Introduction to brooding in poultry rearing

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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.