainable laying hen farm Marpa and spoke to poultry farmer Paul Geens and Jarno Lambreghts of Arbin Safety Products. Geens has 170,000 laying hens: 110,000 at the main site in Hoogstraten and 60,000 in Rijkevorsel. He has both brown (the majority) and white hens.

“My parents had a farm with dairy cattle and poultry in Hoogstraten,” says Geens (58). “That farm was continued by my brother. I started from scratch here in 1993 with 60,000 cage hens. In 2004, everything was shut down. I then built a free-range stable for 20,000 hens. In 2012, we converted the cage barn into free-range.” In 2016, a free-range stable for 58,000 hens was built across the street, and in 2016, a free-range stable for 60,000 hens was built in Rijkevorsel. Although all chickens at Marpa enjoy free-range access, today there are two barns inside due to the more difficult sale of free-range eggs due to bird flu. In addition to Paul Geens and his wife Maria, Marpa employs four other staff members.

Many masks tested

As a true professional, Geens also considers his health and that of his people. “We used to use regular dust masks, but then we heard from various sources that they weren’t sufficient because there’s so much more dust in free-range systems,” says Geens. “So, I started looking, mainly on the internet, and we tried out several. Some seemed good at first but ultimately didn’t meet our needs. Finally, we ended up with Arbin, and since 2021, we’ve been using the Arbin Kite air hoods. We always use them when we enter the barn, especially for inspections. For cleaning the barns, we use a different model with a long hose, which is strapped around the body,” Geens adds.

When we entered the barn with Geens, masked of course, the dust was immediately noticeable, as is always the case in free-range systems. But that doesn’t necessarily indicate the harmfulness of that dust. It’s mainly the proteins from feathers and dried droppings of the chickens that are harmful. They cause pigeon fanciers’ lung, or in correct medical terms, ‘extrinsic allergic alveolitis’. Measurements in test barns have shown that dust concentrations are much higher in aviaries than in cage systems. Although removing bedding regularly reduces coarse dust, fine dust particles remain present.

According to Jarno Lambreghts, the Arbin Kite air hoods offer the highest level of protection. Geens agrees. The air hoods are supplied-air systems with a motor unit and a filter, so the wearer doesn’t feel resistance from the filter. In addition to providing high protection, it provides a cooling flow of fresh air within the mask. The mask doesn’t hinder the wearer in their tasks, even though they may take up a lot of time.

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