Management Practices for Raising Production Poultry for Monroe County IN 4H-Projects
Special Requirements of Young birds
Chicks and turkey poults: When not raised naturally by hens, both of these are extraordinarily susceptible to coccidiosis (a pathological colonization of the intestine by a protozoan parasite). Medicated chick starters are required. The most common medication for control of coccidiosis is amprolium. Recommended feed: Chick Starter with amprolium or Turkey Starter with amprolium
Ducklings/goslings: Ducklings or goslings do not require medicated feed. In fact, some antibiotics (medications) in feed can be toxic to waterfowl. However, amprolium is not toxic to waterfowl and chick starters with amprolium are fine for ducklings.
Taking birds off medicated feed. This is not recommended until the birds are about 8-weeks-old. Weaning young birds for a week or so by mixing half and half with non-medicated ration is a good practice. Watch for blood in the shavings, a sure sign of a coccidiosis outbreak. Immediate medication is then needed or there will be heavy losses.
Protein is often the limiting factor in feed for a growing bird. Bird growth requires fairly high levels of protein. However, once growth is achieved, protein requirements often drop.
Chicks to young adult birds: Chick Starter with amprolium followed by a layer ration
Layers: 15%-20% (various brands of layer pellets or crumbles)
Ducklings/goslings to young adult birds: 16 to 20% (waterfowl ration is best but layer crumbles are fine)
Adult breeders: 15 to 16% (Waterfowl ration, layer crumbles)
Poults to young adult birds: 28% (Turkey or Game Bird starter)
Adult birds: 25% (Turkey or Game Bird feed)
Protein problems: The protein content of corn or scratch is about 9%. This is the old way of feeding poultry and it appears to stunt the growth of most young birds. Feeding a mixture of corn or scratch with a formulated feed leads the bird to pick out the corn and leave behind the crumble or pellet. Limit the feeding of cracked corn and other "scraps" like stale bread.
All birds require abundant clean water to grow fast. If there are large amounts of shavings in the water or the water is otherwise dirty, the birds will not drink much and growth is slowed. Change water often.
With poults, chicks, ducklings/goslings, water can be a danger. Use small plates with an inch or less of water in them when the birds first arrive. Chicks and poults can drown in large bowls of water. Ducklings/goslings will want to swim in large bowls of water. This should be prevented because without maternal oils spread on their down, wet ducklings/goslings cannot maintain body temperature and often die. After about 2 weeks, sufficient oils have been produced and the young waterfowl are safe to swim. Ducklings/goslings absolutely require water to eat efficiently.
Light and temperature
Young birds: For maximal growth until adulthood, 23 (or 24) hours of light is recommended for chickens and turkeys. Day-old chicks require 95oF and this requirement decreases 5oF per week until chickens and turkeys are completely covered with non-fluff feathers and ducks are 4 weeks old. Usually at this time, it is ok to place them in a non-heated building during spring-time weather. Heat lamps are best for getting young chicks the heat they need.
Layers: produce best with 15 to 16 hours of light
With heavy meat birds, roosts and large run areas are generally not recommended because they can contribute to injuries that produce crooked keels bruises, lameness and blisters. With lighter dual-purpose birds, roosts and larger runs permit exercise to help build breast and leg muscle in the 4 to 6 month period.
After a month or so, large containers of clean water should be provided for waterfowl to swim and exercise in and keep themselves clean. Water should also be provided close to the food. Do not give access to feed without making water available. Large free range runs permit the ducks to flap their wings run and build breast and leg muscle.
Early in life, roosts and large run areas are not recommended because they can contribute to injuries that produce crooked keels bruises, lameness and blisters. However, after 2 months, turkeys should exercise some to keep leg muscles strong enough to support large carcass sizes. Roosts are not generally recommended, but are probably ok for non-terminal breeds such as the Black, Narragansett, Bourbon Red, etc.
Manure: A very strong detractor of meat quality is manure burns. Poultry manure is high in ammonium related compounds and will burn skin on contact. Shavings in the bird’s enclosures must be changed often so birds do not rest on manure. Waterfowl do better with sand as bedding instead of traditional pine shavings.
Inter-species competition: Duck, turkey and chicken meat project birds should be raised separately. Ducks usually outcompete everything for feed, meaning they grow fast and everything else grows slow. Also, ducks make everything wet and this can cause disease in turkeys and chickens.