Shatter Resistant Bulbs Danger to Poultry

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany who think their use of shatter resistant bulbs in raising chicks should rethink their decision. The bulbs can actually be the source of toxic fumes that can kill birds.

The use of shatter resistant, or safety coated, bulbs sounds like a good idea. Certainly a drop of water on a hot bulb can be dangerous and unpleasant too. However, these shatter resistant bulbs have, or may have, a coating made of polytetraflouroethylene (PTFE). As they heat up the bulbs release fumes that normally don’t bother us, but are deadly to birds.

Pet bird owners have received other warnings about PTFE dangers in non-stick pans, which when heated can pose a danger to pet birds. However, most chicken owners don’t have birds in the home, save for chicks in cold weather.

A Missouri research facility lost 2,400 broiler birds in 1999 , with no trace of disease or changes in management except for the installation of 48 treated heat lamp bulbs. Within 24 hours mortality was 52% of the flock, with some birds dying in just hours. Tests were run for carbon monoxide and other toxins, but no one thought of the new heat bulbs.

Too often the only affects seen are dead birds. Some may show signs of rapid eyelid blinking, possibly due to irritation, or incoordination and inability to stand. Once deceased a postmortem often shows lesions and congested lungs, but there is no test on live birds. Symptoms may show themselves very suddenly, especially in situations such as the closed area of brooders.

PTFE has been used around the home in a variety of products since the late 1930s. Some people may have sensitivities, but birds are much more susceptible. The toxic gasses take less to cause death in birds, as the capillaries in the lungs begin leaking, essentially suffocating the birds.

While many do not have known PTFE overheated cookware around chickens, the use of heat lamps and bulbs is a factor especially in the spring with young chicks in brooders. Hang lamps safely and choose brands that for sure do not have any PTFE coating in the bulbs.

If you use nonstick cookware in the home and have birds, consider yourself very lucky if you haven’t lost any! It’s the heating of the PTFE that causes issues, and of course young birds need heat for the first couple of weeks.

Research the brands and equipment you use. Your birds depend on it!


Murray McMurray:

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