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Raising broilers from chicks to slaughter

Livestock
 

White broiler chicken in a Poultry Farm. [iStockphoto]

As more restaurants, eateries, and fast-food outlets open doors to consumers, it is proving a major boon for farmers.

Here are some tips for raising healthy broiler chickens.

Housing

A broiler chick requires a suitable environment to allow it to grow and achieve its maximum potential for meat production. As a farmer, you need to ensure the poultry unit is properly prepared to receive the chicks for placement and growing.

Cleaning and sanitation

The first and crucial step to a clean poultry unit is cleaning using water and soap, then rinsing with clean water followed by sanitising using the appropriate disinfectant recommended by a veterinarian.

Brooding

Ensure the house is sufficiently warm at least 24 hours before you bring the chicks home. You should feel the house floor to ensure it is warm enough for the chicks. Provide adequate heating, maintaining it for at least the first two weeks with a gradual reduction to room temperature by the 14th day.

Quality feed and water

The next step is ensuring you have cool, clean fresh water for the chicks to drink; do not give them untreated water as this will lead to health complications. Also, ensure your feeding equipment is in good condition and adequate to serve the number of chicks you will place. Once the chicks arrive, put them in the poultry unit as quickly as possible and provide unlimited access to feed and water. Feeding normally occurs in two stages. Starter feed is given for the first 21 days followed by the finisher feed till slaughter. Provide balanced quality feed. If chicks are feeding and drinking properly, the crop fills with a mixture of feed and water. Gentle handling of the crop within the first 24 hours can indicate the chicks’ progress. Check a sample of birds two hours after arrival to ensure all chicks have found feed and water. Gently sample the crop of 30-40 chicks from three or four different places in the brooder. This is called crop fill assessment. A minimum of 95 per cent of the crops should feel soft and pliable, indicating the chicks have found feed and water. Hard crops indicate chicks have not found adequate water and water availability should be checked immediately. A swollen and distended crop indicates chicks have located water but taken insufficient feed.

Ventilation

Run a thorough check of the prepared poultry unit before bringing the chicks in, checking for gaps that could allow cold draughts into the house, and confirm that everything is in order. In addition, provide a good environment for the chicks by regulating ventilation in the poultry unit by lowering the side curtains as needed.

Vaccination

Most broiler chicks are vaccinated at the hatchery when they are a day old and will require just one additional booster, Newcastle, and Bronchitis vaccines at two weeks of age to provide even stronger immunity. Please confirm this with your chick supplier.

Record keeping

Keep records of the birds’ performance, including feed and water intake, growth rates, mortalities, and any sick birds. This will help you to gauge how well your flock is doing. With proper care and management, you should harvest your broiler birds by five to six weeks of age for slaughter, depending on the market demand.

Value addition

To add value, a full chicken is portioned into eight parts - breast, back, two thighs, two drumsticks and two wings. Alternatively, you can portion the whole chicken into breast halves, poultry halves, winglets, drumettes, breast quarters, leg quarters, legs (drumstick+ thigh), gizzards and necks. These can then be packed separately and priced based on demand and clientele. Wings are quite popular in most fast-food eateries and hotels, while backs, feet, and necks are fast-moving products in lower-economy markets.  

The power of social media

In this age of mobile technology, there are numerous platforms available for marketing your products. Some of internet-based applications such as WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook, Instagram, X and TikTok can be used to send texts, messages, digital photos, and videos to promote your business.

[For more information, contact me @ [email protected]]

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