Introduction to brooding in poultry rearing

What is brooding?

Brooding is provision of warmth, fresh air, clean feed and water to chicks during the first four weeks.

At hatch, the day-old chicks do not have subcutaneous fat and their feathers are ill developed. This means that they are unable to control their body temperatures until after 2-3 weeks of age thus remain vulnerable to chilling.

Under natural conditions, hens cover their chicks under her wings, up to 4 weeks of age, providing them with warmth. Under commercial poultry rearing systems, artificial warmth is provided to chicks to protect them from low temperatures.

Brooding period constitute a large and important part of the life of modern poultry. In broilers brooding period lasts 21-28 days out of the 35 days in broilers life thus any errors during brooding results to irreparable losses in performance.

Important facts about brooding

  • Chicks cannot regulate body temperature until after 14 days of age
  • Provide artificial heat to birds until fully feathered
  • Good brooding must provide quality feeds, clean drinking water, adequate warmth and proper ventilation.
  • Ventilation/air quality should never be sacrificed for warmth, birds must be kept warm but there must be adequate air circulation in the brooder.

Requirements for successful brooding

  • Thorough clean out after previous crop
  • Clean and adequate litter on the floor
  • Properly applied clean curtains on the ventilations
  • Adequate number of clean drinkers and feeders
  • Suitable and functional heat source
  • Reliable source of fuel for the brooder heat source
  • Suitable lighting system
  • Brooder guards to separate brooding area
  • Brooder thermometer to monitor brooding temperatures.