Brooding Management

Brooding of Broiler chicks:

Brooding period in broiler life span accounts for about first 14 days of hatching. In this period, broiler birds are changing from their immature thermoregulatory system to the mature one. Points to be considered for brooding chicks include:

  • Temperature
  • Air quality
  • Water and feed quality

Temperature:

Temperature of litter is most important as the day old chicks have to completely depend upon the litter temperature to regulate their body temperature. Young bird’s loss more heat than adult because the ratio of body surface to body mass is large in day old chicks and decrease with the age.

If the birds are exposed to cold temperature, they will try to save or make heat by huddling or by burning feed to keep warm, which affects feed conversion ratio.

If the ambient temperature is 26ºC (78.8ºF), the same moisture loss (1-2g) in the yolk will last the chick three days. This is why, in practical terms, when we see large yolks we can say that the bird was cooled in the first few days.

In the opposite case, with temperature too high, the birds will try to remove heat or avoid producing heat, pant to lose heat (losing FCR) and stop eating. If chicks start panting they can lose 5-10g of moisture in the first 24 hours and then dehydration will occur. The correct temperature will also influence the bird health and immunity because immune system development and stress is costing energy and when the birds are not comfortable during this development they will be more sensitive to infections and less immune competent. The chick’s internal temperature (cloaca measurement) should be maintained between 40.4-40.6ºC (104.7-105.1ºF); below 40ºC (104.0ºF) is cold and above 41ºC (105.8ºF) will lead to panting.

For the first two weeks the chicken house should feel too warm for the caretaker – if not, the temperature is likely to be too low for the chicks. We suggest the air temperature in the brooding area at placement, with 30-50% RH, begin at 33ºC (91.4ºF); at seven days, with 40-60% RH, 30ºC (86ºF); and at 14 days, same RH, 27ºC (80.6ºF). If the humidity is less than above, increase the temperature by 0.5-1.0ºC (1ºF).

Air quality:

Ventilation maintains heat throughout the house and creates good air quality in the brooding area. An ideal for birds is oxygen 19.5%, carbon dioxide less than 3000ppm, carbon monoxide and ammonia (NH3) less than 10ppm and dust levels less than 3.4mg/m³.

Increase in carbon monoxide is caused by the incomplete burning of fossil fuels, but the major problem is a combination of concentration and exposure time. Birds can tolerate levels of 600ppm for 30 minutes, but 3000ppm is lethal in two hours. The normal air carbon dioxide concentration is 400ppm. In winter when we see chicks sitting near the outside wall, we think first of high temperature, but the problem can be carbon dioxide. This is because the level of carbon dioxide is too high inside this house, mainly because of the low air rate exchange rate.

High ammonia levels in the house are detrimental for the birds. It is important to always evaluate NH3 levels at bird height. The negative effects of NH3 include foot pad burns, eye burns, breast blisters/skin irritations, decreased weights, poor uniformity, disease susceptibility and blindness.

Water and Feed management:

Water and feed plays a great role in disease transmission as the poultry are transforming from immature to mature one.

Water is an essential nutrient that impacts virtually all physiological functions. According to Viola et al. (2003), a 40% water restriction decreases the feed intake (542-338g), body weight (471-295g) and FCR (1.28-1.37) at 14 days. We need to guarantee 24ml of water per bird in the first 24 hours.

Using paper in 50% of the brooding area and the amount of feed should be 50g/bird in the period that the paper is in good condition. Use newspaper (47-55g/m2 weight with 55-68% brightness), and not tissue paper, to ensure adequate time for feeding before the paper breaks down. It should be good enough to last five days.

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