What You Need To Start Them Right
- Chick Starter:
- Leghorns: 280 pounds per 100 chicks
- Broilers: 250 pounds per 100 chicks
- Chick Feeders: minimum of one foot long per 15 chicks
- Water Fountains: one gallon capacity per 25 chicks or ¼ inch trough space per chick.
- Heat Lamp or Brooder Stove: 75 birds per heat lamp with a minimum of two lamps.
- Litter: About four inches of pine shavings or sawdust.
- Chick Guard: 18 to 24 inch cardboard to keep chicks close to heat, feed and water for first 10 days.
- Air out house: let house lie empty and air out for two weeks before bringing in chicks. Fumigate if possible.
- Buy chicks from a reputable hatchery. The source of chicks is very important to assure disease-free stock. The hatchery should be participating in the National Poultry Improvement Plan to minimize disease problems.
During the First 12 weeks
- Where chicks are brooded under a hot water or hot water system, each chick should be allowed a minimum of seven square inches of brooder space under the hover. When chicks are brooded under individual brooder units, allow a maximum of 500 chicks per hover.
- In cold weather, use a solid chick guard around the hover to keep chicks from straying and to prevent floor drafts. In warm weather, a wire guard may be used. Place guard two to three feet from edge of hover. Gradually expand it and remove at the end of one week.
- All-night lights, equivalent to 15 watts per 200 square feet of floor space, will help prevent piling.
- Minimum room temperature should be 65 degrees F for the first two weeks. However, supplemental heat should be provided when chicks arrive. Temperature under the hover should be 90 degrees F. Decrease heat as chicks get older.
- Provide one square foot of floor space per chick, one day old through the 12th week.
- Allow 180 linear inches of hopper feeder space per 100 chicks, one day old through the 12th week (15 large hanging feeders or 20 small hanging feeders per thousand chicks).
- Provide the following drinking space: first four days (per two brooders), eight one-gallon founts, plus one automatic waterer. Five days through 12 weeks: 36 linear inches of water trough space for each 100 birds.
- Use dim lights for one to three weeks only.
- Keep litter clean and dry to promote healthy environment for chicks.
Water - The Most Important Nutrient - Poultry should have free access to clean, fresh water at all times. During brooding, clean and disinfect water fountains daily. When starting day-old birds or after moving or transporting birds, give access to water before placing feed in the feeders. Water consumption will be 3 times as high when temperatures reach 100° F as compared to 50° F weather.
Grit - When birds have access to coarse litter or whole grains, an insoluble grit should be fed. Limit intake of grit to 1 pound per 100 pounds of feed or 2 pounds per 100 birds per week. Grit can be blended with their regular ration or offered free choice in a separate feeder. But when offering a commercial prepared feed, grit is NOT needed (the feed is already ground).
Do not allow feeders to run empty or stale feed to accumulate. Never feed any feedstuffs that are moldy, musty or suspect in any way.
Egg Production Breeds - Several Leghorn white egg strains are available. Leghorns start laying eggs at about 20 weeks, at which time they weigh about 3 pounds. With proper management, they will lay 18 to 22 dozen eggs per bird during the first year of production.
The brown egg strains will weigh about 4 pounds by 20 weeks of age. They come in a variety of feather color patterns and will generally produce fewer eggs while requiring more feed than the Leghorn breeds. They are generally classified as dual purpose breeds with the cockerels used for meat production and the hens for egg production.
Meat Production Breeds - The commercial broiler strains of Cornish and White Rock breeding are the most economical strains for meat production. They may be purchased as straight run or on a sexed basis. The males can be caponized (castrated) at 3 to 5 weeks of age to produce a more tasty variety of meat.
|Type||Age (Weeks)||Average Live Weight (lb.)||Average Dressed Weight (lb.)|
|Cornish Game Hen||5||2.5||1.5|
The most economical time to slaughter is when the birds are at the fryer stage. The amount of feed consumed per pound of gain increases as the bird gets older.
Preparing for Bird Arrival
- Remove all old litter.
