Management is the first line of defense when it comes to your flock’s health. Often there are times where management practices can solve issues you are experiencing. The following are a few easy pointers to help you troubleshoot some common issues.
Quality bio-security is essential to keeping a flock free of illness. Ensure your Danish Entry is complete with a clear line from “dirty” to “clean”. Keep boots used in the barn on the clean side and step into a powder or disinfectant prior to entering the barn. Sanitizer and gloves should also be utilized to prevent anything being transferred from your hands. A pair of barn-specific coveralls should be worn while in the barn.
When walking through flocks, start with the youngest birds first and end with the oldest birds. Immune systems of young birds aren’t fully developed and exposing them to an older flock could be a detriment to their health. Keeping up with beetle, bird, and rodent controls are essential to keeping the flock healthy and thriving.
It is absolutely essential to examine water when evaluating a flock. The height of the lines should accommodate the aver-age size of the birds in the barn. Water lines should be at the height of the birds’ backs to ensure they can still move under the line and activate the watering mechanism properly. Adjusting the water lines a few times a week, if not daily will ensure your birds are getting the water they need.
Water pressure is also important to monitor; too much can create wet litter and be a breeding ground for bacteria. Too little pressure will result in dehydration and birds will not be able to utilize all the nutrients provided to them in the feed. How much water your birds are drinking can also be an indicator of how healthy they are or are not. Water intake should increase daily. If there is a drop in consumption, it most likely is an indication that your flocks are being challenged with some sort of illness.
Water sanitation plays an important role in your flock’s ability to build a healthy immune system. Without proper sanitation, vaccines will be less effective and bacteria will have more of an opportunity to weaken your flock’s health. Borde-tellosis easily spreads through water lines and can cause high morbidity if a secondary infection such as Newcastle Disease virus or E. Coli occurs. Carefully monitor your chemical levels once a week and record them to determine if any adjustments should be made.
Feed is the biggest input cost to your operation and should be managed carefully. Feed lines and feed savers should be at a height that the flock can easily access feed without wasting too much. Access to feed is a more prevalent issue for younger birds to properly develop their immune systems.
Birds should be able to stand flat footed, and be able to feed without rubbing their neck on the pans. If birds seem to be wasting feed, consider raising the feed line but keep the feed savers open to maintain the feed at an accessible height. Once the feed wasting has come to a stop, the feed savers can be adjusted to limit feed more. Do not make too many adjustments at once, as this can result in birds not finding their feed source and developing enteric issues.
Monitor feed particle size and see that it is appropriate for the age of the bird. Corn that is not ground finely enough serves no nutritional value to your bird and is therefore passed through and more than likely creating wetter litter conditions.
Litter condition has a huge impact on creating the optimum environment for your flock. Evaluating a flock’s litter condition every few days can make it easier to make adjustments and correct the direction your litter is taking. Improper curtain or inlet calibration can contribute to poor litter condition; therefore, they should be evaluated daily. Humidity is a big proponent to how wet or dry the litter will be, and this can be corrected by increasing ventilation or utilizing stir fans in the barn. Maintaining relative humidity between 20-30% will keep litter from becoming too wet and prevent creating an environment for bacteria to grow.
Wet litter can lead to foot pad issues, mold, dermatitis and spread of salmonella. Wet litter can also be an indication of other underlying issues such as coccidiosis. Picking up dead birds twice daily can significantly reduce the transmission of disease. On the opposite side of the spectrum, dusty barn conditions in the summer can be hard on the bird’s ability to effectively breathe. Good ventilation practices will help reduce dust in their environment and help keep them cooler in the summer months.
Since summer is on our doorstep, temperatures can swing significantly during the day and your flock will be the indicator of what changes should be made to their environment. Keep an eye out for birds that are huddling (too cold) or panting/dropped wings (too hot). Temperatures reaching 85+ degrees in a 15+ week old flock should run misters to reduce heat stress in the flock. During heat indexes that near 100, a water wagon with a sprayer should be used to spray onto the flocks. Keeping flocks up and actively drinking is crucial during these periods of heat.
Remember to check the temperature curves for your barn pri-or to receiving birds. The barn should heated up at least 24 hours prior to receiving new birds. Generally, when receiving young birds, the set temperature should be between 90-95 degrees. Ad-justments to temperature can be made once the birds have settled into their new environment. Birds will group together if they feel a draft, if the overall temperature is too low or if they are feeling sick. To minimize grouping or piling, seal any un-used fans, affix plastic over any drafts and adjust the inlets to ensure cold air isn’t dropping onto the flock. A helpful tool is using a smoke emitter and walking through the barn to show where any drafts are or how your airflow moves in the barn.
Lighting is essential to flock growth and performance. Young birds need 24 hours of light the first few days after placement. An hour of darkness can then be added slowly after every few days. Birds should see between 4-6 hours of darkness a day, with feeding periods in-between. Blue lights or dimmed lighting can be used if flocks tend to be skittish or pile.
Seasonal lighting changes can also impact how a flock reacts. Head pecking is a common occurrence during the fall and spring. To counter-act head pecking, lights can be left on for 24-72 hours, or zinc-methionine can be supplemented in the water.
The Poultry Team at Sioux Nation Ag Center has years of experience that you can utilize. Please give us a call with any questions concerning your flock. We’re here to help you succeed!