Getting a poultry flock off to a healthy start is a key factor in a successful grow-out. Consider: the first week represents about 20 percent of a chicken’s life. If the bird must spend that first week fending off disease and unhealthy conditions, it will not have sufficient time to make up the lost body weight.
As far as the watering system goes, there are a few key things the producer needs to tackle. First, before the chicks arrive, clean out possible biofilm from the drinker lines. After cleaning the system, activate each drinker manually to ensure water is present throughout the system. Replace leaking drinkers, and make sure the other equipment is in good order.
It also helps to level the litter under the drinker lines to eliminate any high or low spots. If the litter is uneven, the birds will either not be able to reach the drinkers or the drinkers are too low and the birds activate them at the wrong angle, resulting in water spillage – water that does not go into their beaks and is thus not ingested.
Adjust the regulator’s column pressure to Day One settings so the chicks can easily activate the drinkers. Ziggity recommends a column pressure setting of 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) to 5 centimeters (2 inches). When the chicks arrive, place them close to the drinker lines. Good lighting helps to attract the chicks to the drinker’s shiny trigger pin.
Adjust the watering line height so that the end of the drinker trigger pin is at bird’s eye level. By the second or third day, producers should begin to raise each line slightly with a goal of having the chicks peck at about a 45-degree angle.
Because chicks can’t yet adequately regulate their body temperature, it is very important to maintain dry litter and to avoid wet litter that can have a chilling effect on the chicks through their feet.
Once past this initial phase it is important to continue with proper height and column pressure settings, combined with periodic high-pressure flushes, to achieve the best possible bird, litter and system performance.