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.