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More Ways to Improve Productivity

Increasing Feed Efficiencies through Flock Health and Reducing Mortality

An unhealthy bird is likely to have poor feed efficiency. The main reason for this is that feed intake is reduced, and so proportionally more feed is directed towards maintenance. With enteric diseases there can be more subtle changes in feed utilization because various parasites and microbes can reduce the efficiency of digestion and absorption of nutrients. A bird with sub-clinical coccidiosis is not likely to absorb nutrients with optimum efficiency, because some of the cells lining the gut will be destroyed. Additionally, “feed passage” can occur, where some feed is not properly digested and passes through the digestive system. As a result, feed efficiency will decrease.

A healthier flock will have lower mortality rates, and in turn a more positive return at processing time.

Practising bio security and monitoring your flock daily for early signs of illness will help keep your flock healthy and prevent mortality by spotting issues early. Close monitoring is especially important for the first several days after chick placement when susceptibility to sickness and death is high.

Here’s a quick checklist of healthy chick behaviors1:

  • Active and curious
  • Dry feathers
  • Clean vent
  • Strong legs
  • Clean
  • Healed navel
  • Straight beak
  • Bright eyes
  • Happy sounding chirping

Impact of Housing Options on Productivity

For most pasture raised flocks, premium shelters are portable with wheels for easy relocating in the pasture.  Decisions about whether to purchase or make your poultry shelter, whether it is portable with wheels, A-frame style, or another style, should factor in the following:

  • Ease of movement. Shelters may need to be moved up to twice per day as the flock matures. Pasture health also affects how frequently a shelter may need to be moved.
  • Size of flock. Having 150 or more birds in a larger unit may increase efficiencies in some areas, but larger shelters may require a tractor to move and a second person to ensure no birds get trampled during the process. Larger housing provides room for more birds but efficiencies may be lost because of the extra labour required to move the units.
  • Weather and piling of birds. Having more than 100 birds in a shelter may result in piling during storms. Smaller groups and locating shelters in a valley (ensure proper drainage) or another protected spot will help mitigate this.
  • Feed capacity. There are advantages to being able to automatic feeding systems, including greater feed capacity and labour savings.
  • Water supply. Automatic water supply provided by shelters like the Cackellac will help ensure a consistent supply and reduce labour requirements.

See the section below about Time to Complete Tasks to estimate time you spend per flock moving poultry shelter(s).


For more information about portable structures, visit:

Visit OMAFRA’s website for more information about raising poultry:

Transportation Time and Hydro Costs


Time to Complete Tasks



Click here to download a Lean worksheet that will help you identify and minimize non-productive activities on your farm. 

Marketing Basics

Before placing your chicks, it’s important to have done some marketing leg work so that you have a plan in place for selling your product.

Here are a few marketing basics to be aware of:

  • Research how you will sell your product, e.g. do your prospective customers want cut up or whole birds? Be willing to provide what customers want.
  • Understand what the consumer is looking for and how you should process your chickens. For example, do your customers want an air chilled or water chilled product?
  • Start out with a small batch (e.g. 200) that you can reasonably sell and grow as you develop your market.
  • Have enough freezer space to store your processed chickens if you don’t have an established customer base.
  • A website may add credibility and professionalism, especially when you are developing a market. When visiting potential customers like butchers, local grocers, and restaurants, a website gives them somewhere to refer back to after your visit.
  • Consider packaging and labelling options. For example, a brand or label will make your product recognizable and stand out more than a butcher’s stamp. Specific packaging may also help maintain product quality, for example vacuum packaging for a longer freezer life.
  • Think about why people should want your product over another one. Is it local, pasture-raised, or organic?
  • Follow up and provide potential customers with samples. It’s likely that people will want to try your product before making a commitment.
  • It may be an option to borrow crates from your processor to transport live birds, but you may need to find another source of crates if the processor doesn’t have enough.


1Dr. Scott Gillingham

“The biggest impact on productivity is mortality. Especially when they are pasture raised, the birds are at the mercy of the elements and weather affects mortality. We manage their environment as much as possible to minimize losses.”
– Will & Tara MacArthur
MacArthur Farms

“A heat lamp for chicks until they get feathers will help reduce chick mortality. Temperature probes help us adjust to the right temperature.”
– Will & Tara MacArthur, Owners
MacArthur Farms

“When we started, we set our number around what we thought we could sell – 200 seemed right – and we grew as we created our market.”
Will & Tara MacArthur, Owners
MacArthur Farms

Additional Resources:$Department/deptdocs.nsf/all/cbd14019