Chick Brooding and Management Strategies

Chick Brooder

Brooding is a term that refers to keeping chicks warm and comfortable/provision of heat to newly hatched chicks. It is done to raise healthy chicks and provide the required heat until they are able to adapt and regulate the body temperature to ambient temperature. Brooding is done from day one to between 3 to 8 weeks.

Brooder is a heated enclosure for raising baby chicks, turkey Poults and goslings. The size of the brooder will depend on the number of chicks to be raised and it should be 12 inches tall in weeks 1 to 3 and 24 inches high when they are 6 weeks to keep them from hooping.

Requirements of a Brooder

  • Enough drinkers and feeders
  • Litter: wood shavings make good litter.

The most important requirement in a brooder is a HEAT LAMP, brooder pot, infrared red bulb etc. In the mother’s absence, a heat lamp will keep the chicks warm enough to reduce stress on their internal systems.

Consider the following before receiving the chicks

  1. Prepare the brooder several days before the chicks arrives.
  2. Feeders and waterers should be washed and disinfected.
  3. Disinfect brooder  with a reliable disinfectant such as biosafe
  4. Arrange all the equipment in the brooder
  5. Fill the brooder with clean and disinfected litter such as wood shaving 4-6 inches from the floor.
  6. Brooder should be ready 24 hours before the chicks arrive.
  7. Place the newspapers on the litter and heat the brooder at least 6 hrs before chicks arrive

Chicks Arrival

Once the chicks are in the brooder, they should be provided with drinking water at room temperature at least 3 hours before they are provided with feed (chick mash). It is advisable to add glucose, vitamins (chick start or chick formula/egocin) and liquid paraffin to the water.

Glucose provides energy; vitamins assist in overcoming stress; and liquid paraffin assist in the passage of faeces and avoidance of blockage in the digestive tract

When the birds have settled and drunk water for at least 3 hrs, spread the feed on the newspapers placed on the litter.

Brooder Management

Brooder Temperature

It is important to maintain proper temperature during the brooding period.

  • Too high:  The chicks are spread out around the perimeter of the brooder. Chicks will be silent and you may notice them panting and heads drooping.
  • Correct temperature: Chicks will be throughout the brooder. With adequate food and fresh water, you’ll hear them making contented peeping sounds.
  • Too low: Chicks will huddle together directly under the heat lamp. They will be noisy, a sign of distress.

NOTE: Chicks huddled together in one spot on the perimeter of the brooder suggests they are uncomfortable and requires investigation.

  • Keep the litter dry: stir it frequently to keep it from packing and remove the wet and the caked litter and add new dry litter.
  • Feeding is the greatest expense in raising chicken therefore it is important to purchase from a reputable miller who can assure consistency in the quality and performance of the feed.
  • Feed your chicks on chick mash until they are 8 weeks of age.
  • For the first 2 weeks or first month, feed your chicks to their satisfaction to build a proper foundation.

Errors Made in Feeding During the Growth Period Cannot be Corrected when they Are Mature.

  • Feed your chicks on complete feed for two months.
  • It is important to avoid mixing feeds from several millers or adding other protein sources and mineral salts as this changes the balance in the feeding thereby affecting performance.
  • Excess of some of these ingredients will negatively affect the final products.
  • Provide adequate feeder space for proper growth of the birds.
  • Wash the drinkers daily
  • Ensure the drinkers are filled with fresh water after washing
  • Ensure the chicks have access to wholesome drinking water at all times and never allow the drinkers to go dry.
  • Always adjust the drinker and feeder levels as the birds grow to ensure that they are slightly above the level of the birds’ backs to minimize spillage.

Main Reasons for Early Chicks Mortality

  • Poor Brooding Conditions: high and low brooding temperature.
  • Feed Poisoning: fungal, toxins, litter poisoning (ingestion of sawdust)
  • Injuries: rough handling and pro longed transportation stress.
  • Genetic Disorder
  • Predators
  • Humidity
  • Poor Nutrition Deficiencies
  • Starvation

NB: A good start reduces the need for antibiotics

Chicks Vaccination Schedule

  1. Day 1: Marek – given at the hatchery
  2. Day 7: Newcastle – eye drop/drinking water
  3. Day 14: Gumboro dose 1 – drinking water
  4. Day 21: Gumboro dose 2 – drinking water
  5. Day 28: Newcastle – eye drop/drinking water
  6. Week 5: Multivitamin (Amilyte, supermovint, MOLAPLUS etc.)
  7. Week 6: Fowl Pox -wing stab
  8. Week 8: Fowl Typhoid – thigh muscle
  9. Week 16: Dewormer (Ascarex) – in drinking water.

Note:

  • Newcastle Vaccine: is recommended for administration to healthy chickens as an aid in the prevention of Newcastle disease.
  • Fowl Pox Vaccine: It will aid in preventing the clinical signs caused by the virulent field strains of fowl pox virus.
  • Do Not Vaccinate Sick Birds
  • Marek is a vaccine given to chicks against marek disease, given at the hatchery.
  • If your chicks are vaccinated against marek you’ll rarely see the following signs:
    • Paralysis of legs, wings and neck.
    • Loss of weight.
    • Grey iris or irregular pupil follicles raised and roughened.

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