Chickens in Peril

Electric motors among causes for nationwide poultry deaths

In some cases, we’re forced to “count our chickens” again.

One of these unfortunate situations took place April 26 when an overheated electric motor caused a massive fire at a Connecticut chicken farm. An estimated 80,000 chickens were killed in the incident. These types of fires are more common than one might think—there have been at least 5 reports in the last month alone across the U.S., with various causes—but they are serious and damaging enough at times (like this one) to call for investigation. In Connecticut, a probe is expected to be launched to determine the cause of the fire and confirm there was no foul play.

Prevention is difficult, as these fires appear statistically unavoidable. On the exact same date last year, a Louisiana farm dealt with a fire that killed over 2,000 chickens. In March, an estimated 50,000 chickens—as well as a brand new barn structure—were lost in a blaze in upstate New York with unspecified causes. And the whopper of them all: February 1, 2014 saw firefighters called to an emergency scene at a farm in La Grange, Wis., that ultimately killed from 200,000 to 300,000 chickens. The firefighters had to risk their lives to fight a blaze that threatened private property and public safety, struggling to prevent it from spreading to other barns on the property.

These instances bring into question the durability, maintenance and reliability of electromechanical devices such as the conveyor belt motor mentioned above; and others like poultry feed auger drive systems or direct drive hatchery and incubator fans.

Agricultural applications for electric motors are numerous. Brand name companies manufacture aeration fans for farm grain storage, vacuum pumps for the dairy industry, exhaust fans, motors for crop drying and grain stirring, as well as devices that can power machines like bulk feeders and irrigation towers. It’s hard to say whether these incremental occurrences of overheating, which cause severe damage to farms and animals, are an issue worth prioritizing. A blaze at the same farm in Lebanon, Conn., 27 years ago to the day killed 216,000 chickens. That was also ruled an accident, according to a CBS New York article covering the incident.

There’s also the fact that more than 9 billion chickens, along with half a billion turkeys, are slaughtered for food in the United States each year. This number represents more than 95 percent of the land animals killed for food in the country. Worldwide, more than 50 billion chickens are raised and slaughtered annually, according to Brittanica’s Advocacy for Animals website.

Have any experience with electric motors sales to agricultural recipients, or chicken farms specifically? Do you think this is worthwhile issue? We welcome comments and opinions here on the blog, as well as via e-mail:


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