8 Poultry Care and Management Practices You Must Perform Regularly
Running a successful poultry farm involves many moving parts. And when it comes to ensuring smooth operation, having the right practices in place and following them regularly is essential.
To help you run a highly efficient poultry farm, here are 8 management best practices we’ve researched to help your farm thrive.
1. Maintaining and Preparing Housing Facilities
There’s no getting around how important the cleanliness of chicken housing is to prevent disease and provide a healthy environment for your poultry. Your maintenance and preparation practice must include:
- Thorough cleaning of the building following depopulation. This includes the removal of all manure and litter from the building and surrounding areas.
- Disinfection of the building and equipment. Diseases can rapidly spread among chickens, so it is important to ensure that you disinfect living areas to prevent a disease from spreading to the next batch.
- Take a 7-day minimum break before placing the next flock. Once cleaned and disinfected, let the area air out and let the disinfectants do their job before introducing your next batch.
2. Receiving of and Handling Stock
With a clean living environment, you’re ready to introduce your next flock. But before you do, ensure that all equipment is operational and that your staff know how to handle your chickens. Here are practices to ensure that you receive and handle stock efficiently:
- In the case of day-old chicks, your building should be pre-warmed to an adequate temperature.
- When handling birds it’s recommended that no more than 3 birds be carried when offloading heavier stock such as adult birds.
- If any stock has been injured during transportation, they must be placed in a separate area to heal. If it is impractical and recovery is unlikely, the stock must be humanely culled.
- Pay attention to the number of birds you introduce to your environment to ensure that you don’t overcrowd the building and cause discomfort for your birds.
3. Feed Management
Feed management has a considerable impact on the growth and performance of birds. Here are practices to help you provide the right feed management program for your stock:
- Ensure that poultry always has access to fresh feed, unless in special circumstances where controlled feeding must be practiced (rearing and housing broiler breeding stock).
- Feed must contain adequate nutrients to meet the daily requirements for good health and vitality. This includes providing the right quantity of feed to increase body mass and production for the specific breed of bird.
- If you are running a controlled feeding program for heavy birds, ensure that you create adequate feed space. It is also recommended that feed is distributed to all parts of your feeder system within 3 minutes. This ensures that all birds have access to feed and prevents overcrowding of feeders due to a lack of feed distribution.
- “Skip-a-day” feeding of broiler breeder birds is also recommended as a standard industry practice for maintaining and improving reproductive performance.
- It's highly recommended that feed is stored in closed containers to protect against diseases from vermin and wild birds.
4. Water Management
Hydration is a critical element for poultry operations. When it comes to ensuring your birds are well-hydrated, here are 3 practices to perform:
- Provide access to water at all times, except in cases where you’re managing the application of a vaccine for therapeutic purposes.
- In hot or high-temperature conditions, provide water that is at a cooler temperature.
- Test water regularly for chemical content and to identify microbial contamination.
5. Creating the Right Environment With Temperature and Ventilation
The right temperature and ventilation create comfortable and healthy environments for birds. Where required, and based on the breed and season, ensure that you provide adequate heating and ventilation for your poultry.
It’s also worth noting that you’ll need to consider the amount of insulation, seasonal changes and decreasing levels of heat that will be required as chicks grow. Below are tips to help you create a comfortable environment with the use of temperature:
- In colder weather conditions, do not manage temperature by decreasing the amount of ventilation as this will create discomfort for birds due to the heat and lack of fresh air.
- As a rule of thumb, bird behaviour is seen as the best indicator of their level of comfort. It should be noted that as birds grow and produce more feathers, they are able to withstand and adapt to temperature fluctuations while maintaining their body temperature.
- Hot weather and high humidity conditions require increased ventilation and airflow over birds, evaporative cooling equipment, cooler water, and a decrease in stocking density.
- It’s recommended that temperature within your building be managed with an alarm system to warn managers of temperature changes that can cause discomfort for birds. House temperature conditions should range between 15°C to 33°C and maximum relative humidity of 80% should be the aim for fully feathered birds.
Here are practices related to providing and managing ventilation of your building:
- Recording of both minimum and maximum building temperature is recommended to manage the ventilation of a house as birds are reared. Managing ventilation correctly is vital for the removal of metabolic gases from the building.
- If you make use of a forced ventilation system, ensure that you and your staff are fully capable of operating it completely, as well as troubleshooting should any technical issue arise.
- If your ventilation system is mechanical, ensure that you have a back-up power supply or alternative emergency ventilation systems linked to an alarm system to warn operators of power failure.
- It’s also important to maintain carbon dioxide levels below 3000 ppm (3%). Where ammonia is present (between 10-15 ppm) and can be smelled, corrective steps should be taken to ensure that bird well-being is not compromised.
6. Using Light
Light plays an important role in the sexual maturation of birds and ensuring that hands are able to do a thorough job of cleaning and maintaining buildings.
Here are pointers on the use of light:
- When rearing breeder and commercial layer birds, it is recommended that you provide more than 8 hours of light.
- In the case of broiler rearing, it is recommended that you provide nothing less than 12 hours of light.
- Once chicks have learned to locate feed and drinkers, limit total light exposure (artificial and natural) to a maximum of 20 hours in a 24 hours period.
- In closed buildings, chicks reared for egg production can be exposed to higher light intensity (approximately 20 lux) for the first week or two to help them locate feed and drinker systems. Light intensity thereafter must be managed based on the housing conditions and breed to keep the birds calm.
- When the production cycle is about to commence, the light intensity can be increased again, but most importantly, the light intensity should enable birds to feed normally and allow for a thorough inspection of the flock and cleaning of the building.
7. Hatchling Egg Collection
Your Hatchling egg collection practices can negatively influence the production of your poultry farm if certain standards and hygiene are not maintained. Here are tips on how to ensure that you create and maintain the healthy production of eggs on your farm:
- Select well developed, mature and healthy and mature eggs.
- Steer clear from eggs that appear small (they produce small chicks) or abnormally large (typically hatch poorly).
- Don’t select eggs with cracked or thin shells as they are more susceptible to bacteria and disease.
- Eggs should be collected at least twice a day and placed in clean and dry handling equipment to prevent exposure to moisture that typically is a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Sanitize eggs as soon as possible after collection.
- Store sanitized eggs in suitably constructed cool rooms at an air temperature below the embryonic threshold temperature of 24°C.
8. Eggs Collection for Human Consumption
Similar to Hatchling egg collection, the collection of eggs for human consumption is also subject to a certain standard.
The following are tips to help you ensure the quality and health standards are maintained in the collection of eggs for human consumption:
- Collect eggs at least once a day.
- In cage systems, ensure cage floors and the egg handling systems are kept clean.
- In Free Range and Barn systems, ensure that nest boxes and nest material are kept clean.
- Handle eggs gently to avoid fine cracks that can expose eggs to bacteria.
- Dirty, broken, cracked leaking and any other abnormal eggs must be collected with separate equipment and not be selected for human consumption.
- Store eggs in appropriate holding rooms where the temperature fluctuations are minimal.
Managing a thriving poultry farm requires lots of hands and dedication to strict practices to ensure the delivery of quality poultry products. These practices, along with many others, will help you create a strong and sustainably efficient business.
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