HOW MANY BIRDS CAN I FIT INTO MY PENS?
This is like asking how long is a piece of string!
It is vital to understand that you cannot overcrowd your birds at any stage in their development or it will be detrimental to their health and you will end up spending money you do not need to spend
THERE ARE SOME DISEASES AND BACTERIAL INFECTIONS CLEARLY LINKED TO OVERCROWDING.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE MOST COMMON.
Correlates with crowded conditions and slat or wire floors. The legs are splayed and the hocks usually very swollen on one or both legs.
The leg is usually at right angles to the body.
Usually in conjunction with COCCIDIOSIS. The lining of the intestines become inflamed and bloody. The whole body becomes affected and the birds die from septicaemia.
This is a protozoan disease, that is one that is caused by a parasite. It is a microscopic parasite that attaches itself to the lining of the intestine and cause haemorrhages and often death. It is exacerbated by the close confinement of birds, where shavings or bedding becomes wet with faeces or water spilled on the floor of the pen. It is also made a lot worse if there is not sufficient air circulation in the pen. There are several types of coccidia, each type has its own litany of symptoms. The condition is treatable with coccidiostats but far better prevented in the first place. Coccidiosis is a disease of neglect on the part of the poultry keeper, much like colic in horses. Not necessary in the first place, costly to treat and detrimental to the animals. Coccidiosis is NOT bacterial in nature.
Also known as water around the heart. Very common in broilers which are overcrowded and have insufficient oxygen. The birds breathe in too much C02, and there is not sufficient ventilation to allow the removal of humidity and C02 from the atmosphere in the pen. Birds then pant a lot more, leading to enlarged lungs with insufficient oxygen. The heart then battles to circulate blood and oxygen to the rest of the body, and becomes enlarged.
Often associated with a condition that builds fluids under the skin, very common in broilers but not so much in layers. You will see blisters on the skin, which when pierced will leak lymph fluid. This condition is also known as ascites.
Very common when there are too many birds in one small area. This can become very severe with birds being consumed completely by their siblings. In other cases there is severe mutilation of the vent area and around the top of the tail. As soon as blood appears, the other birds will persist until the affected bird dies of blood loss and massive injury.
Also affects humans and there is transference between birds and humans. It is bacterial in nature and occurs in overcrowded conditions. The organism does survive in soil and contaminated houses, so basic hygiene is of the utmost importance. Poor sanitation can be blamed for many of these bacterial conditions.
This is a generalised bacterial infection that may present as intestinal, respiratory, or both. Secondary infections may occur. MG is one of them.
Mycoplasma Gallisepticum. Also associated with CRD (Chronic Respiratory Disease), and Mycoplasmosis. This can be mild or severe but is definitely associated with stress and overcrowding of birds.
BIRDS NEED TO BREATHE AND HAVE SPACE TO GROW. IF YOU DO NOT PROVIDE CLEAN AIR, THE BIRDS ARE FORCED TO BREATHE WHATEVER IS AVAILABLE AND IN MOST CASES THIS IS C02, SOMETIMES AMMONIA. IF ONE BIRD BECOMES INFECTED WITH ANY OF THE ABOVE, THE CHANCES ARE ALL THE BIRDS IN THE OVERCROWDED PEN WILL DROP WITH IT AS WELL. OVERCROWDING ALSO LEADS TO A CONCENTRATION OF DROPPINGS, WET BEDDING, LICE AND PARASITES, LITTER BEETTLE DIRECTLY ASSOCIATED WITH MAREKS DISEASE,LOSS OF WEIGHT, FAILURE TO THRIVE AND HIGH MORTALITY.
HOW MANY BIRDS PER SQUARE METRE?
Usually it is best to work on 50 day old chicks per 3 square metre brooder.
50 five week old chicks per 4 metre square brooder.
50 eight week old birds per 8 metre square house.
50 adult birds per 12 square metre house.
Remember to have enough feeders and drinkers so as to allow all the birds access. 50 day olds will need two feed trays and two 4 litre fonts.
As the birds grow, add a feeder and drinker until you end up with one feeder per 10 adult birds and one drinker per 10 adult birds.
This depends on your set up, nipple drinkers can be set at two metre intervals, but you still need one nipple drinker for five birds, more so than the fonts as birds only take one small drop at a time from a nipple drinker, and this takes more time than if they are drinking from a font. There are 20 litre fonts available as well and you can then reduce the amount of drinkers per pen. You still need to observe the birds to make sure there is not a log jam around the drinkers and that no bullying takes place so that some of your birds do not have ease of access to water and feed.
It is space around the lip of the font that is important more than the size of the font.
Obviously more water is consumed in hot weather, and more feed in cold weather. Monitor the birds and see what their needs are.
VENTILATION is vital. Each bird in a house raises the temperature by 0,1 degree. In a pen with 100 birds the temperature increases by one degree celcius.
With a thousand birds the temperature increases by 10 degrees, this is a lot!
If the birds are panting, they lose vitamin C through the expelling of air from the lungs. They also lose a lot of their mineral content. If oxygen is not available, they will breathe C02, and this is a disaster.
Your ventilation needs to be a good circulation of air above the heads of the birds so that they do not sit in a draught. Fans work very well, and extractor fans even better. Don’t forget that when the bird breathes out C02 there is a lot of moisture as well, and excess moisture can lead to respiratory conditions.
The build up of ammonia also contributes to respiratory conditions. Ammonia is built up when there is insufficient ventilation to remove the ammonia which inevitably is the by product of chicken droppings.
Rather spend more on hygiene and less on antibiotic, more on prevention and less on cure!