What is Brooding in Poultry Production?
Brooding is defined as the management of chicks from one day old to about 8 weeks of age, and it involves the provision of heat and other necessary care during chicks’ early growing period. Brooding units are designed to house chicks from one day old until they no longer need supplementary heat (0-8 weeks). Growing pens are used from the end of the brooding period until the broilers are sold or the pullets moved into permanent laying houses (up to 20 weeks). Laying pens or cages are used for pullets and hens from the time they start laying until they are culled and sold at the end of the laying period (up to 78 weeks).
The natural method of brooding is used on farms where only a few chickens are raised each year. Depending on her size, a hen will brood 15-20 chickens. The broody hen will provide all the warmth required by the chicks. Before placing the chicks with the hen she would be examined for her good health and free from lice, tick and other ectoparasites.
Artificial brooding can be defined as the handling of newly born chicks without the aid of hens. It is accomplished by means of a temperature-controlled brooder (foster mother). Artificial brooding has several advantages over the natural method, which are:
- Chicks may be reared at any time of the seasons.
- Thousands of chicks may be brooded by a single person.
- Sanitary condition may be controlled.
- The temperature may be regulated.
- Feeding may be undertaken according to plan.
Brooding temperature is the temperature inside the poultry where the chicks are roaming. It is a very important variable that every poultry farmer should look closer as it could affect the growth and health of the chicks. To reduce stress and mortality, the brooding temperature should be checked always so that we will know if the temperature is just enough for the chicks. This article will guide you to have a good understanding whether you have provided the optimal environmental temperature for your chicks.
The essentials of a good brooder are:
A dependable mechanism for controlling temperature and regular supply of fresh air, dryness, adequate light, space, easy disinfection, protection against chick enemies, safety from fire, and economic in construction.
Management of Chicks in the Brooder
- Adjust the temperature as per requirement of the chicks. In case of oil heating, see that there is no defect in the stove or lamp. Chicks should not have access to the heated parts of the lamp at any cost.
- Avoid a damp poultry house. You can use a deep litter system.
- Discourage litter eating by the chicks, scatter mash over egg case flats when the chicks are first taken out of their boxes.
- Provide balanced standard mash.
- Keep provision for the entrance of fresh air.
- Provide clean, fresh water in front of the birds at least twice daily.
- Chicks, after 3 weeks old may be provided chopped green grasses (to increase Vitamin A intake)
- Clean the brooders including feed hoppers daily.
- Follow a regular vaccination program.
- Avoid overcrowding as this will lead to slow growth and mortality.
- Keep the brooder in such a place that cold wind and rain does not get in.
- Daily inspect the condition of birds and their faces for any sort of abnormality.
- Keep in touch with any veterinarian for the help at the time of need.
- It is always advisable to check the fittings, temperature control, feed and water trough arrangement before shifting the chicks in the brooder.
How To Know If Your Brooding Temperature is Optimal
The best indicator how to monitor the perfect temperature inside the brooding area is easily known by the behavior and movements of the chicks with regards to heat. A general indication that the conditions in the brooding area is optimal is when you see that the chicks are scattered evenly and comfortable. Thus, you will not need to alter the temperature and humidity.
Below are illustrations on the chick behavior according to the brooding temperature conditions: