Most farmers dread winter as a bad season for rearing broilers. This is mainly because they fear dealing with the cold, the additional heating costs and ventilation requirements in the face of the colder environment. For those who have mastered the art of broiler production, it is well known that during winter it is easier to grow the best and biggest birds once one has acquired the art of brooding which is looking after chicks from day 0 (placing day) to at least 3 weeks of age in winter.
Summer and the hot season on the other hand is seen as an easier season and many will venture into broiler production looking to do this with minimum costs particularly heating requirements. In some cases, I have seen farmers forgo preheating under the notion that the environment is hot and therefore they feel there’s no need to prepare for the chicks by preheating the brooding space. This is an error and must be corrected. Provision of heating for brooding chicks knows no weather as this is always required, the difference being the temperatures one is starting from to achieve the recommended 32 Degrees Celsius on the brooding floor.
The hot season poses two main challenges which are the heat and rains, both which affect the production of birds if not managed correctly. Heat stress is easily the main cause of death in broilers especially towards the end of the cycle when they have gained weight and in cases of inadequate ventilation due to poor shed designs which are closed at the back instead of open to allow air exchange. Heat will also accumulate in the shed from the heated zinc sheets normally used for poultry sheds. Affected birds will succumb and die suddenly. Weight gain is another aspect that is affected as birds will not feed as required due to the heat.
The rains create extra humidity which makes it uncomfortable for the birds in the sheds. They do not like wet feet and in most cases, they may be forced to remain on wet litter (bedding) due to lack of adequate sources of dry wood shavings and straw for bedding. Footpad dermatitis (black feet) becomes a common occurrence as birds may not have adequate bedding to prevent injuries to the feet. They would also be affected by the increased moisture which can result in respiratory diseases as the ammonia levels rise.
Increased nuisance pests such as rats, flies, mosquitoes also affect the birds as they irritate as well as bite them resulting in wounds/blisters and make the carcass unattractive for customers due to blackened skin and blisters.
Farmers are encouraged to:
- Start their projects with well-constructed, well-ventilated sheds that allow flow of fresh air through the sheds.
- Construct sheds with adequate overhand of the roof to reduce entry of rains into the poultry shed.
- Use waterproof curtains during the rains to protect the birds from wetness from rain entering the sheds.
- Use white paint on the roof sheets to help reflect some of the heat away. Use of white painted water tanks will help ensure cooler drinking water.
- Maintain waterproof poultry sheds and build a storeroom for dry wood shavings or wheat straw as these will go a long way to ensure that the bedding is maintained dry through replacement of any wet bedding.
- Feed the birds during the cooler portions of the day as well as avoiding unnecessary movements within the sheds during the hot part of the day. When birds do not feed well during the day, they must be encouraged to eat in the early hours as well as at night when temperatures are cooler.
- Always provide cool drinking water, no empty drinkers in the shed at any time and keep refreshing the water.
- Spray a fine mist over the birds in cases where it gets unbearable, minimize movement in the sheds.
- Always maintain dry litter/bedding by replacing any wet litter in the poultry shed and ensure the depth is maintained at 10-15 cm to provide adequate cushioning for the birds.
- Control pests especially mosquitoes by spraying the environment, removing stagnant water bodies around the premises. Use of mosquito coils in the poultry shed is not recommended as it adds respiratory challenges for the birds.
All year production of broilers is very possible if farmers consider the different ways to mitigate any challenges they may face. Here’s to profitable summer season broiler production.
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