Majority of the present supply of chicken meat comes from broilers. Broilers are chickens that grow fast and convert feeds into meat more efficiently. Most broilers were raised in large farms either under contract growers or independent growers. Success in broiler raising depends on proper management and many other factors.
Factors to Consider in Broiler Production:
1. Housing and Equipment
Broilers are raised in large numbers. They require comfortable housing to perform well. Typically, the design for broiler housing is the design recommended in tropical countries.
The following basic requirements can serve as guide in building a broiler house:
- Provide the essential requirements for comfort, bio-security, and protection of the chickens against elements of nature.
- Provide convenience and ease of work for the caretakers.
- Provide strength and durability to allow maximization of investments.
- Use locally available and cheap construction materials without sacrificing durability and comfort.
In commercial broiler production, a brooding-growing house was used. During brooding, a certain portion of the house was used. As the broilers grow bigger, their floor space allocation was increased until the whole house was occupied. Similarly, during brooding, the feeding and drinking space allocations per broiler are still small. As the broiler grow older, the space allocations are increased. The actual practice, however, is to adjust the space allowances for only a few times to minimize stress.
The most commonly used apparatuses in broiler production are the feeder, waterer, heater, and weighing scale. In places where temperature and humidity become a problem, ventilator fans are also needed. A separate pen (hospital pen) far from broiler houses should be provided to house and treat injured and sick broilers.
2. Selecting the Best Strain
The main traits considered in evaluating broiler performance are growth rate, feed efficiency, and carcass recovery. Fast-growing broilers attain their live market weight within a shorter period. Good breast-fleshing ability and high dressing percentage of broilers result in higher meat yield. High feed efficiency means lower feed cost to produce a certain unit weight (live weight or dressed weight) of the broilers.
Selecting the best strains under local conditions can be best achieved by raising the broilers in the area with other strains and then evaluating their overall performance. For beginners, the best strain to raise is the one popularly raised in the locality.
3. Good-quality Chicks
To attain good production efficiency in broiler operation, one should start with good-quality day-old chicks. Good-quality broiler chicks can be easily recognized by their dry and fluffy feathers, bright eyes, well-healed navels, and active appearance.
Good-quality chicks come from good-quality breeder farms and hatcheries with adequate medication and vaccination programs. After hatching, chicks can survive without food and water for only 72 hours. Beyond this period, the chicks will become starved and dehydrated, and their survival and subsequent performance may be affected. Chicks should be bought only from reliable hatcheries and suppliers.
4. Systems of Broiler Production
There are two systems of broiler operation:
The all-in-all-out system – only one age group of broilers is raised on the farm. These broilers will also be marketed at the same time. This system is desirable because it facilitates disease prevention and control measures. If the system is strictly followed, a total of five to six batches of broilers can be raised in one year.
The multi-stage operation – two or more age groups of broilers are raised on the farm. This system is ideal if the market calls for the supply of certain numbers of broilers at regular intervals. For instance, in a two-stage operation, there should be separate brooding and growing houses. More batches of broilers can be raised and marketed in one year. However, disease control may be more complicated in the multi-stage system than in all-in-all-out system. A strict program for the prevention and control of diseases is required to minimize the spread of disease-causing organisms.
Brooding is the process of providing chicks with outside heat (supplemental heat) after hatching until their automatic heat regulatory mechanism becomes developed and they are able to control their body temperature. Brooding is done within the first 24 hours of chick’s life. Artificial brooding is done to make the chicks comfortable and to enable them to grow normally.
The brooding period for fast-feathering broiler chicks in the warm months is shorter (2 to 3 weeks). Slow-feathering chicks require a longer brooding period (3 to 5 weeks) in the cold months of the year. On commercial broiler farms, the most common sources of heat for brooding are liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and electricity.
Broilers should be given the proper type and form of feeds for optimum feed conversion ratio. Chickens are very efficient in converting cereal grains and other feedstuff. The generic potential of broilers can be realized only through proper nutrition and management. The different types of broiler feeds are the booster, starter, and finisher feeds.
Booster feeds, also called prestarter feeds, are given to 1- to 10-day-old chicks. Starter feeds are given to chicks aged 11 to 28 days. Finisher feeds are given to broilers aged 29 days up to the market age. Booster feeds are in mash form, while starter and finisher feeds can be in pellet or crumbled form. Broilers should be fed ad libitum, which means that feeds should be available at all times.
Chicken use feeds as an energy source to maintain body temperature and carry on activities such as breathing, walking, eating, and digesting the feed. They also use feeds as building materials for the development of the bone, flesh, feathers, and eggs.
Maintaining Good Health of the Broilers
Broiler diseases can be prevented through the following methods: (a) strict sanitation, (b) provision of adequate floor and feeding and drinking space allowances, and (c) vaccination. Strict sanitation requires thorough cleaning of houses and surroundings and proper disposal of waste. There should be no overcrowding inside the poultry house. Adequate feeding space is provided if at least 80% of the broilers can feed at feeding time. Fresh potable water should be given to the broilers at all times.
Vaccination is an effective and economical means of preventing infectious poultry diseases. Vaccines are biological products prepared from the organisms causing the disease. Live vaccines are available against most viral diseases and consist of attenuated living organisms capable of replicating in the chicken to induce immune response or antibody production. There is always a time interval between the administration of a vaccine and the appearance of protective antibodies.
Along with a clean environment and broiler housing and facilities, vaccination and medication help ensure that broilers grow healthy. Diseases such as the avian flu, which has affected many parts of Asia, pose a threat to broiler production, making vaccination and medication a must for growers.
Looking for Buyers
In the Philippines, broilers are marketed live, dressed, or in cut-up parts. In many town and city markets, consumers buy live broilers. In wet markets, broilers are usually sold in dressed form (fresh or fresh-chilled) or in cut-up parts (breast, wings, drumsticks, shanks, back, and neck). Other parts of broilers that are available in many wet markets include the head, feet, small intestines, and blood. In supermarkets and other product outlets, broilers are sold in fresh-chilled and frozen forms.
Sources: www.thepoultrysite.com, pcarrd-dost; Photo: poultryhub.com