How to Keep Broiler Chickens in Zimbabwe

A broiler is any chicken that is bred and raised specifically for meat production. Most commercial broilers reach slaughter weight between four and six weeks of age, although slower-growing breeds reach slaughter weight at approximately 14 weeks of age. Typical broilers have white feathers and yellowish skin.

Very simply put broilers are chickens that a bred for meat in 5-7 week cycles. There are two main types of white hybrid broiler breeds raised locally: the Cobb 500 (imported from the UK) and Hubbard (imported from France). These are fast-growing chickens primarily raised in chicken houses.

Building Your Chicken Coop
Before you bring home your chicks you need to set up your chicken housing (also known as a coop or run). Take out a pencil, some graph paper or a math book and look around your farm. What other birds are you farming? Are you raising pigs? Where is your soil well-drained?

Set up your site away from other farm animals (like pigs and other poultry). If you are raising chickens for a contractor like Irvine’s they will require you to locate your chicken runs, at least, a kilometre away from other on-farm birds and pigs.

Once you have chosen your housing site. The next step is to build or if you already have a structure, to renovate that structure. A good structure reduces disease and keeps your chickens safe from predators.

A good structure does not necessarily mean an expensive structure, just a well-designed one. In warm climates such as ours, most mid-size commercial chicken farmers use open-sided runs of various sizes. Large-scale operations typically use climate controls.

  • Water tank: a convenient clean water source near the chicken house
  • Fans: for ventilation
  • Brooder Box: get a carpenter to make you a brooder for spot brooding.
  • Gas or Electric Poultry Brooder: for heating and keeping chicks warm. You need 1 per 100 chicks
  • Baby Chick Feeders: 3 feed trays per 100 chicks
  • Chicken Feeders: spread out evenly and adjusted to the chicken’s height
  • Chick Founts or automatic waterers: 3 per 100 chicks
  • Tube Feeders: 3 per 100 chicks
  • Drinkers: bell and nipple drinkers for water
  • Litter: white wood shavings or wheat straw are good options
  • Work suits: for people working in chicken runs
  • Gumboots: to protect your feet
  • Detergents and disinfectants: to clean houses
  • Thermometer: to measure temperature in the house
  • Scale: to weigh your birds

Some places to buy poultry tools and supplies: Poltek; James North


Once your chicken run is set up and equipped it’s time to consider biosecurity.

When we hear the word biosecurity some emerging farmers get intimidated. Biosecurity is not scary or just for large-scale operations.

We all need to implement biosecurity measures at our own scale to protect our investment and reduce the risk of disease spreading and wiping out our flock.

Biosecurity measures you can take:

  • Place a footbath with disinfectant at the front of the door of your coop
  • Encourage proper hand-washing and provide farm workers with hand sanitisers
  • Provide protective clothing (overalls) for farm workers
  • Set aside gumboots for the chicken runs
  • Don’t allow or limit visitors to chicken house{fight the urge to show off your birds}
  • Provide visitors with boot covers
  • Clean and disinfect your coops (walls, ceiling, and equipment)
  • Set up semi-automated drinkers and tubular feeders
  • Set up brooder 
  • Provide deep, clean bedding 
  • Keep litter clean
  • Park away from poultry houses
  • Fence perimeter
  • Provide signage
  • Visit sick flock last
  • Control any pests (using flycatchers, rodent traps and securing holes)
  • Build concrete floors to limit dust 

Chick Pre-Arrival Checklist: 

Before you bring home your vaccinated chicks make sure that you are prepared. It is important to give your chick a good start. The first few days of a chick’s life are critical.

Baby chicks need artificial brooding (heating) for the first days of their lives. They are unable to maintain their own body temperature without external support. In the natural setting, the hen keeps the chicks warm. Build a brooder: You need to build a brooder for your chicks. A brooder is a box where new chicks live during their early days. You can find a carpenter to make you a simple wooden brooder with high sides. Cover the brooder with wire mesh to protect your birds and keep them from flying out.  Cover the floor of your brooder with wood shavings or straws. The size of your brooder depends on the size of your flock.

First chick feeding: place your chicks in the brooder as soon as possible on arrival and close the door. Give your chicks broiler starter feed (crumbles) on the floor in a chick feed tray either immediately or within 3 hours of arrival. Also, give them warm water with a sweetener (sugar) for the first few hours, to replenish chicks especially if they have travelled long distances.  Water helps them with feed consumption and reduces dehydration.

 Leave them for one hour to adjust to their new environment.

Check chicks every 4 to 6 hours for the first 24 hours.

Heat the Brooder: You need to have some sort of heat source for your birds, such as this infrared lamp. A simple light bulb is not adequate to keep your chicks warm.  For the first 7 to 10 days of a chick’s life, they need to be kept warm (brooded). Heat is important for preventing heat loss and death. Make sure that you select a heat source that doesn’t cause a fire. Check on your chickens during the evening.

