Management during the first week for a chick (be it a border, broiler or layer) is critical as it has a lasting influence on health and performance for the remainder of the birds life. The main objective during this period is to achieve the best start possible for every chick. Excessive stress and challenges during the first seven days of life will increase susceptibility to disease, increased mortality, decreased growth, poor flock performance, all this leading to losses.
The chick is dependent on the grower/ farmer to ensure its environment is well managed. If this is done and management conditions adequately meet the requirement of the chicks, feeding and drinking behavior will develop well, initial development will be optimized and subsequent bird health, welfare, uniformity, productivity and profits/ returns will be high.
Key success factors to a successful first week of life are:
- Adequate preparations before chick arrival
- The expected delivery time and number of chicks should be determined well in advance to ensure the appropriate brooding space and equipment is planned for and the chicks can be quickly placed in the house following arrival
- Temperature should be monitored to give a chick vent temperature between 39.4 °C and 40.5°C (103 to 105 °F) during delivery
- As far as possible, relative humidity should be controlled to between 50 and 65% throughout the journey
- Biosecurity is an important consideration before chicks are delivered to the farm. Individual sites should hold birds of the same age
- All ‘all in, all out’ principle allows easier and more effective vaccination, cleaning and sanitation, supporting the future health and performance of the flock.
- House preparation of the brooding area must ensure correct air and floor temperatures are achieved and tested before chick arrival.
- Pre-heating the house before placement is essential. Temperature (air and floor) and relative humidity should be stabilized 24 hours prior to chick placement.
During the first week of life (be it breeders, broilers, layers) need special care and attention to make a good start. The chicks are expected and required to adapt quickly to new conditions and new feed and water sources during a period when they are unable to regulate their own body temperature in addition to the stress they go through to adjust to the new environment. It is therefore very important that conditions during the first week of life provide the optimal environment and easy access to feed, water and essential supplements/ medication
Achieving success in the first week of life will lead to subsequent success in health, productivity and profitability later in the bird’s life.
Dr. Hope T. Pachena, Bupo Animal Health