Brooding is the provision of artificial heat to help the chicks in temperature regulation. The heat can be provided by gas or electricity. The brooder area should be ready at least 24 hours before the chicks arrive. Below is a checklist of the things that need to be done before the chicks arrive:
- Provide the chicks with biosecure, clean housing.
- Arrange equipment to enable the chicks to access feed and water easily upon arrival.
- Chicks should not have to move more than 1m (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 chicks arrival.
- Achieve a floor temperature of 28oc and 30oc.
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:
- Feed 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:
|AGE (Weeks)||TEMPERATURE (ºC)||At chick level TEMPERATURE (ºC) In the house|
|1||33 to 35||30 to 32|
|2||30 to 32||27 to 29|
|3||27 to 29||24 to 26|
|4||24 to 26||21 to 23|
The temperature should be monitored by installing brooder thermometers at the height of the chicks. Also, use chick behavior to determine if the temperature is correct. Excessive chick noise during brooding is an indication 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 lie prostrate with their head, neck and legs 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, get dehydrated, slow 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 old. 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 starving out, 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 fresh dry thereby reducing disease challenges.
Chicks also require fresh air to grow and be productive. For proper ventilation allow 1 ft minimum ventilation from the top. 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.
Rearing and feeding:
|Time of crop fill check after placement||Target crop fill (% of chicks with full crops)|
Drinking systems provide clean and cool water with adequate flow rate is fundamental to good poultry production. Without adequate water intake, feed consumption will decline and bird performance will be compromised. Both closed and open water systems are commonly used and include:
- water meters
- water storage tanks
- Feeding systems
|AGE||TYPE||RECOMMENDED WATER SPACE|
|Day 1 to day 21||Chick drinkers||80 chicks per drinker|
|Day 21 to slaughter||Adult manual drinkers||50 birds per drinker|
|Day 21 to slaughter||Automatic drinkers||80-100 per drinker|
|Day 21 to slaughter||Nipple drinkers||8-10 birds per nipple|
Heating systems used are:
- Gas brooder
Commonly used feeders are:
|AGE||FEEDER TYPE||RECOMMENDED FEEDER SPACE|
|Day 1 to day 10||Chick tray||50 chicks per tray|
|Day 10 to day 21||Chick feeder||50 chicks per feeder|
|Day 21 to end of production/slaughter||Tube feeder||30-50 birds per feeder|
|Day 21 to end of production/slaughter||Trough feeder||5cm per bird (minimum)|
Regardless of which type of feeding system is used, the most important points to consider in the selection of feeders are:
- Feeding space
- Feed wastage (spillage and contamination)
CHICKEN PLACEMENT PROCEDURES
As soon as the previous flock has been cropped/depleted the flock house and equipment must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. It is important to allow the house to remain empty for at least 2 weeks before the next flock is placed. This allows time to reduce the build-up of disease-causing organisms and to prepare the house effectively for the next flock.
- After the birds have been removed from the house, remove all the equipment from the house and dampen the ceiling, wall, and litter with water. This helps to minimize dust during litter removal
- Remove all old litter and dispose of it at least 1.5 km away from the farm
- Wash the house with water and soap starting from the roof followed by the walls and finally the floor. Allow the house to dry before finally spraying the whole house with disinfectant solution starting from the roof
- Wash and disinfect all the equipment from the house
- Repair and maintenance of the house and equipment should be done during this time
Once the house is dry place four inches (4) of litter material. Common types of litter are wood shavings, straw, rice husks and coffee husks. Good litter material should insulate the floor and absorb moisture from chicken droppings. Correct litter management is fundamental to bird health, performance and final carcass quality which subsequently impacts the profit.
The key to successful broiler rearing starts with having a systematic and efficient management program in place. This program must start well before the chicks arrive on-site. Pre-placement house preparation as part of a management program provides a basis for an efficient and profitable flock of broilers. The following checks need to be made:
- Curtain installation check
- Litter material check
- Floor temperature check
- Minimum ventilation check
- Drinker check
- Feeder check
Key management requirements:
- Place chicks from a similar age and flock source in a single house
- Placement per farm should ensure an all in the all-out regime
- Delays in placement can contribute to dehydration of chicks, resulting in higher chick mortality and reduced growth rate
- Transportation must provide ideal conditions for the chicks and the delivery time should be as short as possible
- Lower the light intensity during placement to reduce stress
- Chicks must be carefully placed and evenly distributed near feed and water throughout the brooding area
- When using the supplemental feed on paper, place chicks on the paper
- Weigh 5% of the boxes to determine day-old chick weight
- Lights should be brought to full intensity within the brooding area once all chicks have been placed
- Following a 1-2-hour acclimatization period, check all systems and make adjustments if necessary
- Monitor the distribution of the chicks closely during the first few days. This can be used as an indicator of any problems in feeder, drinker, ventilation or heating systems.
Accurate record keeping is essential to monitor the performance and profitability of a flock and to enable forecasting, programming, and cash flow projections to be made.It also serves to provide an early warning of potential problems.The daily records should be on display for each house.