I know many people doing poultry micro-projects. Broiler production is the most popular with small holders, because of the quick turnover of capital that it affords. While you make profits quickly, you can make losses equally fast if you are not an efficient farmer! Today we talk about areas where you can get it wrong, and how to avoid those slip-ups.
Your aim/target is to produce a healthy 2kg+ after about 6-7 weeks of feeding.
So what can go wrong?
1. You buy genetically-inferior birds:- This is a common error, especially for beginners. Where broiler day olds are scarce, it is tempting to buy from anyone selling day-old chicks. It is difficult to distinguish poor breeds from the good ones at day old, so the solution is to buy from a trusted source. In this business, reputation counts. If you are starting, ask your neighbours where they get their stock, and who to avoid!
2. Poor brooding practices:-The first 4 weeks are important, as they give the foundation for your enterprise. So you absolutely need to get this right. You can refresh your memory here:https://livestockmatters.blog/2019/03/18/chick-brooding-part-1/
3. Prevent diseases/Maintain health:-So many things could go wrong. But you need to keep special attention on stock density; floors; ventilation; biosecurity; and temperature. Some of these areas were touched in another post before, so we discuss a few issues below.
Floors/bedding:- If the broilers are on deep litter, ensure that your floor has good bedding material. This could be anything from grass straw, wood shavings etc. Whatever material you choose to use, it must be: non-toxic; not dusty or fine particles (avoid saw-dust!); dry; absorbent and cheaply/locally available. Bedding materials should not be a big cost; it should be “free” if possible.
Wet bedding:-Wet bedding can predispose your birds to diseases (Coccidiosis in particular), chilling/cold and ammonia gas accumulation especially when ventilation is poor. If your bedding gets wet too quickly, check your water system/avoid water spillages; avoid overcrowding; and quickly remove wet bedding and replace it with dry one.
Ventilation:-This is one of the key areas where farmers need to be careful. I know there must be a trade-off between ventilation and heat/warmth. Poor ventilation predisposes your animal to respiratory infections. You will agree with me that the commonest ailments in broilers are respiratory. Avoid stuffy/stale air, open windows from time to time; and take care of the bedding!
- Keep birds of different age groups separate.
- Admit only essential visitors on the site: they must wear protective clothing.
- Put foot dips with disinfectants at all entrances into the chicken house to reduce spreading disease pathogens.
- Keep out wild birds (bird proofing) and rodents.
- Dispose litter and dead birds far from chicken houses. Dead birds should be burnt or buried.
- Cull any sick birds and where possible, have a diagnosis done at a veterinary laboratory.
4. All-in, all out:-this is a special part of bio-security, but dealt separately because of its importance. This principle simply means that each poultry house should have one batch/age group of chicks at a time. After they are grown and marketed, disinfect the house thoroughly, and rest it for +- 14 days before introducing another batch. This is done to ensure that any pathogens from the preceding batch are not carried over to the new batch.
Feeding:-This is so critical that I will dedicate a full post for this in the next instalment.
For a useful general discussion on animal welfare, you can check this post: https://livestockmatters.blog/2019/03/21/animal-welfare-good-for-them-good-for-you-too/
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