Category Archives: chick brooding

The Dos and Don’ts When it Comes to Chick Brooding

The toughest phase in raising your kienyeji chickens is during the chick brooding. This is the period when they are most delicate and where mistakes can be quite costly.

Many farmers prefer to start raising the chicks on their own right from the first day when the chicks are one day old. It is generally cheaper to acquire chicks at this stage so you can build a fairly large flock within a very short period of time.

Diagram of Chick Brooder Setup
Diagram of Chick Brooder Setup

However, the chick brooding stage requires special as well as intensive care in order to boost the survivability of the chicks. The problem is that many of the farmers who acquire the chicks are generally insufficiently prepared for the first few weeks. As a result, they end up incurring high mortality and huge losses that can easily be avoided.

The first few weeks of the chicks’ life is important not just for the survivability. The chicks may survive but if you didn’t give them optimal care during this stage, it may still end up impacting their physiological and development processes and thus impacting their yield.

One of the most critical factors during this stage is warmth. It is imperative that the chicks are given optimal warmth and protection. In natural brooding setting, the mother’s body and feathers is sufficient to supply the kids with optimal natural warmth.

However, in an artificial brooding environment, you have to try and recreate this environment to boost the chicks chances. You have to ensure that you are getting the artificial brooding conditions. That will require consulting widely and acquiring the right equipment for the task. The type of brooding conditions that you provide will have an impact on the chicks’ growth.

The Brooder

To prevent the chicks from huddling in one corner and thereby overcrowding and getting injured or suffocated, it is advisable that you use the brooder rings which are quite advantageous as they do not have corners.

Infrared Chick Brooder
Infrared Chick Brooder

Additionally, you must make sure that you have fumigated and disinfected the poultry house before you introduce the chicks into the poultry house.

The chicks are generally quite sensitive and delicate while they are still young so the farmer must go the extra mile to provide a sterile environment where they can grow safely.

Make sure that the litter and the bedding is disinfected and dried before they are spread on the brooder ring to line the flooring.

You can also use a newspaper layer to line the litter in the poultry house. This should also be sprayed lightly with some disinfectant. Make sure that you change the newspaper lining on a regular basis, at least after every two to three days. When it comes to raising day old chicks, you must never compromise on the hygiene.

Temperature

Chicks are covered in light feathers that offer very little insulation from the temperature extremes. This makes them fully reliant on the external heat source for survival. If you don’t provide optimal brooding temperatures, the chicks are either going to die from cold or heat stress.

Low temperatures will stunt the growth of the chicks as the feeds they take in is converted into heat instead of being used to power their growth. In brooding conditions, you must there provide a reliable external heat source such as infra-red heating system or just the normal jikos or ovens that will provide the chicks with sufficient heat.

The heat source provided in the brooding area must be centrally situated inside the brooder ring. During the first week, maintain the temperatures at 32 degrees Celsius.

When introducing heat into the brooding area, make sure that you carefully observe the chick behavior. If it is too hot inside the brooder ring, the chicks will move away from the heat source. If it is too cold, the chicks are going to huddle together under the heat source. If the temperatures are ok, the chicks will be evenly distributed inside the brooder ring.

Lighting

The brooder must be supplied with adequate lighting. The lighting is necessary to help the day old chicks locate the food and water inside the brooder ring. During the first 7 days after the chick placement, make sure that you provide bright lighting inside the brooder ring.

However, as the chicks grow older, make sure that you reduce or step down the lighting gradually so as to prevent cannibalism in the birds.

Ventilation

You must maintain very good air quality inside the brooder ring. This is particularly important if you are using the charcoal burners to keep the poultry house warm. A high accumulation of carbon monoxide in the poultry house is likely to lead to gas poisoning. On the other hand, a high concentration of ammonia gas in the poultry house is likely to cause ammonia burns and blindness in your chickens.

Vaccination

We have provided a vaccination schedule for your kienyeji chicken on this website that you must make sure you follow religiously. Also, make sure you provide the chicks with multivitamins before and after the vaccination.

Feed and Water

You can start your chicks off with a starter mash and eventually, you will introduce them into a grower mash. Make sure you provide the chicks with clean and fresh water at all times. Chickens will never forgive you if you fail to meet their water needs. It is likely to impact their development and productivity over the long term. During the early stages, you can also supply the chicks with a chick booster which is a mixture of glucose and vitamins.

>

How to Carry Out Chick Placement and Brooding and Ensure 90% Survival Rate

Chick brooding is one of the most important phases during poultry rearing. If done wrongly, you could lose as much as 50% of your chicks or potentially wipe off your entire investments in the day old chicks. If it is done correctly, you could lose 5% or less and preserve your entire investment. Chick brooding is often compared to parenting.

