Day-old chicks must be handled with care. A flock that gets off to a good start is easier to manage. It has a higher body weight at the start of the rearing process, is more uniform in size, has a better health status and reaches genetic potential more easily. There are a number of basic things for you to bear in mind;
Before chicks arrive, check that everything in the house is working properly: right temperature, there is enough fresh air coming in, adequate feed and water, and that there is enough light.
Feed is the greatest expense in commercial poultry establishments; therefore, it is important to purchase feed from a reputable miller who can assure consistency in the quality and performance of the feed. Variations in the nutrient composition and quality of feed ingredients, result in variations in feed composition and texture. These are due to variations in raw feed ingredients from season to season and even shipment to shipment.
It is important to avoid mixing feeds from several millers, adding other protein sources (fish meal etc.) and mineral salts (DCP) as this changes the balance in the feed thereby affecting performance. Excess of some of these products also negatively affects the final product e.g. fishy tinge in eggs and meat due to more than 5% fish meal in feed.
To start a flock, feeder lids or plastic feeder trays (one per 100 chicks) should be used. The feed can also be spread on paper placed over the litter. Gradually remove the feeder lids or trays, replacing them with the adult feeders. By the time the birds are ten (I0) days old, all the lids and trays should have been removed. Provide adequate feeder space as recommended below for proper growth of the birds.
Each type of bird has feeds specific to their growth as indicated below:
During the changing period of the rations, mix the two rations so that the change is gradual. An abrupt change is stressful to the birds and can affect performance. Vitamins can be provided during this time to reduce the stress.
Distribute drinkers evenly throughout the whole house, alternating them with the feeders so that they are easily accessible to all birds. No bird should walk more than 1.5m to get either feed or drink. Provide one chick fount for 75 chicks during the first week and gradually replace them with the regular drinkers allowing space
Wash and disinfect chick drinkers daily. Ensure the drinkers are filled with fresh water after washing. Ensure the birds have access to wholesome drinking water at all times and NEVER allow the drinkers to go dry. In hot periods it is essential to provide the flock with cool water as this will improve productivity. It is therefore extremely important to protect the water tanks from direct sunlight or ensure they have a reflective surface.
Always adjust the drinker and feeder levels as the birds grow to ensure that the equipment is always slightly above the level of the birds' backs, this minimizes spillage. Use a reliable water sanitizer (like chlorine) to control disease-producing organisms in the water.