Rearing chickens for meat (broilers) is a venture that is worth trying out. Broilers grow fast and are ready for slaughter at 20 weeks. Also, the demand for poultry products is huge. Depending on the consumers’ preferences broilers are sold at between 1.3kgs and 3kgs.
The following tips will help as you start rearing broilers:
Before you begin, establish where or to whom you will sell to ensure timely and regular orders. Birds are graded based on hygiene and valuable meat areas such as large breasts and thighs. They should look appealing when dressed with no skin imperfections or broken wing feathers.
Buy your chicks from a reputable company such as Kenchick and prepare their quarters well before bringing them.
- Disinfect house and place brooder rings inside to prevent drafts and keep the birds warm. Rings can be bought or prepared at home using card boxes or plywood. Place drinkers in the brooder and ensure they always have water. Put a little liquid paraffin in their drinking water to help the birds digest feed better for the first three to five days to improve digestion.
- Change in environment stress the chicks. To reduce this, give them some milk. Also, add some multivitamins and glucose to their drinking water so that they remain strong and energetic.
- Place the feed for the newly hatched chicks on the feeder lids or plastic trays in the ratio of one lid per 100 chicks, or spread on papers placed on the floor to encourage young birds to eat.
- Gradually, remove the feeder lids or trays and replace them with adult feeders by the time the birds are 10 days old. Brood broilers in a small portion of the house before allowing access to the entire house. Divide the house such that 33 per cent of the cage is for two to fourweek- old chicks and 66 per cent space is for four to eight-week-old broilers. Cover the floor with litter made of straw, wood shavings, or some other material that absorbs moisture.
- At eight to 10 weeks, each bird should occupy a space of at least one square foot. After 10 weeks, each will need at least two to three square feet. Do not provide perches for broilers. They should not perch, as this can cause deformities in the legs and breast.
Some key points to note are:
i) Provide room to grow: Meat-bred chicks need a dry, clean, draft-free location, large enough to accommodate their fast-growing bodies. The recommended space is ½ a square foot per bird for the first week;
ii) Get the right bedding: Special bedding or litter is used in the brooder to absorb droppings and help the chicks stay warm. Cover the floor room with litter, 3 to 4 inches deep. Daily, remove any clamped litter so that it absorbs moisture better and lasts longer. You may need to empty the litter every week. Chicks may mistake small sawdust particles for food so avoid using them until they are about one week old;
iii) Keep the brooder house warm: Aheat source is a non-negotiable piece of equipment in broiler rearing. Secure the light to prevent contact with the combustible bedding. 24-hour lighting increases feeding time, weight-gain and helps broilers’ feathers to come out faster. Familiarise them with darkness by occasionally switching off the lights for 10-15 minutes to prevent panic or death by trampling on one another in the event of a power blackout;
iv) Regulate brooder house temperature: Newly hatched chicks need to be under temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius during the first week. Decrease the temp by five degrees every week for the first four weeks. It is advisable to set up your brooder house and heat source a day or two before the chicks arrive. Low temperatures will cause the chicks to huddle together under the heat source. Too much heat will make them scatter away from the source of heat.
v) Provide water for the first two or three days, as chicks do not eat or drink much because they are still using nutrients from the yolk. As you remove chicks from the box or crate, dip the beak in water to familiarise them with it. If the chicks look tired, you can add 1/4 to ½ a cup of sugar per litre of water or some glucose to boost their energy levels. Chicks drown easily, so it is advisable to use small troughs to keep them safe.
You may also put clean pebbles or marbles in the drinkers so that your chicks access the water easily without drowning.
vi) Monitor feeding: Fill the feeder only halfway to avoid wastage. A broiler can consume an average of 5.95kg of feed from day one to the end of the 8th week. As a farmer, you can calculate the feed depending on the number of birds, for example, 5.95 kg times the number of birds. For every gram of feed, you need 2grams of water.
- Day 1-21: Starter mash, each chick will eat 1kg in 21 days;
- 21-35: Finisher mash. Each chick will eat an extra 1kg in 7days
Change the feed slowly:
- Day 20: 75% starter mash and 25% finisher mash
- 21: 50% starter mash and 50% finisher mash
- 22; 25% starter mash and 75% finisher mash
vii) Provide transition housing: Once feathered, the birds can be transferred to a predator- free, sheltered grow coop. Eliminate roosts because the bars will bruise and blister their heavy breasts.
viii) Minimise drafts: Install a draft barrier 12 to 18 inches tall to block the cold air, and help keep the temperature constant. The brooder guard can be made from cardboard, wood, or other durable material and can be removed after one or two weeks, depending on the
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