Eventually, every farmer has to develop a technique that will work for them in the first 8 weeks when the chicks are most vulnerable to various threats. Even if they survive the first 8 weeks, the handling of the chicks during those few weeks will impact the entire lifetime production of the chicken. If they are well handled and they grow up with less injuries, deformities or sickness, they are going to give you a very high yield. This applies whether you are brooding the KARI Improved Kienyeji Chicken, Rainbow Roostrer, Kuroiler, Indbro, Kenbro or the Fast White Layers from India.

Infrared Chick Brooder
Infrared Chick Brooder

The Four Important Factors when it Comes to Chick Brooding

When planning your chick brooding in Kenya in order to ensure a 99% survival rate in the first 8 weeks, there are five main factors that you will need control. How you will control them will depend on the knowledge that you have acquired through training along with your own improvisations during the Kienyeji chicken farming. These include the following:-

  • Provide Proper Feeding in the Right Amount: For information on how much a chick consumes at every age, check out our Feed Formulation Manual.
  • Provide very clean water during these first eight weeks. Check out our blog on the importance of clean water in poultry rearing. Chicks will do OK with the current drinkers from Kenpoly which are available in the Kenyan market but as they mature, you can cut your jerricans and use them to provide cleaner water which is not easily contaminated. You can also use drip drinkers which really preserve the hygiene of water and which the chickens love pecking as they grow older.
  • Temperature: Should just be the right amount and even distributed in the building. You can observe the chick behaviour in order to determine whether you have provided an optimal amount of heat.
  • Air Quality: Building should be spacious and well aerated but during the first few weeks, watch out on draught or wind coming in through openings. This can easily create the cold conditions that kill your chicks. In the first weeks, seal the openings with a curtain or sack in order to prevent draught and excessive cold.
  • Hygiene: Wash your hands before providing food. Before you enter the chicken coop, make sure you have dipped your feet in a disinfectant.

Prerequisites for chick brooding

  1. Chick brooding houses should be isolated from other houses containing older birds. The producer should follow an “all-in, all-out” program, never mixing birds of different ages.
  2. All facilities must thoroughly be cleaned, and disinfected.
  3. Put the brooder in place
  4. Before the arrival of chicks the brood ring and heaters must be checked to ensure that they are working properly.
  5. Put saw dust on the floor of the chicken pen
  6. On arrival, chicks should be offered fresh water containing glucose where applicable

Chick Management

Watch out daily for inactive or injured chicks and separate them from the main flock. If they are sick, consult a vet and provide the required medicine in isolation. If they are just injured or weak, separate them and let them recuperate in an environment where they don’t have to compete for food. Some of the common problems that you will encounter when you have a large flock include broken legs, broken wings, blindness from pecking or injuries and infections. You have to watch the flock closely in order to respond to these problems as soon as possible. Watch out the corners or feeding areas of the chicken pens for any dead chicks and remove them immediately when you spot them.

Improvised chick brooder in Kenya made of plywood. You could even use a cardbox to improvise your brooding area
Improvised chick brooder in Kenya made of plywood. You could even use a cardbox to improvise your brooding area

Prevent Overcrowding

Apart from the factors listed above, another major cause of injuries and deaths is overcrowding in the chicken pen. You can solve this by building a structure of the right size that can accommodate your number of birds. Check out our Kienyeji Housing Manual for tips on the right size of the Kienyeji Chicken structure or chicken coop that you should construct.

Buy More Feeders and Drinkers

Chicks also die or get injured due to overcrowding during feeding. When two many chicks are scrambling for food in small feeder, injuries are inevitable. You can solve this by having numerous feeders. A typical chick feeder can accommodate up to 30 birds but you can budget for one feeder per 20 birds. That means if you have 200 birds, purchase 10 feeders and 5 drinkers. The chicks mostly spend their time eating and drink at intervals .

Feeding Routine

Every morning and evening, ensure that all the feeders and drinkers have been washed before putting new feed in them. After feeding, there will most likely be chicken droppings and sawdust in the feeders and drinkers and these need to be cleaned first. Provide feeds two to three times a day. There is a certain amount of feed that they should consume per day based on their ages. Refer to our Feed Formulation Manual for this information.

When supplying the food, it is good to have one or two helpers. Put the feed in all the feeders and then take them to the chicken pen at once. That way, you will not attract too many chicks on a single feeder at once which can lead to injuries and death. Apart from the feeders, you can also supply an extra feeding tray where you put food for those left out of the feeders. Ensure all the chickens are active and feeding well. Remove and inspect the inactive ones.

After supplying feed, supply clean water and leave them for another six or more hours.

The Importance of Chick Brooding

The hatched chick has not developed the mechanism to regulate its body temperature, so it cannot maintain its body temperature properly for the first few weeks and can easily die due to the cold conditions of the housing.

Chick brooding management is mainly aimed at providing right temperature for the chicks in order to ensure their survival. Brooding provides extra heat from an external source to newly hatched chicks. When the artificial heat is not provided in the Improved Kienyeji chicken house, the chicks will not take sufficient feeds and water. This leads to retardation of growth and poor development of the internal organs responsible for digestion. As a result, the chick will not be able to digest the yolk completely.

