This is the backend of our two-part series about poultry housing. It was originally posted in the website of famer’s weekly.
To avoid high transport costs the chicken house should be within 100km of the abattoir or the point at which the eggs will be marketed.
It should also be located close to medicine and feed suppliers.
The site must be easily accessible by truck. It should preferably be built on a slope so that water can run away from the house during rain.
Mud not only affects access to a house, it can be a breeding ground for harmful pathogens.
Various materials can be used, such as brick and mortar, stone or wood, but the material must be easy to clean.
If not, it too can provide breeding ground for harmful pathogens.
Wood, for example, can be used but must be treated and painted as some diseases may ‘lurk’ in cracks if not properly covered.
There are three ways of heat production inside a house: heat produced by chickens, heat entering a house through the roof and walls and artificial heating.
Chickens are warm-blooded and maintain a uniform body temperature of between 40,6˚C and 41,7˚C.
It’s important to provide young chickens with an ambient temperature of 21˚C to 37˚C (depending on the production stage) and adult birds with a temperature of about 21˚C.
As hot air rises and cold air drops, thermometers measuring housing temperature must be at chicken height or knee height, and not at human eye level, because the temperature at the bottom of the house (where the chickens are) will differ from the temperature here.
A naturally ventilated house makes use of rolls of canvas on the corrugated iron sides that are rolled up or down, depending on whether the house needs to be cooler or warmer. Opening the canvas sides not also helps get rid of gases.
Sprinklers can also be installed on a roof as wetting a corrugated iron roof can help cool down a house.
Always ensure the birds’ temperature needs are being met. A chicken that feels uncomfortably hot will open its wings and stop feeding, and use energy that was supposed to go to weight gain or egg production to maintain its body temperature.
Cold temperatures can be controlled by using infrared lights, brooding systems and spot heaters which heat only a certain area in a house.
Chickens flocking around a heat source means they are cold and need more heat. A cold chicken will eat more to increase its body temperature and will be more expensive to maintain (due to increased feed intake), even though it’s not producing optimally.
When new chicks arrive, create a partition for them. This area can then easily be heated by a spot heater. This saves electricity as the entire house does not have to be heated.
Broilers produce more heat as they grow very fast and will therefore need less artificial heat. Larger, older birds and active birds, like free-range birds, also produce more heat.
If all factors work in favor of chickens, the end result will be a uniformly sized chicken the market wants.