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Nine winning tricks to jump start your poultry business

Since Covid-19 hit in March, it has been tough season for poultry farmers. As the situation begins to normalise, here are some farming tips that will be important moving forward:

1.       Housing and bio-security

If you are constructing a new unit, ensure orientation is on East-West direction. The roof height should not be less than 9 feet from the ground, well ventilated using chicken wire and wire mesh all round. The perimeter wall should be two to three feet high. Cover the unit with curtains made of gunny bags and ensure you have enough tube feeders (1 per 80 chicks), bell drinkers (1 per 50 chicks), heat source and lighting. The building should be lockable and only accessible to authorised personnel.

2.       Choice of type and breed of chicken

Consult widely for the right choice of breed and type for your poultry venture. Go for a breed with predictable performance characteristics. Put your supplier to task on expected level of performance from the chicks, what is the expected feed conversion ratio? Expected growth rates, average daily gain in weight? Livability? Egg production per hen/year.

3.       Brooding and early life care

Prepare a good brooder and place at most 50 chicks/metre square space and this should be expanded as the chicks approach two weeks of age. Your heating source should provide and maintain a temperature of 32-35 degrees centigrade first week and gradually go down as chicks age. Provide lights to stimulate feed intake and follow the lighting programme for each type of bird.



4.       Water quality

Ensure you provide clean, fresh potable water all the time. Provide one bell drinker to 50 chicks and ensure it is at the same level as the back of the chick. Adjust as the birds grow. Water level should be maintained at thumbnail depth. To ensure water quality is maintained, always treat with chlorine tablets to attain 3-4 ppm concentration. Flush your water lines once per month using hydrogen peroxide to remove any biofilms.

5.       Feeding

Choose the best quality feed in the market. Follow the laid down feeding programme for your type of bird. If you are using tube feeders, place one feeder for 80 chicks. The lip of the feeder should be at the level of the back of the chick. Adjust as the birds grow. Always carry on weekly sample weighing of birds to calculate feed conversion rates. Feed birds based on body requirements and feed grams per bird per day.

6.       Ventilation management



Always endeavour to provide good ventilation in the chicken house, to ensure constant supply of oxygen and removal of waste gases from the units. It also removes excess moisture thus ensuring the litter is dry all the time and reduce incidences of leg problems and respiratory infections.

7.       Vaccination and disease control

Most commercial hatcheries are now vaccinating chicks against Newcastle, infectious bronchitis, Mareks at hatch. This should be the trend going forward so that farmers have less vaccines to administer in the farm. Stick to the most updated programme. Consult widely with your local veterinarian to ensure your chicks get prompt attention in case of ill-health.

8.       Marketing

In this situation of Covid-19, you will need more than ever to build resources and tools to help you penetrate this dynamic market. Your overall goal is to gain competitive advantage by understanding the needs and wants of your customers wherever they are. Forums like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and virtual meeting will help in marketing your products.

9.      Animal welfare

Take note of freedoms of animals. They include freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain and injury and freedom from disease, fear and distress. [vet@kenchic.com]

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