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Secrets to achieve good broiler production

May 2021

Richard McPherson,
Pula Imvula contributor.
Send an email to richard@agrimetrix.co.za

Part 2

The key points to keep in mind with broiler production will be common to both small and large producers. It is, however, important to revisit the basics – like management, housing and infrastructure – from time to time.

A broiler farmer should like chickens and enjoy being in the chicken houses to observe bird behaviour and the birds’ health status. It is important to be empathetic, patient and dedicated to showing attention to detail. In large houses daily observation and a quick reaction to any health or growth problems are critical for financial success.

Always observe the status of a chicken’s combs, eyes, beak and tongue, crop, feathering progress, breast development, vents as well legs, feet and skin conditions.

Develop a close relationship with your chosen supplier, as you will usually be ordering similar sized batches every seven to nine weeks throughout the year. The hatchery plans months ahead to be able to supply all its customers with their requirements on time. Make certain that deposits, if required, and payment conditions are clear to both parties. If you are a regular customer, you can expect attention to quality issues and backup from your supplier at any time. Make sure you know exactly on which day and time a delivery will take place.


  • It is important to have everything ready on the farm and in the chicken houses before the day-old chicks arrive.
  • Clean and disinfect the chicken houses.
  • Check that all your bell drinkers, tube feeders and curtains on open-sided houses are working correctly.
  • Good clean water, at a quality fit for human consumption, must be provided and all the tube feeders must be topped up.
  • Shallow feed trays filled with starter feed are essential to ensure that newly placed chicks can fill their crops, and drink enough water as soon as possible after the boxes have been opened in the house.
  • Have enough bell drinkers (six drinkers per 1 000 chicks), tube feeders and trays for every 1 000 day-old chicks as recommended. 
  • Temporarily put in ten extra drinkers per 1000 chicks at placement.
  • Check that your circular spot brooders, whether gas or electric, and red lamp heaters are working and reaching the optimum temperature at chick level.

The chicken house should be preheated for 24 hours before the arrival of the chicks and the temperature must be measured at chick height. The ideal at this level is 32°C for whole-house brooding and 32°C for spot brooders. The litter temperature must be between 28°C and 32°C. Cement floors can be heated to 40°C to ensure that the litter maintains the optimum temperature. Humidity, or the amount of moisture in the air within a house, should be between 60% and 70%.

If you use paper, make sure that 80% of the brooding area, which is a smaller area within a house specially dedicated to the brooding phase, has been put in place. Place 40 g of starter crumble per chick on the paper.

One of the most important production factors is the quality and quantity of litter used. Dry pine shavings or chopped wheat straw that is highly water absorbent should be spread in a layer of at least 2,5 cm to 5 cm on concrete floors and 10 cm on earth floors. The 5 cm on concrete floors will provide the best insulation against cold.

Chickens can lose much of their ideal body temperature through their feet touching cold surfaces. Therefore it is extremely important to maintain the chick temperature at an optimum.


  • Unload the chicks and place them on the paper in the brooding area. Leave them to settle for one to two hours. Then check the feed, water, temperature and humidity, and adjust the house settings if required.
  • Make sure that the chicks are ‘cheeping’ properly, are clean, stand firmly, walk well, are alert and are active. Check whether the yolk sac is fully retracted and has a healed navel.

Chicks should weigh between 38 g and 43 g for a good start to attain the future growth standards required. Measure the chick vent temperature, which should be between 39,4°C and 40,8°C in the first four to five days. Continuously monitor that the chicks are filling their crops properly.

Report any problems observed immediately to the hatchery supplier.

Provide 23 hours of light for the first seven days to encourage the maximum feed and water intake.

Beginner farmers or farmers who want to improve their current management practices with broiler production, should download the detailed broiler production manuals available on the Internet for Cobb, Ross and Arbor Acres breeds. The detailed principles shown for every aspect of production will assist the farmer in deciding which practices he can apply in his unique circumstances.

The next article will cover feed consumption, other factors and achieving production standards. 

Publication: May 2021

Section: Pula/Imvula