Managing young broiler chicks for optimum performance
If the grower gets the temperature, ventilation, lighting, feed and water right, the birds will have the best possible start in life.
Every day-old broiler placed in the growing house is an investment. It is similar to buying a share in a company with the expectation of yielding a dividend, in this case, at the end of the growing cycle. The care given this fast growing bird in the first seven days has a direct effect on the potential financial returns it will yield.
Seven days represents about 20% of the life of today's broiler. This is a significant period of time in this context, and one during which the care and attention given the young chick is possibly the most critical in its short life.
During this period, the chicken's behaviour and growth patterns are established. It is 'make-or-break' time for the grower to get it right and set the birds on their way. Any failure here will have a dramatic effect on lifetime performance.
When placed in a shed with thousands of similar bodies, the young chick has to learn quickly what to do. Fortunately, chickens are precocious, but even with this attribute young chicks are vulnerable and need our help in providing a suitable environment for their well-being.
What is a suitable environment? Broadly, this can be defined as the combination of conditions in which an organism lives. It covers internal factors such as infection and physical malfunctions as well as external factors such as temperature, light, water and feed.
The major external factors are controlled by the grower and it is always beneficial to review how these can be combined to increase productivity.
Preparing the house
To create as clean an environment as possible, the house needs to be cleaned and disinfected between batches. This means removing all the used litter, washing and disinfecting the shed and equipment and letting it remain vacant for as long as possible. New litter is placed in the shed, feeders and drinkers are installed, heaters and lights are checked and ventilation tested before the chicks are placed.
A vital factor at every stage is farm biosecurity. It is essential to keep strict control over people entering the poultry house after the cleaners and litter suppliers have done their work. Only poultry workers and authorised people should be allowed to enter. Biosecurity has increased in importance at farm level in recent times due to the fear of the spread of exotic disease throughout the world.
Having created an environment as disease-free as possible, the next stage is looking after the areas that will have an influence on the broilers performance. These include temperature, light, air speed, stocking density, feed and water.