Brooding is the provision of artificial heat to help the chicks in temperature regulation. The heat can be provided by gas, electricity or charcoal. The brooder area should be ready at least 24 hours before the chicks arrive.
- Provide the chicks with biosecure, clean housing.
- Arrange equipment to enable the chicks to access water and feed easily upon arrival.
- Chicks should not have to move more than 1 m (3ft) to find water or feed in the first 24 hours.
- Position supplementary feeders and drinkers near the main feeding and drinking systems.
- Pre-heat the house and stabilize temperature and humidity before chick arrival – achieve a floor temperature of 28 0c – 30 0c.
On arrival at the farm unload and place chicks quickly. Ensure feed and water is available immediately. Allow chicks to settle for 1-2 hours then check behavior. During brooding emphasis should be on the following:
- Feeding and water.
During brooding it is important to maintain the proper temperature in the brooder. Below are the guidelines of the temperature to be maintained:
At chick level
In the house
|1||33 – 35||30 – 32|
|2||30 – 32||27 – 29|
|3||27 – 29||24 – 26|
|4||24 – 26||21 – 23|
Temperature should be monitored by installing brooder thermometers at the height of the chicks. Also use chick behavior to determine if temperature is correct. Excessive chick noise during brooding is an indication of that the chicks are uncomfortable.
Symptoms of improper brooder temperatures include:
Low temperatures (chilled chicks)
- Chicks huddle together especially under the brooder
- Watery intestinal and fecal contents leading to watery / wet droppings and wet pasted vents.
High temperatures (overheated chicks)
- Chicks lie prostrate with their head and neck stretched out on the floor.
- Chicks pant
- Increased water consumption by the chicks, leading to distention of the crop and intestines.
- Chicks move away from the heat source and seek cooler parts of the brooder.
It is essential to maintain the proper temperatures during brooding as chicks which are chilled in the first day of life will be stressed, have increased mortality, dehydrated, retarded growth and a higher incidence of ascites. While overheated chicks will be dehydrated, resulting in high mortality, runting / stunting syndrome and poor flock uniformity. In severe cases there will be higher mortality due to cardiovascular failure (flip over).
The brooding area should occupy 1/3 of the house during the first week of life. Expand the brooder area after every 2 days and the birds should occupy 2/3 of the house by the time they are 14 days. The birds should be allowed to occupy the whole house by the time they are three (3) weeks old. Proper spacing in the brooder ensures easy accessibility to feed and water hence good uniformity. Congestion in the brooder leads to high mortality due to starve outs and poor uniformity and stunted birds.
During brooding it is essential to maintain proper ventilation regardless of the cost of maintaining the brooder temperatures. Ventilation is important in removing the ammonia from the house and ensuring that the litter is dry thereby reducing disease challenge. Chicks also require fresh air to grow and be productive.
For proper ventilation also allow minimum ventilation 1 ft from the top and in high temperatures open the curtains from the top and not from the bottom. This is to avoid drafts. Chicks are susceptible to wind chill effects.
When chicks start to feed, they tend to eat a good meal. If chicks are feeding and drinking properly the crop fills with a mixture of feed and water. Gentle handling within the first 24 hours can indicate the chicks’ progress.
Check a sample of birds 2 hours after arrival to ensure all chicks have found feed and water. Gently sample the crop of 30-40 chicks from 3 or 4 different places in the brooder.
Chick crop fill assessment:
|Time of crop fill check after placement||Target crop fill
(% of chicks with full crops)