Poultry chicks care and management
Dr Velilu Epao
Veterinary Assistant Surgeon, Veterinary Hospital Kohima
Poultry farming is a profitable income generating enterprise due to its low investment and yield of high economic returns, easily managed by women, children and elderly. Backyard poultry farming consists of around 92% of total poultry population in Nagaland. In order to facilitate better farming practices and more production rate, following managemental practices are discussed.
1. Preparation of poultry shed and coop
a. All in and all out system is good practise of poultry farming. It means when a particular batch of chickens reach marketable age, they are disposed off and new batch are introduced again.
b. The lighting facility inside the shed and coop should be checked and proper watt bulbs should be used to provide warmth and visibility of the shed. One 100 watt bulb can accommodate 25 chicks, so accordingly the provisions can be made.
c. The long axis of poultry shed in colder regions should be aligned in east- west direction in order to facilitate maximum sunlight into the shed for health and well being.
d. The provision of proper floor space area is essential for optimum growth and development. As overcrowding leads to uneven growth rate due to lack of access to feed and water, floor litter dampens quickly, stampede of weak chicks leading to death of birds and increased stress which leads to poor growth.
e. Provision of proper ventilation in order to facilitate clean air circulation and exit of foul air. Poor ventilation causes respiratory problems, foul smell from chicken coop and causes nuisance to surrounding areas too.
f. Provision of clean drinking water to the poultry birds at all times is important
2. Procurement of chicks
a. The poultry chicks should be procured from a reliable source with all proper vaccinations done against various disease.
b. Abnormal chicks with crooked legs and curved toes will not grow well.
c. Always check for chicks who are alert and active, bright eyes, without any discharge in the nostrils.
3. Arrival of chicks into the sheds
a. Mix electrolytes and stress relieve vitamins to the drinking water as soon as the chick arrives.
b. Starter feeds which is a complete balanced feed containing all nutrients, minerals and vitamins should be given. Use starter feed upto 1 month of age and replace with finisher feeds from one month onwards till market age is reached. Use of non conventional feed source like green leaves from gardens, paddy grains, dried tapioca powder can also be incorporated to the finisher feeds to minimise cost of commercial feeds. Plain maize or broken maize can also be mixed with the commercial feeds of finisher feed.
c. The shed or coop where chicks are housed should be provided with bulbs with light both day and night. Provision of light at night also enhances chicks to feed all night which enhances growth rate of the chicks.
d. Use of polythene sheets or gunny bags to cover the shed and coops will protect from heavy rains and winds.
4. Healthcare of the chicks
a. The best time to observe the chicks is during the time of feeding and watering.
Healthy birds are always alert, feeding, drinking water and scavenging the litter material. When some chicks are immobile, with eyes closed, hunched appearance and dropped feathers, the birds should be removed from the flock immediately and kept separately for observation and treatment.
b. Always check the stool or poop on the floor for consistency, presence of foreign objects, colour changes. Presence of white watery and greenish poop indicates diarrhoea and bacterial infection, bloody stool indicates coccidial infection, presence of long flat string or rice grains and round noodles type indicate worm infestation. Therefore specific medicines should be used to treat the problem.
c. Cough and sneezing, presence of mucus or fluid discharge in nostril indicates respiratory infection in birds.
d. Always attend healthy birds first while feeding and watering then attend the sick birds. Sanitise hands and utensils after completing the routine work.
e. Post mortem examination of dead birds will help to diagnose a disease tentatively to help for better management.
f. Prompt consultation to veterinary health centres or a vet can prevent huge loss of birds with knowledge of better management practices for a better return.
5. Bisoecurity of poultry sheds and coops
a. A good umbrella of bio security measures will ensure a smooth and better performance of poultry birds. Feeds used for chicks should be of good quality free from moulds and fungal infestation.
b. The litter or floor material should be replaced when the moisture content is high and there is discharge of foul smell from the coop. Racking or turning of litter material should be done once a week to avoid formation of clumps.
c. Deworming of the chicks is helpful to avoid internal parasite and enhanced better growth.
d. The whole chicken shed or coop, utensils like waterer and feeders should be cleaned thoroughly after a previous batch of chickens are disposed off for market and kept ready for the arrival of next batch.
e. A minimum of 7 days period should be kept after the last dose of antibiotics treatment in birds for the meat to be fit for human consumption.