I had a conversation with a new and loyal reader of our blog who resides in South Africa. This reader discussed the broiler chickens she was presently raising at her backyard. I commended her courage and efforts on such project. Seriously, I like people who have an interest in agriculture. As we were conversing, she told me that she had recorded very little mortality so far. As I was about going to bed, I got the idea to write on how to reduce or prevent high mortality rate in poultry farming. So let shoot.
One major cause of economic loss in poultry farms is the death of birds. The moment a poultry farm is recording a high mortality rate before the end of a production cycle, the owner shouldn’t expect an encouraging profit—if not a loss—after sales. Economic loss due to mortality can be avoided or reduced to the minimum. It is very possible. The following tips will reveal how it can be achieved:
1. Always wash drinkers and replace leftover water
Make sure you wash the drinkers or drinking trough of your birds every morning and replace the water with clean and cool one. Don’t use chlorinated water or water from a stream or river that you don’t know its source. Also, ensure that you rinse off the drinkers to avoid re-contaminating the fresh water with soaps or detergents.
Note: Please don’t ever discard leftover water around the pens. If you do, you’re signalling to soldier ants to pay your birds a visit. So discard leftover feeds and water far away from the production pens
2. Serve water before feeds
Birds are different from humans or other animals. You must always serve them water before you serve them feeds, especially if you’re on a deep-litter system. This is to avoid stampeding as the chickens struggle for feeds at the same point.
3. Avoid serving moldy feeds
It is dangerous and risky to serve moldy feeds to your birds. Don’t do it. It is just like giving them poison. Moldy feeds can make your birds to become sick or have disease(s).
4. Strictly follow medication and vaccination schedule strictly
You need to get the right vaccination and medication schedule of the poultry species you’re raising. This helps in immunizing your birds against some poultry killer diseases like Newcastle Diseases (ND), Fowl Pox, Fowl Typhoid, Gumboro Disease, Avian encephalomyelitis (AE or Epidemic Tremor), Marek’s Disease, etc. Medication such as dewormer and antibiotics are very important to the health of your chickens and other poultry species.
5. Collect and raise healthy chicks
Most of the health problems faced by birds are as a result of a poor genetic background or early life. Some chickens are product of poor parents. Some egg hatcheries are not reputable as they raise poor parent stocks to produce fertile eggs, or they buy eggs from bad and problematic parent stock farms. There are some poultry farmers who never make any attempts to know the source of eggs of a particular hatchery they are buying chicks from, hence they collect and raise problematic chicks.
6. Prevent ammonia build up
When the litters in the poultry pen is left for a very long time, it gives rooms for increased production of ammonium gas, which will definitely choke your chickens, turkey, quail, etc. to death. So always remove wet or caked litters from pens and replace with new litters as soon as possible to avoid birds’ mortality due to choking or other respiratory problems.
There are hatcheries who don’t administer all the necessary vaccines such as Marek’s Disease Vaccine, Infectious Bronchitis vaccine (IBV) before distributing chicks to customers, thus exposing the future of those chicks to danger.
Note: Always purchase your chicks from a very reputable hatchery. It is very important that you ask the officer in charge if they have given the chicks the necessary vaccines with proofs.
7. Build a predator-proof poultry
The pen houses of your chickens should not be accessible to predators like foxes, hyenas, wild cats, rats and mice, snakes, hawks, etc. Make sure you install a strong iron mesh nets round the pens and apply predator repellents. If you allow these predators to penetrate into your flock, they will kill and/or eat the number of birds they are capable of doing justice to.
8. Maintain proper hygiene and sanitation
This is a somewhat wide topic, but the most important thing is that, you should maintain proper hygiene and sanitation in and around your poultry farm. You should also take biosecurity serious as this is one thing most livestock farmers don’t take serious until diseases are introduced into their farm. Click to read more about Health management and biosecurity
9. Supply sufficient feed to your birds
I haven’t read or heard it anywhere that underfed animals grow well and produce excellently. Underfed birds are closer to their graves because they will always have low body weights and poor immune responses, and such birds will die sooner. So ensure you give enough feed and avoid overfeeding, which could lead to another problem.
10. Protect flock from extreme cold
Extreme cold is an enemy to both human beings and animals. Try every means to avoid exposing your birds to extreme cold. It kills faster like time poison. The only way you can protect them is to find a means of supplying heat during a very cold weather. You can also design the pens in such a way that birds are not totally exposed to direct cold.
Read the following to cap it all. They are very important.
The first thing you should do when you enter your poultry house is to observe your birds before feeding them. The observation should entail:
- Their activeness: Are they moving towards your side or do not show any sign of recognizing you’re present? If they are active, move to the next thing.
- Check their faeces for abnormality: Check if your birds’ faeces are different from the normal, which should be grayish faeces with a white cap. If you suspect anything different from normal, like blood-stained faeces, yellowish or greenish faeces, then something is definitely wrong with those birds somewhere.
- Check for weak birds and/or dead birds and remove them from the pen. Observe the weak or sick birds in order to know if the weakness was due to an accident.
- Check for any birds that might have been pecked, thereby having wounds on the skin. If you detect any, segregate such from the flock immediately.
You need to contact your animal health officer if your observations are not favorable.