How farmers compromise quality of chicks through poor egg handling

Do you know that by failing to incubate eggs on time, you may end up with chicks that have some disorders? These disorders include limping, crooked legs, sprayed legs and sores.

Though causes of disorders in chicks are numerous, poultry experts noted that farmers may unwittingly be compromising the quality of the chicks they end up with by taking long to incubate the eggs.

The case is worse for farmers who source eggs from unreliable sources to incubate. This and others problems were some of the poultry management aspects discussed during a recent chicken farmers’ meeting in Tharaka Nithi. Good poultry welfare ensures that the birds are in good physical and mental state. This, therefore, calls for the enhancement of living conditions of the birds to accommodate their natural behaviour. The birds should have access to open-air housing, resting areas and sunlight as continuous confinement undermines them. While every farmer delights welcoming newly hatched chicks in his brood, often the great joy is curtailed if the birds develop some disorders. Evans Murithi, an extension officer in the Ministry of Agriculture in Tharaka Nithi County, notes that causes of leg disorders in chicken vary from nutritional and vitamin deficiencies to holding eggs in storage for too long and low humidity during hatching. Spraddle legs, a deformity in chicken legs, is characterised by feet being stretched out on either side of the body, making walking difficult or impossible. This can be permanent if left uncorrected. “Whereas a chick can be hatched with no single defect, external factors could cause damages that may harm the chick. For instance, when birds walk on damp litter, or on slippery brooding surfaces, they may develop cracks and their tender feet will be prone to bacterial and fungal foot problems, which can lead to bumble foot, causing swelling that may cause the bird to go lame if left untreated,” says Muriithi. Birds’ nutritional needs should be met According to him, birds raised on gravel, concrete floors, hard packed ground or mowed areas tend to get bumble foot, though some leg and foot disorder could be genetic. “I, therefore, advise that birds with defects should be culled to prevent the passing of the problem to future generations,” explains Murithi. To ensure good poultry breeds, care should be taken right from the time the birds are still chicks. “The nutritional needs of the bird must be met. The chicken should be fed with a balanced diet as the chicks developing inside the egg depend on the nutrients placed in the eggs by the hen. If the diet lacks the right amount of vitamins and minerals, the unborn chick will not develop appropriately and this may contribute to many disorders,” Murithi explains. He adds that when preparing to hatch eggs, they should be stored at least for up to 10 days before incubating them. “Eggs held for more than 10 days should be culled as hatching them will lead to a higher probability of having crippled and weak chicks.” During incubation, the right humidity level should be maintained. Low humidity is known to cause chicks to have a hard time hatching. Improper structures especially mesh floors on brooders may cause the legs to stick and at times twist. The mesh wire floors should then be small enough such that the birds’ feet can’t get stuck on the wire, the door way should also be spacious enough as to allow the birds to move freely Other common problems that may arise when birds are not well taken care of include bacterial or fungal infections arising from dirty bedding, dirty water and mouldy feed. Chicks may also develop respiratory problems. For pasty butt, a condition where loose droppings stick to the area surrounding the vent, the droppings may be loosened with some warm water on a damn cloth gently so as not to tear the chick’s skin, says Muriithi. For coccidiosis, which is an intestinal disease caused by several sorts of parasites, the brooder should be kept dry. Poultry should also be dewormed monthly as chicken with worms are more prone to contracting bacterial and fungal infections.


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