How to improve poultry production – part 2

In our first article we discussed some production parameters for chicken farmers. Here we conclude basic production requirements for profitable chicken operations.


Chickens need fresh air at the right temperature. Never be tempted to compromise on the supply of fresh air when, for example, you may need to increase the temperature when it’s cold. Change the method of heat supply to the chicken house without reducing air or air flow.

If the poultry house is hot and stuffy, the birds will be uncomfortable and won’t eat or drink which will have an impact on production. Once the health of your chickens is affected the way is open to bacterial and viral infections.

  • Dust and ammonia damage the chicken’s respiratory system.
  • Harmful bacteria, like Escherichia coli, may be dispersed in dust, and ammonia damages the mucous membranes lining the chicken’s airways – another gateway for bacteria to enter.
  • Foot pad damage is a sign of wet litter and high ammonia levels.

There are instruments that measure airflow, carbon dioxide and ammonia levels but the nose of a farmer is a pretty sensitive instrument in itself, and quite capable of sniffing out problems in air quality.

Get down to chicken level, lie on the chicken litter if necessary, and spend 30 minutes there to establish the conditions. This, and the chickens’ activity, may provide an accurate indication of air quality.

Foot pad damage is a sign of litter that is too wet and ammonia levels that are higher than they should be. You want a dry, ammonia-free environment to keep bacteria at bay.


Temperature spikes and falls have a very detrimental effect on chickens, especially young chicks. Extreme heat or cold affects production and may cause mortality. Should temperature recommendations for the specific breed not be met, chicks won’t attain the standard weight within the first two weeks. This will affect flock uniformity and could cause runting.

Sit or lie down in your chicken house to feel the temperature and watch the chicks to see if they are comfortable. It’s a good idea to have a maximum/minimum thermometer in the house at chicken level and record the daily temperatures at about the same time each day. Chart the temps if you can to get an idea of what temperatures suit your chickens.


There are well-documented recommendations for lighting programmes and these should be followed. There should be even distribution of light in the chicken house and no shadowed areas.

Once broilers have reached the recommended seven-day weight, natural day-light and length is enough.

Once chicks have made the seven-day gains, natural light and day length is sufficient for production.


The most important part of the cleaning procedure is to remove the litter and organic material before you wash out the house with water.

Unless all organic material is cleared, the sanitising agent won’t work properly. After you have cleaned and sanitised, rest the house for ten days before you restock.

A poor clean-out followed by an insufficient rest period will mean poor poultry performance – and reduced profit.

When the cycle is over, remove all organic material and wash the house down with water. The sanitising programme will not work if this step is not properly done and production will drop in the next cycle


Check the requirements of your breed and visit the poultry house regularly before rushing off to find a possible disease to blame for disappointing production.

Don’t use antibiotics as a crutch to mask poor management or a lack of good farming practices.

Remember, it is the feet of the farmer through the poultry house that makes the broiler grow or the layer produce eggs.

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