Nothing gives a poultry farmer greater happiness than seeing their birds looking healthy and growing fast because it gives them hope for quick returns in form of eggs and meat as well as quick sales for those who take poultry farming as a business.
Daphine Birabwa, a poultry farmer in Wakiso, bought 500 day-old chicks from a supplier at sh2,400 each hoping to sell them off at sh10,000 after five weeks.
However, to Birabwa’s frustration, after two weeks she realised that some of the chicks were not growing at the same rate as others yet they were using the same feeders and drinkers for the same feeds.
She thought she had been duped by her suppliers and given poor quality chicks wondering how chicks from the same brooder fed on the same feeds could grow at different rates.
“Maybe my suppliers gave me the wrong type of birds that I had not ordered for. How can they grow at different rates yet they are from the same hatchery?” she says.
Birabwa says she has been dealing with the same suppliers and the incident has been recurring which she attributes to untrustworthy suppliers.
However, Joseph Nsobya, a day-old chicks’ supplier in Kampala, says stunting may be due to a number of reasons including poor feeding among others that affects profitability.
He says profitability of chicken results from uniformity in the size, feed conversion ratio, and weight gain of chicken at the time of sale and, therefore, advises farmers to ensure proper feeding as well as vaccination.
“If birds are properly fed and vaccinated they will grow at the same rate and the chances of stunting will be minimised,” Nsobya advises.
He, however, says for vaccination to be effective, the farmer should use injection or oral drops instead of adding the vaccine into feeds or drinkers to avoid wastage.
Stunting is a condition characterised by poor uniformity in size and in weight gain in which a reasonable percentage of the flock appears relatively smaller than normal.
Nsobya advises farmers to always ensure that they obtain their day-old chicks from a good hatchery with a good track record and good recommendations from other farmers.
“A breeding stock raised in a poor environmental condition, with genetic defects, or that are diseased will have an effect on their offspring. Buying your day-old chicks from such facilities may lead to chicks that stunt,” Nsobya adds.
Good brooding methods also play a role in the growth and weight gain of chicken. Overheating or under heating can also affect the quality of chicks leading to stunted growth.
The best-brooding temperature for broiler chicks up to 7 days of age ranges between 33 and 35 oC, and temperatures higher than these may induce dehydration leading to lower feed consumption and delayed growth.
Poor litter management also plays a part in contributing to the poor and stunted growth in chicks. To avert stunted growth in chicken, good litter management should also be practiced because keeping your birds in a dirty and wet litter gives diseases a chance to thrive.
The other cause for stunted growth in poultry, according to Dr Christopher Kairu, a veterinary doctor, is malabsorption syndrome.
He says this is a serious health condition that adversely affects the performance of broiler chickens that is characterised by a sizable number of small and underweight chickens in the flock.
Intestinal cells are invaded by the virus, especially at the edges of the intestinal villi, leading to poor digestion hence stunting.
Providing adequate number of feeders and drinkers that are evenly distributed is one of the ways to curb poor and stunted growth in chicken.
“To provide adequate feeds, the feeders should correspond to the number of birds in the poultry house,” he adds.
Kairu further says feeders should be evenly spread to all parts of the poultry house with drinkers close to them for easy access but not so close as to cause feed spoilage.
The feed should be put in the feeders at the same time to allow birds to have access to the feed at the same time.
Kairu also advises that weak birds or birds with poor and stunted growth among the flock should be separated and given special feeding and care to help them catch up in weight and size with the rest flock.
“Give some space during feeding for good digestibility and to improve appetite. Excessive feeding especially in hot climatic conditions affects chicken growth,” he says.