Preface content

The Houghton Facility

The Houghton Facility is a Specific Pathogen Free (SPF) hatchery that allows The Pirbright Institute to hatch and grow poultry under clean conditions. 

This facility maintains the disease-free status of the birds for use in animal experiments to study viral disease important to the welfare of chickens and ultimately to ensure security of food supply for the UK.

Part of a £350m investment by BBSRC, the £4m Houghton Facility is a purpose-built animal facility dedicated to the incubation, hatching and growth of SPF chickens supplied as embryonated eggs from the Roslin Institute’s National Avian Research Facility (NARF) Bumstead Building in Edinburgh, or other commercial supplier, in support of the Institute’s avian research. 

The SPF eggs (tissues / cells) from hatched SPF chicks and birds are utilised by avian scientists in researching pathogens detrimental to poultry health and industry. 

Specialist equipment

  • A building working under positive pressure.
  • One Incubation room with the capacity for incubating 320 eggs per week.
  • Hatchery with the capacity for hatching 300 fertilised eggs per week.
  • Four rearing rooms with the capacity for accommodating live chicks, up to three weeks of age.
  • Vaporised Hydrogen Peroxide (VHP) fumigation chamber; to fumigate all equipment and feed entering the SPF.


The Houghton Facility, Cambridgeshire
The Houghton Facility is named after the Poultry Research Station that was started at Houghton Grange, Cambridgeshire from 1948.  In 1986 the Houghton site was incorporated into the new Institute for Animal Health before its closure in 1992 and staff and new facilities were provided at the Compton, Berkshire site.  The Institute has a long history of working in poultry disease and this has been captured in naming the new facility.


For further information please contact:
The Pirbright Institute
Ash Road
GU24 0NF

Trim content

® The Pirbright Institute 2024 | A company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 559784. The Institute is also a registered charity.