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
(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.