A good start of the flock is essential for a good quality rearing. Proper farm preparation will help to give the bird a good start. Avoid last moment alterations, as they normally lead to sub-optimal circumstances. Try to be pro-active and prepare the farm as thorough as possible.
Calculate the floor space and the number of drinkers and feeders that will be required for each line and sex. Divide the house in adequate partitions for each line and sex. Make sure that all equipment is in good working order before the birds arrive.
Make sure the house is adequately cleaned and disinfected before the birds arrive. Once the house is disinfected, make sure that the disinfection room for entering the house is used. Fumigate once more after the litter is brought in and allow enough time to ventilate the house thoroughly afterwards.
At the start, do not exceed a density of 30-35 chickens per available m2, especially for the male lines.
Good clean wood shavings are preffered as litter material. Litter should always be free of moulds, pesticides, additives, etc. Put enough litter in to create a bedding layer of 8 to 12 cm. This will require an amount of 3.5 to 5 kg/m2 if wood shavings are used. When chopped straw is used, an amount of 2 to 3.5 kg/m2 should be sufficient. Disinfect the house after the litter is brought in.
As birds lose the majority of their body heat through the floor, a cold floor can easily chill them, even when the air temperature is adequate. The floor temperature (concrete floor) has to be at least 28oC but preferably 29-30oC when the chicks arrive. The air temperture should be set at 33-34oC, 1or 2 degrees higher when the chicks are originating from parent stock younger than 35 weeks.
Feed and water
Ensure that birds can find and access water and feed easily. Birds do not actively go looking for feed and water, but they have to "stumble into it". Place enough extra and easily accesible drinkers and feeders to allow this. Position the drinkers on a solid horizontal support, so flooding will not occur. Refresh the feed sufficiently, but do not overfeed, as the feed will become old and of poor quality.
Flush the waterlines prior to arrival, to supply the chicks with relatively cool water. Put a layer of paper under feeders and drinkers on top of the litter, with additional feed on the paper. This will attract the birds to the feeders and drinkers.
- Personnel dealing with the chicks should be fully conversant with how to apply the hygiene rules, e.g. wearing clean boots and clothes, as well as knowing the location for chicks of both sexes.
- Ambient temperature at chick level should be 33-34oC or if necessary 1 or 2oC higher.
- Floor temperature must be at least 28oC, preferably 30oC.
- Litter must be distributed evenly and warmed to house temperature.
- Light intensity should be minimum 20 lux.
- Drinkers must be filled with clean, fresh water. The chicks should have easy access to them.
- Feeders should be accessible and filled with fresh feed.
- Feeders and drinkers should be placed on paper.