Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Raising Poults for First Six Weeks

Every baby is delicate. Whether humans, plants, insects, pets or wild animals – you name them! Special care is needed for the young of any kind! The statement cannot be any truer for turkey poults. Domesticated turkeys remain one of the strongest birds. However the young remains very fragile and needs virtually constant care to survive. Their nutritional requirement is very high during the growing stage of the bird.

Caring for young turkeys requires proper planning. There are four stages involved in raising a day-old poult until the sixth week. Each stage, as stated earlier, requires proper plan and execution.

Note of caution- raising turkey poults is a FULL-TIME JOB!

·         Pre-Order Preparation

This is the first stage. Okay you have decided to raise turkeys. You have Googled your way around and decided to raise your own poults rather than buying an older turkey. Now what is next?

Before making that call to order for your poults, there are several decisions and preparations you need to make. The preparations can be the difference between a failed venture and a delightful farming experience.

ü  Choosing breed of poult: Currently there are about eight recognized breeds of domestic turkeys, according to the American Poultry Association. Each breed has its strengths and weaknesses. Choosing a poult breed should not only be based on the popularity of the breed.

Factors that need to be considered include survival rate, immunity, adaptation to your local weather and nutritional requirements of the breed. Choose the breed that scores highest on these marks.

ü  Choosing your poult supplier: Deciding on where to buy your poult is very important. Poults from a farm with poor biosafety measures are more likely to develop infections and diseases later on. These poults may also be carriers of deadly diseases that may later affect healthy flock from other farms.

Request for biosafety data from the farm and satisfy yourself before deciding on your poults’ farm source.

ü  Choosing your brooder: The choice of a brooding house to a large extent depends on the number of poults. Overcrowding should be avoided at any cost. If the number of poults is fewer than 10, a cardboard is normally recommended. This choice is cheaper and easy to clean and maintain. It is also reusable, meaning a new batch can take over after the current ones vacate.
However if the number is higher, a metal or wooden brooder house should be the option. The brooder house should be kept warm, well ventilated, dry and spacious and kept free from pests and insects. Cleaner brooder house is ideal to raising healthy poults.

Each poult should have about one square feet of floor space in the brooder.

ü  Choosing heater: Until the poults are all well feathered, the brooder house should be kept warm at all times. The heat source is usually an electric bulb. In some countries, other sources of heat such as a kerosene lantern, a coalpot and heated kettle are used to keep the brooder warm.

There is always the risk of fire outbreak with the use of naked flames. The use of electric bulb reduces that risk. It should however be noted that the heating bulbs should be kept at least 20 inches away from flammable materials.

In a small brooder house, a 100 to 150 watt bulb is enough to keep the house warm. However when the brooder house is bigger, infra-red bulbs can be used to keep the inside warm.

The bulbs should be spaced well enough to allow the poults escape the heat source when the temperature gets too high.

ü  Preparing the brooder house: The brooder house needs to be ready before the poults arrive. Thoroughly clean the brooder house ensuring that there is no dirt, dust, cobwebs and insects inside. Wash down all the washable areas of the brooder house and disinfect. Afterwards, leave the brooder house to dry.

Once the brooder house is dry, you can start fixing the bedding.

ü  Choosing bedding material: The floor must be littered to keep the brooder house clean and dry. The litter material should be able to serve its core purpose of keeping the floor dry and providing bedding for the birds. A good litter material therefore is the one that can absorb all the wet materials that will be thrown to it. Several options are available when it comes to the choice of a good litter material.

Some common ones are straw shavings, wood shavings, saw dust, dead leaves and peat moss. Newspaper as a litter should be avoided because it can cause the poults to slip and break leg.

ü  Choosing water container: The choice of water container should be influenced by visibility and accessibility. The design of the container should protect against spill.
o   Visibility: Choosing bright-colored water containers aid the poults to easily take note of where the water is. This in turn encourages the poults to drink.
o   Accessibility: The water container should be accessible to the poults. The height should be such that the shortest poult should be able to reach it. However it should be tall enough to prevent the poults from drowning in it.

ü  Choosing feeder: Consideration for the feeder should be the same as that for the water container. The poults should be able to easily access the feeder and distinguish it from the water container.

