Brooding and Growing Chicks and Poults

Poultry Husbandry Chapter III: Brooding and Growing Chicks and Poults

Hatched chicks should be lively, firm and healthy. They should be uniform in size and have a well-healed navel. They should be started as soon as possible after removal from the incubators. The sooner they are provided a warm area, feed and water, the better the rate of success. Chicks must not be chilled or overheated at any time. If chicks do not receive feed and water within 18 hours after hatching they should get water for 1-2 hours before they are given feed.

SYSTEMS OF BROODING

All pens and equipment should be ready, tested and operated before the chicks arrive.

Natural Brooding - For small numbers, a broody hen can handle 14-15 chicks. Protection from predators and rain is important. Chicks should get some commercial ration or other feed for the first 3-4 weeks. Sour milk is good for young chicks. A little care over the first 3-4 weeks will often double or triple the survival rate.

Warm Room Brooding - In this system, the whole pen is held at a temperature of 30-32BC both day and night. The temperature is lowered about 1.5BC per week until the ambient temperature is reached, but should not go below 21BC until 6 to 8 weeks and not below 18BC until 10 to 15 weeks. Light should be over feed and water.

Circle Brooding - In this system, brooding areas of the pen under the heat reflector are heated to around 35BC by the use of reflectors over some form of artificial heat, such as gas heaters. Chicks are enclosed by cardboard chick guards, (not more than 400 chicks per circle) that allow them to move away from the heat source, but keep them close to feed and water. Light should attract chicks to the heat source. Temperature in the rest of the pen can be allowed to drop to 20 or 15BC.

Heat may be supplied by hot water or hot air with the heat source usually oil, gas, coal, wood or electricity. For small flocks of up to 75 chicks, a heat lamp may be all that is required. Temperature readings should be taken 5 cm above the litter (or at chick level). Make sure the thermometer is shaded from radiant heat.

With circle brooding, the feed and water should be placed at the edge of the heat reflectors, which is 60 to 70 cm above the floor. Comfortable chicks will be at the feeders and waterers and spread uniformly over the pen area. When chicks feel cold, they will crowd under the heat source or pile up.

If the pen is too warm, the chicks move away from the heat with wings spread and/or are panting.

Uncomfortable chicks will be noisy.

(a) Floor space - Allow 1m2 per 75-150 chicks under the heat source and at least 1m2 per 25-50 chicks within the chick guard. Many producers use a chick guard of corrugated cardboard 30 cm in height placed 2-3 m back from the heat source for the first 5 to 7 days. The guard should be removed when the birds can fly over it. Broilers at 6 weeks require 1m2 per 9 to 12 birds.

Leghorn chicks for egg production are often started in large (1 x 2m) or smaller growing cages with warm room brooding, or in hot climates with a heat source over each cage. Small growing cages may be about 50 x 50 cm with 24 chicks started in each. After 4 to 5 weeks, half the chicks are placed in another cage of equivalent size, to double the space per bird and split again to 6 per cage at 8 to 10 weeks (400 cm2 per bird).

(b) Feeders - Chicks should be given 5 (Leghorns) -8 (broilers) cm of feeding space. Feed is usually put in shallow boxes or egg flats on the floor or cage bottom for 4 to 6 days as well.

(c) Waterers - Good water is important. In large flocks, some form of automatic water system is usually installed. In a float controlled trough, 2 cm per bird is considered sufficient. One hanging fountain per 80 to 100 birds, one smaller cup per 50 birds, one nipple for 10-12 birds, will generally be adequate.

For small groups, three 4L or larger drinkers should be provided per 100 chicks, and more added as required. These should be cleaned and refilled daily. Feed and water should be within 1.5m of all chicks. Water should be clean and free from toxins and chemicals. Salt as NaCl or NaS04 is particularly dangerous in young chicks up to 21 days. Total sodium (Na+ ) in water should not be above 300 ppm for broilers and 600 ppm for Leghorns or local strains.

