The first requirement for growing broilers is adequate housing. Because broiler production is essentially a chick-brooding operation, the house should contain equipment so that such factors as temperature, moisture, air quality and light can be controlled easily. It should also provide for efficient installation and operation of brooding, feeding, watering and other equipment.
All broiler companies require buildings with insulated roofs, side walls and end walls. Control over temperature, ventilation and air movement is necessary. Broiler houses should have planned air inlets, exhaust fans, heaters, an evaporative cooling system, thermostats and timers to provide environmental control.
Houses should be capable of maintaining appropriate temperatures during the entire growing cycle, regardless of outside temperature. Colder climates require additional insulation, whereas proper air speed becomes crucial in a hot environment.
The live production manager of the broiler company can provide information concerning broiler house designs, housing requirements and equipment recommendations. Again, it is essential to have approval from the broiler firm before you build.
Most broiler houses are built 40 feet wide. Houses 40 feet wide usually have two lines of lighting fixtures arranged so all areas of the floor are lighted. Place low-wattage bulbs 8 to 10 feet above the floor to provide 0.5 to 1.0 foot candle of light at bird level.
Mechanical feeders are a necessity. When properly installed and maintained, these feeders save labor and feed. Generally, two lines of pan-type feeders are installed. These are placed on winches with pulleys and cables so the entire system can be raised to the ceiling during catching and clean-out. If a controlled feeding program is used, pay special attention to bird density, feeder space, nutrient density and environmental conditions. The amount of time the birds are allowed to eat should increase with age.
Bulk feed storage bins are also a necessary part of feeding equipment. The bins are located outside the house. An auger is used to move the feed from the bin into the house. Check with your contractor to see what capacity bulk-feed trucks are used so you can buy the correct size bins. It is preferable that two feed bins be used for each house or three bins for two houses. This will allow you to change feed quickly if it becomes necessary to medicate sick birds or meet feed withdrawal requirements.
Water is an essential nutrient for broilers. It is used for heat removal, digestion and formation of body tissues. Broilers should consume approximately 1.5-2.0 times as much water as feed on weight basis. A decrease in water consumption is known to substantially reduce feed consumption, which in turn can adversely affect feed conversion ratio. Contract poultry growers acknowledge the importance of providing an adequate supply of water, but improper water consumption can often occur if detailed management is not exercised during the daily operation.
In the past, trough, bell and cup waterers were the primary types of waterers used in broiler production. Currently, almost all broiler houses are equipped with nipple waterers. Nipple waterers provide several advantages over other types of waterers. They reduce water wastage, litter caking and condemnations and they keep water cleaner. Broilers obtain water from nipple waterers by pecking the nipple, in turn activating a pin that releases water into the bird's mouth.
Nipple waterer height needs to be managed properly to ensure adequate water consumption. Optimum nipple height should be as high as birds are able to stretch their necks and drink from the end of their beaks. However, if nipple height is increased so the bird must first elevate its breast and then stretch its neck to reach the nipple, then nipple height is too high and inadequate consumption can occur. Proper nipple height becomes very important with high environmental temperatures. Water meters can serve as excellent tools to evaluate sufficient water consumption.