A good climate is more than just a good temperature. It is a combination of several factors.
The speed of air through the windows into the house, temperature, humidity, carbondioxide, ammonia and direct or indirect daylight are important factors which determine whether the chickens and chicks are comfortable.
Whenever you enter a hen house, it is important to assess and, if necessary, adjust the climate. The distribution of the birds will also be affected by ventilation.
To refresh the air in the poultry house, ventilation is essential.
Ventilation is hard to manage, especially when your poultry houses are open. Always ensure there is no draught or wind at chick level.
- The rearing facility should be dry, at least three days before the arrival of the chicks.
- Provide clean and dry litter!
- The temperature should be at least 35ºC and, directly after arrival, 38ºC. The behaviour of the chicks will tell whether the temperature is too hot, too cold or good! A farmer can tell that the temperature is too hot if the chicks open their beaks while breathing.
- The humidity must be between 50% and 70%. You can measure this using a thermometer, which can be got from a pharmacy.
- The temperature of the chicks should be 40ºC approximately six hours after delivery. An ear thermometer is easy to use for this purpose. If no thermometer is available, place the chick’s feet on your cheek. The temperature of the feet should be exactly the same as the temperature of your cheek. If they are cold, increase the heat in the brooder system. If they are too hot, reduce the heat in the brooder.
- The minimum ventilation depends on the carbondioxide and ammonia levels. Never close the house completely, you can lock the doors to keep out intruders, but leave the ventilators and windows open — only covered by wire mesh. A lot of ventilation allows in too much air, which affects the temperature.
- After the first week, the temperature may be lowered to 30ºC. You can again measure temperature using a thermometer. Assess the comfort of the chicks by checking their temperature and behaviour. If they huddle together in a corner, then know they are not getting enough warmth. If they spread out evenly around the brooder area, then they are getting normal warmth. However, if they keep a distance from the heat source, then it is too hot.
- The temperature can be reduced from 300C at the end of week one to 180C in week eight. You can do this by drawing the heater (sigiri or pot) away from the chicks.
- If the temperature is too high, increasing air movement is the way to go. The ideal apparent temperature is between 180C and 220C. Modern poultry houses now have air fans inside. However, any chicken house with over 1,000 layers should have at least two overhead fans to help increase air movement. These cost less than sh500,000 a set.
- Working with under pressure ventilation is only advisable if the house can be closed. Otherwise, hanging fans are sufficient.