·         Arrival of Poults
On arrival of the poults, the brooder house should be ready to receive them immediately. However before taking the poults into the brooder house, make sure to carry out the following checks.
ü  Weak poults: Physically inspect each poult to ensure there is no weak poult in the lot. Poor packaging during transport can stress the poults out. Make sure to reject all weak poults.
ü  Diseased poults: There is a difference between a diseased and a weak poult. However they should both be rejected. Inspect each poult looking out for signs of infection and disease. Any sign of bumps, colored face, listlessness, diarrhea and ruffled feathers indicate sickness and that particular poult should be rejected.
ü  Deformed poults: Look out for crooked legs, strange-looking feet, closed or swollen eyes and odd-shaped beak are some of the signs of a deformed poult. Deformities cannot be healed so such poults should be rejected.
ü  Dead poults: Obviously any bird that does not show sign of life should be rejected.

After the selection, the poults should be moved to the brooder house as soon as possible. However before putting each poult inside, dip the beak into the water. This is a way to teach the pouls where the water can be located.

·         Caring for the Poults

Water and food should be changed daily. Diseases and infections can be kept at bay if the food and water are properly kept cleaned. Feed spill should be cleaned as quickly as possible.

ü  Feeding: There is an ongoing debate on whether young poults should be put on medicated feed or not. I have a personal opinion on that subject. I believe that as much as possible, all kinds of medications should be kept away from the turkeys. That is why every care should be taken to protect the flock from infections and diseases. Raising the birds free from medicine should be the ideal standard. In fact most regulatory authorities require the minimal use of medicine when raising turkeys.

For optimal performance, the poults should be fed on a well balanced diet. The poults require a lot of nutrients due to their rapid growth rate. For the first six weeks, the poults should be fed on well balanced feed containing about 28 percent of protein. The high protein level will compensate for the relatively low feed intake during that period. However from 8 weeks upwards, the protein percentage should be reduced but it should never be below 14 percent at anytime in the bird’s life.

The poults should not be fed on feed high on calcium as it can have fatal consequence.

ü  Water: Fresh water should be available to the poults at all times. As stated earlier, the water should be changed each day or whenever it is dirty. The water container should be placed on a leveler to prevent spillage. However the birds should have access to the drink.

Raising the water container level will prevent the droppings of the poults from contaminating it.

ü  Disease prevention: Prevention should be a priority. Many diseases that affect turkeys can be prevented. However the danger is that most of those preventable diseases have no cure. Recovered birds may continue to be carriers of deadly parasites. As a result it is important to prevent disease.

Keeping the brooder house clean in itself can prevent many diseases.

If you live in an area which has been hit by a recent poultry disease, it is necessary to vaccinate the poults against that particular disease.

All other poultry should be kept away from the poults for the first 8 weeks. The period is crucial because the immune system is not yet fully developed.

ü  Early detection of diseases: Disease is the nightmare of any turkey farmer. An entire flock can be wiped away in a few hours by disease. Good biosafety measures prevent outbreak of diseases.

However when disease does occur, there is no need to panic. There have been extensive researches into the poultry industry over the years. Early detection of diseases can help stop its spread.

Detecting diseases and infections involve
§  Know the regular activity level of the poults
§  Look out for behavior and signs which are out of the ordinary
§  Quickly isolate the affected bird/birds
§  Keep the affected birds in quarantine until proper diagnosis is made.
§  If diagnosis is made and treatment is possible, start with treatment.
§  If diagnosis is unclear or treatment is not possible, quickly contact your vet.
§  Keep treated birds in quarantine until all symptoms of the sickness are gone.

ü  Heating: Until the birds are fully feathered, the brooder house should be kept warm. Properly position the heat source so that birds can escape it when the temperature is too hot.

The heat source should be raised every week until it will not be necessary to keep it there again.

ü  Disposing off dead birds: It is normal to lose few birds especially in the first few weeks. Quickly remove dead poults from the brooder house. Investigate every death before disposal to ensure that you don’t miss the onset of a major problem.

If in doubt as to the cause of death of the poult, you will have to take the dead carcass to the vet for necroscopy.

·         Moving poults to main flock

The last stage is introducing the poults to the main flock. If you already have adult poults, this stage can be very challenging. New turkeys are not easily accepted into the flock. It is therefore important to manage the stage to prevent possible attacks on the young ones.

I normally choose to introduce the young turkeys to the flock at night. In the morning, I allow all of them out of the brooder house. It is important to stay around and observe any aggression towards the poults. Only intervene when the assault is excessive, otherwise, leave them and let them get to know each other in any way that they choose.

So that is how you raise a poult!

Leave your comments below

1 comment:

  1. Hello I just bought some turkey. I realized they have pox and have place them on treatment but it seems not to be working and i s kinda affecting the eyes of one what can be done the turkeys are 7weeks old. Also I notice two yo be kids sick the supplier said to buy antibiotics for them which have done but still no improvement what can be done plz. Would be expecting your response. Thanks