The early hours and days of a chick’s life are critical to ensuring broiler performance.
Here, Mark Brightmore, Business Support Specialist at ForFarmers, advises on the environmental and nutritional factors to support your broiler chicks in this crucial first stage of their lives.
Before the chicks arrive, all housing and equipment should be cleaned and disinfected.
The temperature and ventilation of the housing needs to be stabilised for at least 24 hours prior to chick delivery.
Floor temperature is also critical as you are aiming to achieve an environment that mimics nature, where a chick hatches into a nest which has been warmed for 21 days during incubation.
With humidity and temperature interdependent, these factors need to be continually monitored and adjusted depending on the building and external conditions.
Lighting is another important tool to provide the best environment for your broiler chicks and you can use this to mimic natural sunlight.
High levels of evenly distributed light enable your chicks to easily locate their food and water in those critical early hours, playing a vital role in their growth and development.
On chick arrival bulk weigh a sample of chicks (3 boxes per house placed) and then calculate their average body weight.
Also, check their uniformity by weighing 100 chicks and see whether 80 weigh between 90% and 110% of the average weight.
This will ensure you can continue to measure their growth rate over the first week.
Crop fill should be routinely monitored at intervals over the first 48 hours to determine if your chicks have found feed and water; after two hours the target crop is 75% from a sample of 30 chicks, (then measure at 4hrs, 8hrs, 12 hrs and 24 hrs) and by 48 hours 100% of the sample should have full crops.
Only healthy chicks deliver top performance so the right feed, alongside water quality and availability from birth is essential for this.
Broiler producers should pay particular attention to the quantity of feed and making sure it’s within three metres of the chicks.
The chick paper should be close to the pans and drinkers but not under them. Finding a feed that focuses on gut health is essential to support nutrient absorption which in turn results in improved litter quality, helping to keep feet healthy as well as supporting strong skeletal development encouraging final weight and lower mortality.
A chick’s growth rate is particularly significant within the first week, as the bird has the potential to increase its bodyweight by 450% during this time.
Making sure your feed has the balance of dietary nutrients will help to support the chick as it develops its vital organs, without a healthy intestine, heart and lungs the bird could be compromised for life, so the starting period is key.
Water quality and availability
Water should be within easy reach of 2 metres, and the height of the nipple line needs to be low to accommodate the chicks.
Make sure the water pressure isn’t too high as this can result in wet chicks and birds getting too cold.
Water quality is another important factor to give your chicks the best starting health, there should be clean fresh water in the lines and these need to be flushed twice a day during the first couple of days to avoid the water becoming warm and stagnant.
Monitoring and support
Understanding the intricacies of performance in each shed is critical to the overall shed performance and reaching a broiler producer’s goals.
ForFarmers expert broiler team, headed up by Mark Brightmore, Business Support Specialist, provide on-farm support to help broiler producers generate healthier returns.
Mark is currently working towards launching ForFarmers new e-performance app for broiler producers to use which will then feedback to the support team to help pinpoint and tailor requirements based on the data from other producers.
Mark’s team will analyse the environmental factors and support any specific changes alongside the ForFarmers Apollo feeding programme.
The ForFarmers Apollo diet has been designed to focus on improving broiler growth, feed conversion ratio and support skeletal development and gut health to help broiler producers maximise their profitability and achieve their business objectives.