Rearing Poultry: Rearing is the sum total of all the processes involved in bringing birds to maturity. Rearing of fowl includes: providing suitable housing, feeding and health care for the chicks, growers and adult stock.
Brooding is the term used for the management or caring for the chicks from the first day till they are about six weeks old.
The device used in which the newly hatched chicks are tended by the provision of heat until they develop enough features is called a brooder. The brooder could be in form of a special house called the brooding house.
Preparations for receiving day-old Chicks for Rearing
- Clean and wash brooder house.
- Repair broken or damaged floors, roofs and windows.
- Disinfect brooder house.
- Spread wood shavings to a depth of 6-8 cm in brooder house.
- Provide adequate floor space.
- Provide reliable heat source.
- Stock chick starter feed.
- Wash and dry feeders and drinkers.
- Keep handy a supply of vital medicants e.g. anti-stress.
- Net the windows to keep away flies and rodents.
- Ensure a dry brooder house before chicks arrive.
- Warm up brooder house to 35°C – 39°C before chicks arrive.
- Make a small shallow trench filled with water or engine oil around brooder house to deter soldier ants invasion.
- Place food dip with disinfectant at the entrance of brooder house.
Management Practices for Chicks
The following are management practices involved in rearing chicks from day old to six weeks.
- Clean and disinfect or fumigate the brooding house before the arrival of chicks.
- The floor of the brooder house should be made of concrete and with the walls which must be ratproof.
- Cover the floor with clean woodshavings before the arrival of chicks.
- Make available clean feeders, water troughs, source of heat (stove, lantern or electric bulbs), starter chick mash (feed) and some anti-stress drugs (vitamins and antibiotics).
- Provide warmth (heat energy) with charcoal pot, kerosene lamps and electric bulbs.
- Provide adequate ventilation ., water and feed regularly.
- Raise chicks in brooder houses where heat/warmth is regulated when necessary.
- Make consultations with the veterinary department to draw up programme of vaccination for the chicks.
- Clean the feeders and waterers regularly and replace with new feed and fresh water.
- Ensure a temperature range of 32°C – 35°C, lowered by 0.2°C per day and a relative humidity of 50% to 70%.
- Ensure that day old chicks are allowed to rest very well, well fed and are given anti-stress vitamins on arrival.
- Medicate feed or water with coccidio-stat or anti-coccidiosis at three weeks of age.
- Change beddings /litter regularly (once in two weeks) to avoid the build-up of disease organisms or ammonia.
- Debeak the chicks during the first four weeks if they are pullets.
- Deworm at six weeks (for broilers).
- Isolate or cull sick birds.
- Ensure that post-mortems are carried out on dead chicks.
Reasons for Good Housing in Poultry
Poultry needs good housing because of the following reasons:
- This is to protect birds against adverse weather conditions.
- It is also to protect birds against disease attacks.
- It assists to keep birds in age groups for proper management.
- It protects birds from thieves.
- It protects birds from attack by wild animals and dangerous reptiles like snakes, and from hawks.
- Housing enhances maximum productivity in birds.
- Good housing helps to increase the efficiency of feeding and feed utilization.
- It facilitates management and veterinary care.
The chicks, immediately after hatching, are sent to the brooder house where they receive extra heat, either from stove or electric bulb in order to maintain their body temperature because they do not have sufficient feathers to keep their body warm. As the feathers develop, the temperature is reduced from 39°C to 27°C. The chicks are broodly on littered floor with the house completely covered with rubber sheets which can also permit cross ventilation. Feeds, water and other medications are provided for the chicks up till the end of the 6th week, during which chicks are transferred to the growers’ house.
From the 7th-20th week, the birds, now called growers, are reared in the growers’ house. They are either raised in a deep litter house or in battery cage. The buildings are netted with concrete flooring and proper roofing to ensure the comfort of the birds. From the 21st week, the birds, now called layers, are reared in the layers’ house which is either the deep litter house or the battery cage system, just like the growers.
Feeding: All categories of poultry birds require balanced diet for proper growth and development. Their ration is enriched with proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Cold and clean water is kept in the drinkers while the feeds are kept in the feeders for the birds.
Feeding of the Chicks: The feed given to the chicks is called the chick’s mash which contains high protein of about 18% to promote the rapid growth of the chicks. The feeds are provided “Al-Libitum” which means: the feeds are always in the feeder for the chicks to eat.
Feeding of the Growers: The feed given to the growers is called the grower’s mash. The feed is low in protein (13%) and is given to the birds from the 7th-20th week (of age). The birds are placed on restricted feeding. This means that the feed given to the growers is not always in the feeders because it is regulated or calculated to prevent excessive growth and delay the maturity of the growers. Water is also provided regularly in the drinkers.
Feeding of the layers: The feed given to the layers is called layer’s mash. This is also high in protein (16%) for proper growth and egg formation. In addition, the diet or mash is high in bone meal or oyster shell which provides calcium and phosphorus for the formation of the egg shell. Lack of these minerals results in cracking of the eggs or soft -shelled eggs.
Health care and sanitation: For proper growth and production of the birds, high level of health and sanitation must be maintained from day old chick till maturity of the birds. Administration of drugs, vaccination and sanitation must be carried out. The vaccination programme of the poultry includes:
Apart from these vaccinations, other drugs are given to the birds through water to either prevent or cure certain diseases. Cleanliness of the poultry farm is also necessary.
To ensure proper sanitation:
- Sick or dead birds must be removed from the building.
- Visitors should not be allowed into poultry houses.
- The buildings should be disinfected regularly.
- Water bath containing chemicals should be provided where visitors and workers must dip their legs before entering into the poultry house.
- Drinkers should be washed thoroughly.
- Wet litters and mouldy feeds should be detected quickly and removed.
- External parasites like lice should be controlled by dipping birds in solutions containing chemicals to kill the parasites.
- Internal parasites should also be controlled by regular deworming with certain chemicals to kill the parasites.