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Animal Husbandry > Chicken

Confinement Rearing

Size of flock: Larger size units are more economical than smaller ones under commercial conditions. A unit of 2000 layers is usually considered as economical for commercial egg production. In the case of broilers a unit intake of 250 chicks per week is usually considered as viable.

Stock: Procure the best quality chicks. No amount of good management can convert poor quality chicks into good layers or broilers. More profit can be made in a commercial unit by procuring day old pullet chicks. In broiler units, straight-run chicks would give equally good performance.

Random sample poultry performance test: Government of India has established random sample test units for layers and broilers in four locations, viz. Bangalore, Bombay, Bhubaneswar and Delhi. The test results are published annually and give information about the performance of the various strains and breeds of chicken under identical conditions. This information would help in the choice of the stock.

Number to be procured: In determining the number to be procured, normal losses that might occur due to death and culling have to be allowed. For each 1000 layers to be housed, procure 1100, day-old pullet chicks or 1050 growing pullet chicks or 1000 ready-to-lay pullets. In the case of broilers, the corresponding number would be 250-day-old straight-run chicks for 250 broilers to be marketed at 6-7 weeks of age.

Artificial brooding: Chicks newly hatched out require supplementary heat till they grow feathers. The period of brooding is usually up to 4-5 weeks of age and a little longer in cold season. Artificial brooding can be carried out in deep litter houses or in electrically operated brooder batteries.

Floor space, feeding space and watering space for chicks

Age weeks Floor space Sq.ft./Chick Feeding space inches/chick Watering space inches/chick
1 0.2 1.5 0.5
2 0.2 2.0 0.7
3 0.3 2.0 0.7
4 0.4 2.5 0.8
5 0.6 2.5 0.8
6 0.8 3.0 1.0
7 0.9 3.0 1.0
(Source: Central Avian Research Institute)

On the deep litter, provide 700 cm2 floor area per chick till 8 weeks of age. In a hover with one m diameter, 250 chicks can be brooded. The hover can be metal or bamboo basket fitted with a heat source. The size and number of the hovers depend on the number of chicks to be brooded. Units of 250 chicks are ideal for efficient management. The hover can be placed at appropriate height from the floor either by hanging it from the roof or by placing it over bricks or stones so that chicks can go in and out easily. Temperature required for brooding is 1 –2 Watt/chick. Use five bulbs of 60 Watts per unit of 250 chicks.

Electricity is the common source of heat used. Electric bulbs of multiple units are preferred over single bulb to cover the wattage. Infra-red bulbs can also be used for brooding. Hover is not necessary when infrared bulbs are used. The number of bulbs to be used depends on the number of chicks to be brooded. The rule of thumb is that one Infra-red bulb of 250 watts for every 250 chicks. Position the bulb 50 cm above litter.

The requirement of chicks for additional warmth decreases as they grow. The warmth as measured by thermometer at 5 cm (2 inches) above the floor level should be checked everyday.

Temperature requirement of chicks during different ages

Age in weeks
Temperature under hover, at 5 cm above floor ( °C)
0-1
35
0-2
32
2-3
29
3-4
26
5-5
23
(Source: Kerala Agricultural University)

The distribution of chicks under the hover is a better indication of warmth than the thermometer. If the chicks are active, busy eating and drinking, it indicates that the temperature under the hover is comfortable. Generally one watt per chick appears satisfactory under our climatic conditions.

Use brooder (chick) guards, 30 cm (1 ft) high, encircling the hover at a distance of about 30-60 cm (1-2 ft) for the first one week. Use of chick guard is especially important when atmosphere is cool. Chick guard can be made of bamboo mat, hard board or G.I. sheet.

Litter management: Litter materials such as wood shavings; saw dust, paddy husk, peanut shell, paddy chaff, chopped straw and such other materials that absorb moisture well can be used depending upon the cost and availability.

Spread the litter to a depth of 5 cm on the floor before introducing chicks and build it up to a depth of 15 cm by adding litter material, at the rate of about 2 cm per week. This would require approximately 10 kg of litter material/sq.meter. Litter should be raked thoroughly at frequent intervals, say at least twice a week, during the cold and rainy season, once a week during the hot season and the day after deworming. Litter should be kept dry always. During the cold and rainy season and on the area of floor where watering utensils are placed, special attention should be paid daily to check the litter condition. If required, top-dress with fresh litter. It is desirable to use dry lime at the rate of 10 kg per 10 m3 and rake the litter.

Light: Artificial light should be discontinued from the time the chicks no more require additional warmth. Dim light of a 40-watt bulb for every 250 chicks can be provided during the night for broiler chicks.

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