Chick Behavior: Chick behaviour is important to monitor to determine chick comfort levels. Your chicks should be evenly spaced out in the brooder and have easy access to feed and water.

You can use a thermometer and visual clues for signs of discomfort. If your chicks are too loud it’s a sign that they are too hot. If they are huddled and sleeping in the feeders they are likely too cold. An even spread is a sign of comfort.

Adjust temperature and pay attention to any floor drafts. A good temperature is important for your chick’s growth and health.

Lighting: Chicks are attracted to light. They don’t eat or drink in the dark. Lighting stimulates early feed intake in the first 7 days of your chicks’ lives. Provide chicks with even and continuous lighting in the early days. Recommended lighting is 23 hours on and 1 hour off. An option for frequent power outages is a solar-powered headlight.

Lighting can be gradually reduced as chicks grow.

ventilation brings in the fresh air and removes heat. The open side of your run provides airflow into the coop and removes gases. Opening and closing coop curtains can help with ventilation when there is wind. Make sure you have only ventilation but no cold drafts on the floor. In hot periods ventilation can be supplemented with evenly spread fans.

Weighing chicks: On day 7, weigh a sample of your chicks to see how they are growing. Your chicks’ seven-day body weight is correlated with their market age weight. The target is for the seventh-day weight to be about four times their arrival weight. To weigh your chicks, get 10 chicks to weigh them to get their total weight and divide that number by 10. This will give you an idea of the average weight of your chicks.

Chicken Coop
Once the brooding stage is complete chicks need to be transitioned into the general chicken coop. This must be done carefully and gradually. Continue to maintain good spacing, feed, and water to continue growth.

Ventilation: Increase ventilation in the general coop to prevent the build-up of gases. Extreme heat causes chickens to have heat stress. When it’s too hot chicks pant to try to breathe better, but it is not always sufficient. You can help them manage heat stress with air, water, and more space and not feed them when it’s too hot.

Litter: Use good chicken litter like wood shavings or wheat straw on the coop floor. These materials absorb water well and are comfortable for your birds. Spread the litter evenly to a depth of about 7.5 to 10cm.

Rake the litter weekly and top up litter over wet litter to keep birds comfortable.  Letting your manure build-up causes your chicks to have health problems. Cleanliness is key to good chicken farming. Joel Salatin in “You Can Farm” states that a properly managed livestock housing facility does not smell. Smelling, he says, is a sign of mismanagement.

Feeding Your Broiler Chickens

Your broilers need high-quality feed to efficiently convert it into meat, and to meet their target market weight. Commercial feed makes up about 60% of your chicken farming budget. This is a significant portion of your costs.

Pay attention to how you mix your feed, and follow the supplier guidelines.

How to feed broilers: poultry feed comes in starter, grower and finisher forms. Broilers need different energy, protein and mineral requirements depending on their stage of growth.
Follow the recommended feed schedules to provide your chickens with the right amount of nutrients at the appropriate growth stage.  If you attempt to reduce their feed intake from what is suggested you will reduce your profits as your chickens won’t grow as much.

When to feed chickens: Provide feed in the early morning, evening and night. Adjust feeders to chicken height to ensure minimum spillage. Make sure that your feeders are filled regularly, but not overfilled.

Storing feed: If you are storing your feed long term place it in a cool, dry place to reduce spoilage due to mould and vitamin loss.


Water is a critical and often overlooked part of chicken farming. Your broilers need clean water to digest food and rehydrate. They drink twice as much water as food consumed especially during hot periods.

Make sure to have a good source of clean water that is easily accessible. Keep your water tank in a cool spot, or paint it white to keep it from overheating. Clean out drinkers and nipples regularly, they get dirty quickly.

Some places to buy feed and water tanks: National FoodsProfeeds, and Novatek. Check the classifieds and auction sites for water tanks. 

How much space does a broiler need in Zimbabwe?

The length of the broiler house should run from east to west to prevent direct sunlight. Birds need a certain minimum space and a convenient place to grow well, otherwise, if the space is not enough they may suffocate to death, which will be a great loss to your business. You should allow 0.1 square metres per bird.

How do you feed broilers for fast growth in Zimbabwe?

To make your chickens gain weight or grow faster, try: Using feeders that don’t waste feed: Although it may be tempting to purchase cost-effective feeders, investing in high-quality feeders that do not spill or waste chicken feed can pay off more in the long run.

What is the best way to store broilers?

Broilers can be housed on deep-litter, slatted or wire floors or cages. However, cage, slat and wire floor rearing of broilers is not as popular as litter floor rearing, due to problems like breast blisters, leg weakness and higher initial investment.

How many 50kg bags of feed do I need for 100 broilers?

Feed Broiler growing pellets from day 22 to 42 ( 5 bags – 50kg each – per 100 chicks).