Transporting distance affects body weight of broiler chicks, study

Poultry researchers have discovered that day old broiler chicks transported for longer periods takes time to gain weight compared to those with zero or short transport periods.

The discovery is welcome news to thousands of poultry farmers in Kenya who are particularly in the business of broiler rearing and where faster maturity and body mass matters in determining market price.

According to the scientists, the birds with zero or little transport time gain double the weight of those experiencing long transport periods. The revelation comes at a time when commercial poultry farming in the country is gaining momentum as occasioned by growing demand for chicks, with researchers saying this discovery could stand between successful commercial poultry farming and a failure.

The team of scientists from France, UK and Belgium investigated the effect of the duration of transportation of day-old chicks on their subsequent production performance up to slaughter age. Their series of experiments, studied the effect of transportation duration of day-old chicks on dehydration, mortality and production performance during the grow-out period.

The findings published in the Poultry Science journal explained that eggs from the same breeder flock (Ross PM3) were collected at 35, 45 and 56 weeks of age, for three successive identical experiments. In each experiment, newly hatched chicks received one of three transportation duration treatments from the hatchery before being placed in the on-site rearing facility: no transportation corresponding to direct placement in less than five minutes (T00), or four (T04) or 10 hours (T10) of transportation.

The chicks were housed in 35-square-metre each with 650 birds and reared until 35 days old. Chick bodyweight were measured on sample chicks before and after transportation. During the grow-out period, bird weight, feed uptake and feed conversion ratio were measured weekly until slaughter. Transportation duration affected bodyweight; T00 groups were significantly heavier than T04 and T10 transported birds but this effect lasted only until day 21.

The decrease in weight in T10 birds was associated with the longer transportation period for the day old chicks. Increasing age of the breeder flock was correlated with reduced egg fertility and hatchability, and also with higher quality and bodyweight of hatched chicks. Chicks from older breeders also exhibited reduced mortality during the grow-out period

According to stakeholders in the industry, broilers’ weight directly determines its’ pricing in the market and therefore is a vital factor in the business. David Ohito, a poultry farmer in Kitengela on the outskirts of Nairobi noted, “Broilers is all about weight and the faster the weight gain the better, because you will sell them faster like in after five weeks, save on the feeds and have a better bargaining power because the birds will be weightier.” He therefore noted that if transport period determines on the weight gain of the bird then the smallholder farmers who strive to conduct viable business may in the long-run opt to owning incubators and conduct breeding on their own.