We have just come from one extremely cold winter and are headed towards a very hot summer season. Broilers still need to be reared to make profit for the farmer. Today we want to look at the main aspects farmers need to do as well as those things that should not be done to ensure a good crop in this hot, dusty, windy, rainy season.
Recommendations for rearing summer season broilers
- Broiler production starts with the correct infrastructure, this season is particularly hot and requires that birds are kept in well ventilated and cool buildings. Farmers are encouraged not to use brooding boxes placed in a room in the house, use spare rooms in houses, the round kitchen on the rural areas. All these fall short of the ventilation requirement component for the birds. The recommended poultry shed is one that has the long side walls built up to a maximum of 50 cm, with chick mesh the rest of the way to the roof, and the end walls built up to the roof on the ends of the shed. It is also built with an East-West orientation to ensure direct sun does not enter the shed. The height of the roof from the floor ranges from 1.8 metres on the sides to 3 metres depending on type of poultry housing design used.
- Use of curtains in the form of hessian or other forms of sacks sewn together is better than using plastic or PVC tent materials. The sacks are able to breathe and help control temperatures at the same time. Instead of using these as double layers, single layers can be used. Curtains can assist farmers to regulate windy conditions to avoid drafts in the poultry sheds. Plastics and PVC tent materials do not breathe and as such make no allowance for air movement within the shed. They are also prone to condensation leading to wet litter conditions especially within the brooding areas and sides of the shed. They can be used with caution as long as the farmer can ensure the birds remain in a comfortable environment and grow well.
- One of the main roof materials in use for broiler sheds is metal roof sheets-these are very prone to temperature changes and will heat up when it gets hot outside as well as be very cold during the winter period. Farmers can paint the roof sheets white to help reflect the sun’s rays and reduce the temperature within the sheds. In some places the use of sprinklers on the roof can be considered, particularly where the area has adequate water and a good airflow to ensure that the water does not create puddles at the bottom. Fine mists can be used to help reduce temperatures in the shed.
- Water tanks can make the drinking water warm or even hot especially when black in colour-painting these white will also allow the water inside to be cooler than when it is kept black. The water tanks can also be placed under a covered shed that allows them to remain cool during the hot periods.
- Space allocation for broilers during the hot season is critical. Broilers generate more heat themselves as they feed, grow and move around in the sheds. The starting stocking density is high (25-30 birds per square meter) to accommodate heat retention within the brooding area. Regular checks on the birds’ growth are essential to ensure they are never overcrowded in the provided space. Additional space must be provided as the birds grow, in summer this can start from day 4 with movement of the brooding curtains until day 14 when it is expected that the broilers will be occupying the full shed. The maximum stocking density for adult broilers should be kept at 10 birds per square meter and not more to allow adequate air movement within the shed and between the birds themselves. The space must allow them to be evenly spaced without being overcrowded.
- Brooding is not season specific and must be done regardless of the temperatures outside. All chicks must start with the recommended 30-320C temperatures in the brooding area. Chicks lose heat through their feet therefore the floor must be kept warm enough to ensure they do not lose heat. The difference with winter brooding is that less heat is needed to bring the floor to the required floor temperatures from the ambient temperatures. I have seen some farmers with day old chicks start brooding with no heat provided in summer; this is not right as it will result in chilled chicks which will experience poor growth, high early and late mortalities as well as reduced growth. The external heat source is maintained from preparation (24 hours prior to placement of chicks) until day 14 when the shed can be fully opened out to the entire shed. There will be a gradual reduction in temperatures as the birds grow and are able to maintain their own heat.
- Eating is always associated with heat generation after food is metabolised; broilers are no exception. I would recommend that feeding is done during the cooler times of the day which will be early morning, early evening and at night. This will disrupt any lighting programmes that the farmer maybe following. It therefore means the times when the birds are not eating can be considered as the dark period to allow birds to rest during the hot sections of the day and reduce the incidences of heat stress and death.
- Rapid and unnecessary movements within the shed must be avoided to ensure birds are not stressed especially during the hot part of the day. All activities within the shed must be done in the early morning or late afternoon when temperatures have cooled down.
- Litter management includes turning the litter especially for large scale operations. This should be done when there is a good flow of air to ensure that bad air and dust can be removed immediately from the shed.
- The broiler body is made up of at least 75% water; when it is hot they are unable to sweat as they do not have sweat glands. Signs that a farmer can watch out for to check if birds are hot include some panting (open beaks, rapid breathing); wings opened out; drinking a lot of water; reduced feeding; reduced production in terms of eggs and lower growth rate. It is therefore vitally important to ensure the water supply is adequate and freely accessible. In cases of smaller flocks farmers can use ice to cool the water down, provided the quality of the ice is good for drinking (potable).
In conclusion, broilers are amazing animals to rear and just need the farmer to be present on the ground to ensure they can attend to any challenges that may arise during the life of the birds. The hot season should not be a scary time to rear broilers, but farmers should keep learning from their experiences and adapting to ensure their investment pays them well.
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