Brooding refers to the period immediately after hatch when special care and attention must be given to chicks to ensure their health and survival.
A newly hatched chick has not developed the mechanism to regulate its body temperature therefore, it cannot maintain its body temperature properly for the first few weeks and It is subject to chilling
When heat is not provided from external sources, the chicks will not take sufficient feeds and water and this leads to the retardation of growth and poor development of internal organs, responsible for digestion,thus the chick will not be able to digest the yolk completely.
Brooding can be classified into natural and artificial brooding;
- It is done with the help of broody hens after hatching, up to 3-4 weeks of age.
Chicks are reared in the absence of a broody hen. Artificial brooding is mainly aimed at providing the right temperature for the chicks.
Factors to consider when brooding;
1. Before receiving the chicks;
- Brooding house/shed MUST be cleaned.
- Soak the floor preferable with a strong disinfectant.
- Curtains used should be soaked in disinfectant and hanged in the sun to dry.
- Feeders and drinkers should be washed and disinfected.
- Arrange all equipment in the house and spread the litter, prepare the brooder ring and fix the curtains on the open sides to insulate the brooder house.
- Provide foot baths at the entrance with a disinfectant.
How to prepare a chick/brooder guard:
- Use 2.5 m cardboard sheet, aluminum sheet, and coffee wire as brooder guard material to make a circle that uses 8 metres for 100 chicks for 4 weeks.
- Fill the ring with litter material such as wood shaving, straw etc. upto 10 cm thick from the floor.
- Place the heat source at the centre of the brooder ring.
Feed Management during brooding;
- The use of supplemental feeder trays at placement is recommended to help chicks get off to the best start possible.
- Trays should be provided at the rate of 1 per 100 chicks and should be placed between the main feed and drinker lines and adjacent to the brooders.
- Supplemental feeders should be provided for the first 7-10 days.
- The feed trough height should be adjusted so that they rest on the litter for the first 14 days to ensure all birds can easily access feed without having to climb into the feeder.
- Thereafter, feeders should be raised incrementally throughout the growing period so that the lip of the trough or pan is level with the birds back at all times
- Continuous lighting should be provided for the first 48-72 hours post placement.
- It is highly recommended that all flocks are grown under natural light.
- Ideal brooding temperatures are as measured 5 cm above the litter surface
- Evening is the best time to observe the chicks and make temperature adjustment
- Thermometers may not always be available. Therefore, use the behaviour of chicks as a guide.
- Adequate floor, feeder and drinking spaces are also important
- Relative humidity, light and ventilation should be provided for optimum comfort of the chicks
Source of heating
- Domestic heaters (jiko) 1 for 100 chicks
- Infrared lamps (250 watts) 1 for 250 chicks
- Pancake heater 1 for 1000 chicks
Main Reasons for early chick 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
- Nutrition deficiency
- Genetic disorder
Introduction of day old Chicks into the Brooder;
- Light the brooder heat source an hour prior to chick arrival so that the ring temperature measure 32oC
- Count the chicks and keep records
- Release the chicks into the brooder ring after dipping their beaks in water
- Wait for some time to allow the chicks to drink water and keep feed in a chick feeding tray or clean egg tray.
- Do not sprinkle feed on the newspaper as this will get contaminated.
- For the first 3 days watch the chicks at 2-3 hours interval whether they have taken feed and water
Hay Box Brooder;
A hay box is easy to make and is basically a wooden trunk with a top that can be opened or closed. The box is insulated from inside (along the sides) by hay, demarcated by chick mesh wire creating a central warm area where the chicks will sleep.
This is only an overnight box and chicks are taken out during the day. Feed and water are kept out. Provide shelter and make sure the chicks are not exposed to bad weather during the day.