Chicks are the most vulnerable to weather conditions and diseases so young should I take great care of them so should you.
Baby chicks should be kept warm and dry.
The nest, which they share at night with the mother hen, must be kept clean.
In colder climates (below 20 °C at night),you should keep the nest site warm by lining it with straw and placing it near a stove or fireplace.
The chicks should remain with the mother hen for nine to ten weeks, learning from her example how to scavenge and evade predators and other dangers.
You should provide clean drinking water and fresh feed in a clean container to supplement scavenging. There is a close relationship between chick weight and growth and mortality rates. In an experiment where young chickens had access to supplementary feed in a creep feeder (Roberts et al., 1994), it was found that supplementary protein feed had a significant effect on the survival rate and growth rate.
Chicks separated from the mother hens during the day from the age of three to ten weeks, and fed with chicken starter mash, had a mortality rate of 20 percent and a body weight of 319 g at ten weeks, compared with a mortality rate of 30 percent and a body weight of 242 g for the control group which remained with the mother hens. Click here to read more “Creep Feeding”.
A suitable strategy for rearing chicks therefore would be as follows:
x The chicks should be confined for the first weeks of life and provided with a balanced feed.
x A vaccination programme should be followed.
x Sufficient supplementary feed should be provided during the remaining rearing period to to allow the chickens to develop in accordance with their genetic potential.
x Feed supplements and protection should be provided to naturally brooded chickens during the first four to eight weeks of life.
The composition of the supplementary feed will depend on the available scavengable feed, but a form of cafeteria free-choice feeding of a protein concentrate, energy concentrate and calcium mineral in each of three containers may be the best solution.
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The mortality rate of naturally brooded chicks, whose only source of feed is from scavenging under free-range conditions, is very high and often exceeds 50 percent up to eight weeks of age. Wickramenratne et al (1994) found that predators accounted for up to 88 percent of mortality and that coloured birds had a higher survival rate than white birds.
The high mortality rate and the large number of eggs required for hatching are the main causes of low off take from scavenging poultry flocks. Smith (1990) reported an off take (sales and consumption) of only 0.3 chickens per hen/year from a survey done on flocks in Nigeria. This low off take has also been observed in Bangladesh and India.
An efficient way of decreasing mortality rate (a costly loss) is to confine and vaccinate the chicks during the rearing period.
This however is more expensive, the cost of feed in particular increasing production costs.
You can confine the chicks during the first eight weeks of life. Feeding them approximately 2 kg each of balanced feed and thereafter kept under semi scavenging conditions. At eight weeks of age, they are less susceptible to attacks by predators and more resistant to diseases, due to their larger body weight and more effective vaccination immunization (due to their better nutrient intake).
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