Raising Healthy Broiler Chickens: a Guide
By Tom Seest
At BackyardChickenNews, we help people who want to raise backyard chickens by collating information and news blended with our own personal experiences.
Some tips for raising broiler chickens include providing them with a quality, non-medicated diet. Initially, day-old chicks should be fed chick crumbs for about three to four weeks before switching over to growers’ pellets. Another important feeding practice is to add vitamins to their water. One way to do this is to add a weak solution of Apple Cider Vinegar to their water. This solution should be at a concentration of 0.5%. Keep in mind that the rapid weight gain that broilers experience will make them less energetic than the slower-growing pure breeds.
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The first week of your chicks’ lives is a crucial time in their development. It’s important to feed them a healthy diet and limit handling to reduce stress. Also, restrict light exposure to prevent heart attacks and leg problems. Use a heat lamp with a red bulb only for the first week. The ideal temperature for broilers in Western Canada and Ontario is 34degC (93degF).
When you first start feeding chicks, it’s best to provide them with fresh water. They won’t drink much during the first few days of life because they’re still relying on the nutrients in their yolk sac. After a week, they should be able to drink water by dipping their beaks in it. You can also add sugar to the water. According to U of F Extension, you can add one-fourth to one-half cup of sugar per gallon of water.
Once you’ve established your broiler chickens’ feeding schedule, you can begin offering them a high-quality starter feed. In Ontario and Western Canada, you can choose from Masterfeeds 18% AV Chick Starter/Grower. A good starter feed will have a high protein content and be tailored to the growing needs of baby chicks. Also, the food should be placed where chicks can access it easily. Keep the feeding area clean by using cardboard or plastic wrap.
Feeding chicks after a day is an important part of broiler chicken care. Ensure that your chicks have adequate access to fresh water. Make sure they don’t have to climb over a water pan or swim across the floor of a brooder house. To reduce the risk of drowning, place a small water trough nearby. Make sure to clean the area daily.
Choosing the right bedding for your chickens is essential to their health and well-being. There are several types of bedding available, each with different benefits. The most common type is wood shavings, which can be purchased at feed stores or obtained for free from individuals who work with wood. Wood shavings have a pleasant smell and are extremely absorbent. They do not compact and keep the temperature constant. Other options for bedding include sawdust, straw, and dry shredded leaves.
The best bedding is one that is both absorbent and non-poisonous. It should be free of contaminants, fungi, and pathogens, which can lead to devastating poultry diseases. The material should also be cleaned and sterilized before being spread to the chickens.
Softwood shavings are another good option. You can find these types of bedding at your local feed store or online. The downside to wood-based bedding is that it contains high levels of aerobic bacteria and must be cleaned regularly. Since wood does not absorb moisture, a dirty coop will quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria. As a result, you should clean bedding regularly and avoid putting it near water and food.
In addition to being safe for the chickens, bedding materials must be effective at controlling ammonia production, which has adverse effects on poultry performance. High levels of ammonia impair feed utilization, weight gain, and egg production. The action of ammonia on poultry is largely attributed to its damaging effects on respiratory tissues and the bird’s immune system. Pine shavings, for example, contain chemicals that inhibit ammonia-producing bacteria. Some of these compounds include tannins, terpenes, and polyphenols.
Proper lighting in a broiler chicken coop is critical to the health of your flock. It stimulates melatonin production and develops proper diurnal rhythms. This natural cycle affects the chicken’s immune system, growth rate, and reproductive hormones. Proper lighting promotes a healthy and uniform flock.
Lighting in a broiler chicken coop should be bright but not blinding. The baby chicks need about 24 hours of light daily for the first 48 to 72 hours. The recommended amount is about 600 lux per square foot of area. It is also best to install lights that are dimmable. Dimmable bulbs have a rheostat for manual control.
The Code of Practice outlines lighting requirements. After a chick is placed, the dark period must be one hour. By day five, this must increase to four hours. The dark period must be less than 20 percent of the light intensity. In general, the lighting time must be adjusted daily.
Various light sources are used in broiler coops. Some of these lights are LEDs, which are capable of producing a wide spectrum of light. Compared to traditional bulbs, CFLs and LEDs are more efficient. Furthermore, they provide higher body weight gain and lower manure.
Pasture confinement for raising broiler birds has several advantages. This method of raising chickens is relatively inexpensive. Pasture shelters are usually made of welded wire, hardware cloth, or a wood frame covered with a tarp or corrugated metal. These shelters are typically built at a ratio of 1.2 square feet per bird, which is less than that needed for broilers kept indoors. In addition, pasture shelters are easy to move with the use of a dolly and strategically placed handles.
Pasture confinement also reduces feed costs. Broiler chickens that are allowed to graze on pasture will produce meat with less fat and more omega-3s than those raised on a conventional system. They will also lay better-quality eggs. Those who raise chickens in this manner should move the shelters daily to maintain a constant supply of forage.
Pasture confinement is not only beneficial for chickens but also for humans. It has been proven to enhance the immune function of chickens and protect them from predators. Pasture-based broilers also benefit from outdoor access, where they can peck, scratch, and forage for insects. This is an important part of the chicken’s natural behavior. When they are not given the opportunity to forage, they are more likely to experience welfare problems.
Pasture confinement also reduces food costs, as chickens can be kept on a single acre. Additionally, the grass stays fresh and has soft bedding longer when chickens live in the pasture. It is an excellent option for a homesteader who wants to increase their production without increasing costs. A single acre of pasture can easily accommodate up to 1,000 chickens.
As the temperatures start to drop and the days grow shorter, feed your broiler chickens more nutritious foods. This will help them put on insulating fat and give them something to do during the winter months. Boredom can lead to poor flock dynamics and may even lead to illness.
Feeding treats is an excellent way to relieve boredom and keep birds happy. It also helps to curb behavioral problems, such as pecking, cannibalism, and stress. Try to avoid giving too much food at once and make sure that there is a variety of foods.
Adding protein to the diet can help your flock fight winter illnesses. While you should continue to provide a complete whole grain base ration, consider boosting the protein content. Supplemental protein snacks, natural supplements, and healthy treats are excellent ways to provide extra protein to your flock.
As chickens molt in the winter, they prepare for cold temperatures and shorter days. Therefore, they require a higher protein content in their feed. They also burn more calories to stay warm. So, you will need to provide them with higher protein foods from November to March.
Adding more protein to your chicken’s diet is also a great way to make sure your flock stays healthy and strong. Feeding your birds with a high protein complete feed will help them grow feathers, keep their body weight up, and remain warm. Adding more protein to their diet will also boost their immune system.
When it comes to providing food and water to your broiler chickens, you must keep in mind their needs and preferences. This can be challenging but essential for the health and welfare of your flock. Make sure your chickens have access to fresh water throughout the day. You should empty waterers at night and put fresh water in the coop in the morning.
Be sure to read our other related stories at BackyardChickenNews to learn more about raising chickens in your backyard.