- Clean and disinfect house and equipment using an approved disinfectant.
- Fumigate if possible.
- Let house lie empty and air out for two weeks.
- Place about four inches of clean, dry litter such as pine shavings or sawdust.
- Use chick guards to keep birds close to heat, feed and water. Prevent drafts and piling for the first 10 days.
- Bring house up to brooding temperature one day before delivery.
- Fill waterers 4 hours before arrival. Allow birds to drink for 3 to 4 hours before giving first feed. This will help prevent dehydration.
It is always a good idea to cull and destroy sick or lame birds. These birds are generally inefficient because they do not grow or produce eggs while continuing to eat feed.
By the end of the first production cycle (10 to 12 months of lay), many laying hens will naturally quit producing eggs and molt. These hens could be removed and slaughtered for meat, if desired. Birds in laying condition will have a large, bright, waxy-appearing comb, moist vent and flexible keel and pubic bones that are wide apart.
Non-layers will have a dull, small comb and dry vent with rigid keel. The distance between the pubic bones will be only 1 or 2 finger widths, while 3 or 4 fingers will easily fit between these bones of a bird in laying condition.
Leghorn hens may be molted (rested) after their first production cycle. After 4 to 8 weeks of resting, the hens will return to production at a production rate somewhat less than their first cycle.
Brooder stoves or heat lamps can be utilized. Place a maximum of 350 birds per stove or 75 birds per heat lamp. Use a minimum of 2 heat lamps in case one burns out. Adjust the temperature to 90° at the chick level. Reduce temperature 5° per week to a minimum of 60° F. The best indication of a comfortable temperature is when the chicks are spread evenly within the chick guard. Remove wet areas around waterers and feeders daily to maintain good litter condition and to keep leg problems and disease conditions at a minimum. Brooder litter paper should be used when starting chicks. It makes it easier for the chicks to get around and reduces the chicks’ tendency to eat the litter, causing starve-outs.
The effect of light on growth and production is a very important factor. Chicks should be placed on 24 hours of light for the first week. Broilers and capons can then be allowed to follow the natural day length as long as there is at least 14 hours of light provided.
Day length control is very critical for attaining maximum egg production. A basic rule is: Never decrease day length for laying hens.
General guidelines for total of natural and artificial light could be as follows:
- First week after chicks are housed - 24 hours of light.
- 2 to 6 weeks - 16 hours of light.
- 6 to 12 weeks - 13 hours of light.
- 12 to 18 weeks - 10 hours of light.
- At 18 weeks, increase day length one half hour per week until 15 hours of day length is reached. Laying hens must have a minimum of 8 continuous hours of rest (black-out) per 24-hour period.
Use one 60-watt bulb for laying hens or very young birds. One 25-watt bulb (per 200 square feet of floor space) is adequate for growing pullets, broilers and capons.
Temperature and Ventilation
The optimum temperature range for birds over 4 weeks of age is 65°-75° F. As temperature gets above or below this range, the production, growth rate or efficiency can suffer. To control temperature, ammonia, humidity, dust, disease and litter condition, fresh air movement is essential. Approximately 5 to 10 times as much ventilation is needed in warm temperature conditions as in cold conditions.
Egg Storage and Cleaning
Eggs should be gathered 2 or 3 times per day. Wash, dry and cool them as quickly as possible to maintain freshness. The wash water should be warmer than the temperature of the eggs. Use detergents designed for washing eggs. Store eggs at approximately 50° F and 70 percent relative humidity.
Roosting and Nest Space
Roosts may be used for growing or mature birds, although they are not essential. Allow 6 inches of roost space per bird. To keep eggs clean, nests must be provided for laying hens. Allow 1 nest for every 4 hens. To prevent floor eggs, put nests in darkened area of the house. Keep the nests filled with adequate amounts of litter to prevent egg breakage and dirty eggs.
Space and Equipment Requirements
(Absolute Minimums Per Bird)
|Type||Age in Weeks||Floor Space||Feeder Space