The importance of brooding in poultry can not be overemphasized.
To become a successful poultry farmer, you need to learn to brood your chicks yourself.
This will save you several costs – You’ll get the birds cheap compared to when they’re already grown before being sold.
Secondly, you will be sure they take their vaccines at the proper stage of life, therefore, preventing an outbreak of diseases or minimizing mortality rate.
Types of Brooding
There are two types of brooding methods – Whole house brooding and Partial house brooding.
There is another which is the Spot brooding.
Just like the names, in the whole-house brooding, the whole area is warmed at the same temperature.
In partial-house brooding, the brooder is still heated like the whole-house method but the main brooding space’s temperature is adjusted to the required temperature needed by the chicks relative to their age.
In the spot brooding method, the whole brooder is not heated, some areas are cold, mid-warmth, and warmth.
For any type of brooding method, make sure you get the neccessary quality brooding supplies for your chicks.
A localized heat source is commonly used but in whichever heat is provided, the chicks can choose their desired brooder’s temperature as they move from cold to warm and vice versa.
In day-old chicks’ management, controlling the temperature of the brooder is very important.
Don’t overheat your baby chicks or get them too cold, it can make them weak and inactive.
Factors for Successful Brooding of Chicks
Irrespective of the type of chicken you want to raise from a day old – Layers, Broilers, Cockrel, the management practices I’ll discuss are required for effective brooding and poultry production.
The brooding period can be up to eight weeks and you should be well prepared for the arrival of the chicks.
Preparations before the Arrival of chicks
If you’ve brooded chicks in the past and want to use the same brooding equipment, then, they should be cleaned and treated.
All used equipment such as drinkers, feeders, brooders, lamps, etc should be moved out of the house and thoroughly washed with suitable detergents and rinsed with clean water.
A powerful disinfectant should be used to scrub the floor, walls, and windows.
All equipment should be checked to see they are good to order and any necessary repairs should be carried out effectively.
Old litter materials and manures should be removed from inside and around the house.
Cobwebs should be removed from the wall, wire settings, and other parts of the house.
After disinfecting, the house may be sealed or fumigated if needed. An area of about 1.2m (4 feet wide) should also be cleaned and disinfected.
All doors and windows should be kept open. The house and equipment should be left to dry and air out for at least ten to fourteen days before putting the new birds into the house.
A pan or dip containing diluted disinfectants, which should be renewed daily should be kept at the entrance of the house.
Everyone should be made to pass through this dip before entering the poultry house.
This would reduce the reintroduction of disease organisms into the poultry house.
After washing, disinfecting, and air drying, the open-sided portion of the house should be covered with plastic or polythene materials, mats, clean fee bags, or similar materials at least a day before the birds are due to arrive.
A small portion of about 15cm on top of the wire mesh should be left open for ventilation.
Mould-free dry litter materials such as wood shavings, sawdust, shredded dry corn cobs, groundnut hulls, rice hulls, etc, should be spread evenly on the floor to a height the birds can climb when they arrive.
The litter should be thoroughly checked to ensure no sharp materials such as broken bottles, wood pieces, or nails are within the litter.
The cleaned and disinfected drinkers, feeders and brooders should be installed in their normal positions at least two days before the chicks arrive.
The brooder (heat source) should be surrounded by a brooder guard which should be 60 to 90cm high at a distance of about 60 to 80cm from the broader.
Wire mesh may be used as a brooder guard during the hot months of the year while stronger materials like cardboard or even cement blocks may be used as brooder during the harmattan seasons.
Drinkers and feeders should be placed spokes-wise, radiating from the brooder in the space surrounded by the brooder or chick guards, and should be arranged alternately.
The heat units such as lamps, electric bulbs, infrared bulbs, etc should be checked to ensure that everything is in order.
The heating system should be started at least two hours during the hot season and four hours during the cold season before the young chicks arrive.
This pre-heating time will enable you to get the brooding temperature of 35° C at the litter level.
Below this, chicks tend to dry the litter too much, resulting in dehydration of the birds on the first day.
When birds are in the house, the droppings will add moisture to the litter and thus dehydration due to brooder heat.
Water should be sought in advance of the vaccination schedule.
All necessary medications should be on hand.
Preparations when the Chicks Finally Arrive
Day-old chicks’ management should be well planned since slow responsiveness to the care of the chicks can result in a high mortality rate.
When your chicks finally arrive, they should be unloaded quickly and distributed in the house, and the lids of the boxes removed.
The chicks should be carefully counted in the house close to the heat source.
The birds that appear weak should be resuscitated by dipping their beaks into the water and letting the water go down their throat.
Chicks that are very weak, crippled, or with unabsorbed yolks should be discarded since their survival rate is very low.
The number of good birds should be recorded immediately. Don’t put the day-old chicks with older chicks of about four weeks intervals.
Some of the chicks’ boxes may be opened up and placed on the floor if no feeding tray is available.
It will serve as their first feeder for the next two days. Two chick boxes or egg trays or two plastic feeders should be made available per 100 chicks.
Alternatively, clean newspapers may be spread on the floor, and feeds can be spread on them.
Polythene materials are not suitable for use as first feeders and should be discouraged.
The rest of the boxes should be removed and burnt.
The feed should be supplied to the birds after two to three hours of being put in the pen.
Research has shown that better growth, feed conversion, and livability is obtained when feed is introduced after a majority of the birds have learned to drink water for about 1 to 2 hours.
For the first few hours, the birds should be watched to ensure that they are drinking and eating.
You may notice your day-old chicks sleep during the day, it’s normal as long as it’s intermittent.
However, make sure the temperature is right for them; their behavior should indicate whether they are comfortable or not.
To keep your chicks warm at night, ensure the heat source is well-placed and regulated in the brooder.
Daily conservation of feed and water consumption, stock appearance, noise patterns, and mortality should be penned down in the farm records.
Cases of disease outbreaks and deviations from normal should be reported immediately to the relevant authority.
The entry of visitors into the house should be minimized.
Personnel that is working on the farm and other visitors (if they must enter) should be made to pass through a footbath of disinfectants before entering the house.
Entry into any poultry house should be gradual. Forced entry into the poultry house may scare the birds resulting in losses due to pilling together in a corner.
It is good practice to tap lightly on the door to alert the birds before entering any poultry house.
Adequate records of mortality, feed consumption, vaccination, etc must be kept. By keeping adequate records, troubles can easily be spotted.
Dead birds should be disposed of properly. Burning or deep burying is a suitable means of disposal of bead birds.
The same procedures outlined above before and after the chicks arrive are also applicable to other types of poultry.