Typical broiler varieties include crosses of parents from two genetic strains, also from within the same strain. (Example: Ross™/Arbor Acre™ parent cross, or Hubbard/Hubbard™ parent cross). This allows genetic traits from both parents to be displayed in the baby chick, primarily for their ability to convert feed to body mass, meeting the demand for rapid growth in commercial broiler operations.
On receiving your day old broilers, it is critical that they be placed on clean, dry bedding material such as wood shavings, diced paper or bagasse (crushed sugar cane pith) at least 2 inches deep. New bagasse should be 'seasoned' outdoors for several months to ensure that all residual sugar has been washed out or consumed by microbes, otherwise it might be contaminated with Aspergillosis fungi which can be fatal to baby chicks.
Water and feed are placed according to chick volume, with 1 one-gallon water bottle and 1 feeder tray or mini plastic feeder per 100 birds. These are both optimally designed for small chicks to find the feed and water readily. Use clean water (mains supply is suitable, as is clean rainwater) and 'Broiler Starter' feed. For optimal results, chicks can be started on a vitamin and antibiotic regime for the first 5 days of brooding. Recent research has suggested that the addition of a yeast extract product such as CELMANAX™ to broiler feed during the first 10 days of growth can significantly improve overall growth rate and feed conversion, and aid in the ability to react to stress in a much more efficient manner. Yeast extracts can also improve a vaccine’s access to immunity pathways, making the body build a stronger immunity to the virus that is being vaccinated against. This in turn allows healthier growth and faster achievement of goal weights. Yeast extracts such as CELMANAX™ are strongly recommended during the first 10 days of brooding for these reasons.
Heat Bulbs (1 per 100 to 200 birds, suspended 18 inches above the litter) are also critical - these are special high wattage bulbs that provide heat to the chicks at night or during cooler weather. Baby chicks need additional sources of warmth for up to 3 weeks into their life, and are dependent of the Farmer for providing it either with heat bulbs or gas brooders or some combination of the two. Please also note that regular household bulbs are inadequate for providing heat. To assist in saving energy costs, curtains are a good complement to heat sources as they prevent wind draughts from creating chills, and help to retain the heat in the pen. It is good farming practise to have the pen warmed up prior to placing the chicks, so that they enter an environment which is comfortable and encourages them to feed immediately. The sooner feeding commences, the sooner metabolism and growth are kick-started.
Vaccination against several well-known poultry diseases is another important management tool. Day old chicks are vaccinated in the Hatchery against a variety of ailments, but some vaccines cannot be administered until the chick is older and its immune system more advanced. Infectious Bursal Disease in chicks can be prevented with addition of 'Bursine-2' or suitably equivalent IBD Vaccine to the drinking water at 14 days, mixed with vaccine stabiliser on the following guidelines;
- Determine the water requirements - 3 to 5 gallons per 1000 birds from 7 to 28 days old.
- Collect the required number of gallons of distilled water or other dechlorinated water. Tap water that has been left to stand for 3 days will have dissipated most of the chlorine.
- Mix 1/3 package of stabiliser to approximately 5 gallons of water, stirring until completely dissolved.
- Mix vaccine with the stabilised water, avoiding direct sunlight which will destroy the vaccine. Vaccine is sold in portion controlled bottles, the number of which will determine the volume of water you have selected. (Example: if you have 500 birds, but have purchased a 1000 dose vial of vaccine, you will still mix as if you are feeding 1000 birds, and whatever vaccine / water mix is left unconsumedwill be discarded). DO NOT store unused open/mixed vaccines, they will be rendered ineffective.
- Administer vaccine water to birds in plastic one gallon bottles - metal containers may deactivate the vaccine.
- DO NOT use disinfectants to clean water bottles just before administering vaccine.
- Withdraw water from the birds for a short while before vaccinating; this will encourage them to drink immediately, ensuring that all chicks are vaccinated. (If they do not drink any water before it is discarded, they are not vaccinated).
- Return chicks to plain water once they have consumed the vaccine mix.
SEX DETERMINATION & DEBEAKING
Some genetic varieties of Broilers can be sex differentiated at one day old by examining their primary wing feathers. Not all varieties can be feather sexed; this service must be confirmed with our sales personnel on the day of the hatch. Some large commercial scale farms brood cocks and hens in separate pens, as it has been found that cocks on average will attain market size marginally sooner than the hens, plus the separated sexes will be more uniform on the processing line (individuals within a sex will be within 4 oz of each other). The main disadvantages of this strategy are the additional cost of sexing in the Hatchery, the additional cost of having 2 pens for one flock, and the additional farm management needed to extract the possible marginal gains.
Debeaking, the process in which the tips of the beaks are trimmed to prevent 'picking' within the flock, was once common practise in Hatcheries as Farmers wanted their flocks free of picking behaviours that cause mortality. There are several methods of beak trimming, but the one most commonly used in our hatchery is 'hot blade' where a heated blade is used to trim and cauterise the beak in one step. Cauterisation (sterilisation of the wound) prevents further infection, but also destroys the tissue that is responsible for regrowth of the beak tip - if done properly, one beak trim will be sufficient for the life of the bird. Debeaking is now considered to be too stressful for broilers, as with adequate management many of the undesired behaviours addressed with debeaking can be otherwise controlled. Since the life of a broiler is around 6 weeks, and debeaking causes at least 2 weeks of stressed recovery and reduced weight gain (due to sensitive beaks) we do not usually recommend debeaking. We are, however, fully equipped to perform the procedure should you require it.
Turkeys should be vaccinated with Fowl Pox vaccine at 3 to 4 weeks of age, or as soon as the wing web is defined enough to identify the main vein running through its centre. Our personnel would be happy to advise you on the correct execution of this vaccination procedure should you require assistance.
Ventilation Prevents Mortality
Ammonia gas is common in varying degrees within chicken pens. It is a by product of the chick droppings in the bedding, the moisture levels of the bedding, and biological activity by microbes. When the bedding becomes too saturated with waste, then the more moisture present the more ammonia gas is released. Ammonia is very soluble in water, forming a very caustic, corrosive chemical called ammonium hydroxide that attacks eyes and other moist tissues such as lungs and the throat. Proper ventilation carries the gas away before it can do any harm, as it will cause conjunctivitis in the eyes as well as respiratory problems, susceptibility to bacterial infection through the lungs, possibly even death if in high enough concentrations. Where natural ventilation is not enough, ventilation fans can be installed to draw out the air from the pen, creating the desired circulation.