FEEDING

For best results, a commercial ration is recommended. If home grain or other feed is available, it may be fed starting at day 8 in broilers and day 15 in Leghorns. Replace 5% of commercial ration with whole grain or other feeds and increase by 5% a week in broilers (5% every 14 days in Leghorns) to a maximum of 50%, or a commercial concentrate may be diluted with whole or ground grain or alternate feed stuffs. When grain is fed, supply insoluble grit sprinkled on the feed at least once per week. Don't overfeed grit.

Chickens raised for meat should be given all the feed they will eat (unless they are being raised at high altitude). Layers may have to be restricted to prevent them becoming too fat. Breeding flock must be monitored regularly and weighed weekly to make sure they are uniform and not overweight. Severe restriction may be required in broiler breeders.

It is advisable to include an anticoccidial drug in the feed of birds grown on the floor. This should be fed continuously throughout the growing period up to market in broilers and to 12 weeks in breeders or Leghorns. Coccidia vaccines are also available.

CANNIBALISM (Feather Pulling - Vent Picking, Toe Picking, Etc.)

Birds are cannibalistic by nature and when confined may start picking.

Chicks should be beak-trimmed at the hatchery, or at the farm using an electric trimmer. Broilers should not need trimming but watch for signs of picking and beak-trim if necessary.

Other steps to consider are:

(a) decreasing the light intensity;

(b) decreasing pen temperature;

(c) provide more space;

(d) use red light bulbs or place red plastic over windows;

(e) feed whole oats if the flock is over 4 weeks of age;

(f) add 1 g salt per L of drinking water if flock is over 6 weeks of age.

Once started, cannibalism is difficult to control.

TROUBLE SHOOTING

1. Chicks should be well spread out and at the drinkers and feeders

2. If noisy and crowding the walls or chick guard they may be too warm

3. If noisy and crowding the heat source they may be too cool or drafty

4. If crowded around feeders or drinkers, check supply and space per bird.

5. If chicks are huddling or piling in small lots they may be too cold, too hot or sick.

6. Litter condition

- too dry, may cause respiratory problems - spray litter to increase humidity.

- too wet, ammonia and coccidiosis or leg problems occur - check ventilation and bird floor space.

7. Insufficient feeder or waterer space, disease, poor lighting etc., will all affect uniformity.

Lighting Program For Broilers

Provide light 24 hours per day for the first 3 to 6 days then drop to 12 hours light and 12 hours dark or natural light.

Lighting Program for Layers and Breeders

Age

Light for controlled environment housing

Light program for open-sided housing

 

Commercial

Layers

 

Daylength

(hours)

Broiler

Breeders

Commercial

Layers

 

Daylength

(hours)

Broiler

Breeders

Day 1-3

Day 4-7

Day 8-14

Day 15-21

Day 22-119

Week 17

Week 18

Week 19

Week 20

Week 21

Week 22

Week 23

Week 24

Week 25

Week 26

Week 27

Week 28

Week 29

Week 30

Week 31

Week 32 - to end of lay

23

20

17

14

11

12

12-1/2

13

13-1/4

13-1/2

13-3/4

14

14-1/4

14-1/2

14-3/4

15

to end of laying period

 

23

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

11

12

13

14

15

15

15

15

15

15

15

15-1/2

16

23

20

17

14

10-12 (natural light)

12

13

13-1/2

14

14-1/4

14-1/2

14-3/4

15

15-1/2

15-3/4

16

to end of

laying period

 

23

12

12

12

12

12

12

15

15

15

15

15

15

15

15

15

15

15

15

15-1/2

16

 

 

For Leghorn type breeders, advance the start of increasing lighting to week 18.

Light is critical for egg production. Lengthening light periods stimulate egg production. Shortening light periods or too little light will discourage egg production and must be avoided. The light period should be at the same time each day.

For all commercial chickens follow the company management guide directions if they are available.

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