Winter is now fast approaching and this is the most difficult period for any poultry producer due to increased heating costs. I have met various producers/farmers who have avoided problems of this period by avoiding any placements during winter. However, while this is the best, it is not possible with most chicken farmers as they have to meet market requirements during and after the winter period.
It a fact that brooding is the most important period of a chicks’ life and this period is usually be 1-21 days in winter.
Farmers must pay more attention during the brooding period to achieve the following aims:-
- To accelerate growth rate
- Enhance growth of important organs (e.g the heart)
- Develop feed and water intake
- Enhance the health condition of the bird
- Minimize stress
The harsh weather conditions in winter make the farmers’ job difficult during the brooding period and damage done during this period will only appear later in the life of the chick. This call for more attention in the brooding period.
Usually the winter period in South Africa is over three months and the following weather conditions can be expected:-
- Low temperatures,
- Dry and low humidity.
The biggest challenge in the winter is to maintain the right recommended brooding temperatures. Poor curtain quality in open sided houses makes controlling of temperature extremely difficult.
Failing to regulate the correct temperatures in the brooder will result in:-
- Increased mortalities,
- Increased vaccine reactions
A common problem observed in winter is that most farmers reduce ventilation in the brooder to avoid high heating costs during. However, ventilation is as important as the heating.
Poor ventilation will result in:
- Poor growth at the beginning of the chicks life (maximum internal development occurs
at the beginning of the birds life). Poor initial growth of the bird will lead to poor production in the later part of the production cycle.
- Ascites is caused by poor ventilation. Farmers must increase heating in winter and maintain adequate ventilation to ensure that the birds develop correctly to achieve their genetic potential.
- Poor air quality due to high amount of gases—e.g Carbon Dioxide and Carbon Monoxide etc.
- Low Oxygen levels in the brooder.
Proper ventilation will help the exchange of air in the brooder, maintain the correct amount of oxygen to the birds and hence the removal of harmful gases from the brooder.
Principles of ventilation in the winter:
- The cardinal rule is the temperature should not be compromised because of ventilation.
- Birds should not get cold or chilled by a draft of cold air.