Poultry production: How to improve production – part 1

 Dr. Mick Versfeld drills down into the issues that should be looked at if your chickens aren’t performing as well as they should be.


  • At least 60% of the cost of farming poultry is feed, so efficient management of feed is vital for optimal production.
  • Fresh feed should always be available and spillage should be minimised without restricting feed intake.
  • For a day-old chick, feed must be in a scratch tray or on paper, within a meter of the heat source.
  • If the feed is in a cold part of the poultry house, chicks won’t move away to eat, resulting in retarded growth and poor body weight at slaughter.
  • There should be enough space at the feed pan so that chickens can gain access to feed at peak feeding time – usually daybreak.
  • Look at, taste and smell, all the feed you buy before feeding it out to the chickens.
  • They won’t eat at the usual rate if there is a change in consistency, colour or taste and might not eat at all for a few days, which will affect production.
  • Take note of how many bags of feed are eaten, per day, per house, or per group of chickens.
  • Excessive feed consumption could be due to theft; if feed is consumed very slowly it may be due to a lack of sufficient water not necessarily unpalatable feed.
  • If you want to check feed quality, keep a 500 g sample from each delivery so that there is enough feed to send off for analysis.


  • Chickens drink twice as much water as the quantity of feed they consume.
  • Water should be drinkable and fresh at all times.
  • Check water for mineral content at least once a year and for bacterial contamination at least three times a year.
  • Clean, fresh water can be contaminated in dirty holding tanks, and by drinker lines and drinkers that haven’t been washed, sanitised and flushed.
  • It is very important to note that contaminated water will have a severe effect on poultry performance.
  • Don’t lose production by neglecting something so basic.
  • Day-old chicks need access to water at room temperature otherwise they won’t drink so freely.
  • In summer the water should be cool; in fact flush the lines regularly to ensure that water stays cool.
  • There needs to be more than enough space at the drinkers for the chickens especially during summer.
  • If water intake is even slightly restricted, feed intakes will be affected.
  • The result will be a drop in egg production or in the growth of the chickens.
  • A drop in water consumption is an indication of problems in the chicken house, so check this daily.

Also read: How much water should your chickens drink?

Next time: Air, temperature and light.

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