The egg yolk is a highly nutritious feed for the chicks. As such, if it is not absorbed completely by the chick, there are growth and multiplication bacteria on the yolk leading to Early Chick Mortality (ECM) and growth retardation. A condition called omphalitis (yolk infection).

Preparations for the Chick Placement

The brooding house MUST be cleaned and disinfected, preferably using a sprayer. Feeders and drinkers should be washed and disinfected days before use. All equipment in the house should be arranged and the litter spread.

The brooder ring should be prepared and the curtains fixed on the open sides to insulate the brooder house. Use of a good quality terminal disinfectant, for the final spraying before the chicks are placed is recommended. Provide foot baths at the entrance with lime powder or any disinfectant such as Ominicide or, TH4.

Preparation of a Brooder Guard

Use an 18 inch cardboard sheet, aluminum sheet, coffee wire as brooder guard material to make a circle that uses 20 feet in diameter of the brooder guard for 50 chicks; 25 feet for 100 chicks; 30 feet for 150 chicks; 35 feet for 200 chicks. The brooder should be ready prior to disinfection. Fill the ring with suitable litter material such as wood shaving or straw up to 4 inches thick from the floor, and then spread newspapers to cover the litter on the floor. The heat source should be placed at the centre of the brooder ring. Please note that you can also purchase a customized brooder ring.

Checking Your Chicks

The crops of chicks should be checked the morning after placement to ensure they have found feed and water. At this time, a minimum of 95% of the crops should feel soft and pliable indicating chicks have successfully located feed and water. Hard crops indicate chicks have not found adequate water and water availability should be cheeked immediately. Swollen and distended crops indicate chicks have located water but insufficient feed and in this case the availability and consistency of the feed should be immediately evaluated.

Managing Light in the Brooder

Provide continuous lighting in the brooder during the first week in order to help chicks find water and feed.

Managing Temperature in the Brooder

Chick brooding temperature is usually measured just a few cm above the litter surface. The best times to observe the chicks and adjust the brooder temperature accordingly is during the cold times of the day. Not all farmers have thermometers to record temperatures so the best guide should be how the chicks behave during the cold hours:-

  • When there is too much heat, chicks will move away from the heat source
  • When there is too little heat, chicks will move towards the heat source
  • When the heat is evenly distributed, the chicks will behave normally and move around throughout the brooder guard.

 

>

Guide to Successful Chick Brooding: Achieve 99% Success Rate

We are putting a great emphasis on chick brooding since this is one of the most important phases of the chickens’ lives and of your investments. Failing to carry out proper brooding may simply wipe out your poultry investments.

There is no reason why should you lose a large number of chicks during the chick brooding stage when the conditions required for successful brooding are easily manageable. Experienced farmers who follow the best practices when it comes to chick brooding generally see over 99% survival rate during the first 8 weeks which preserves their investments. Farmers who are less experienced can see as much as 20% losses in the first eight weeks which guarantees that you are going to make losses no matter how hard you try afterwards.

Successful chick brooding is an art that you can master easily. Chick brooding requires that you provide the right amount of artificial heat that will help the chicks in temperature regulation so that they can successfully adjust to life outside the egg yolk. There are many sources that you can use for chick brooder heat. These include the following:-

  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Charcoal

You must ensure that you have set up the brooder area at least 24 hours before the arrival of the chicks. The brooder should contain the following:-

  • Heat source
  • Feeders: At least one per 30 chicks
  • Drinkers: At least one per 50 chicks
  • Feeding trays
  • Surround: There are pre-made brooders made of metal or plastic. If you are planning to cut on costs, you can simply make this with a cardboard box. The diameter can be about 4m and the height 0.6m.
Diagram of Chick Brooder Setup
Diagram of Chick Brooder Setup

Based on weather conditions of the area where you are planning to carry out the chick brooding, turn on the brooder at least 6 hours before the arrival of the chicks. This will ensure that the environment of the brooder, house, feeds and water is at the right temperature by the time the chicks will be arriving. The day-old chicks that you have purchased should be placed inside the brooder within 6-12 hours after hatchery in order to avoid putting them under too much stress. If the time between the chick hatching and chick placement inside the brooder is extended beyond 12 hours and up to even 24 or 48 hours, the chicks are going to be adversely affected and you may begin to see a high mortality rate.

Before you place the chicks in the brooder, supply clean drinking water and spread feed on newspapers placed on top of litter in the brooder as well as in the feeding trays.  These should be distributed evenly throughout the brooder area. You can add liquid paraffin, glucose or vitamins to the water which they are drinking. This will offer the chicks a ready energy sources and will also help them in overcoming caused by the dislocation or travelling. Adding liquid paraffin to the water their drinking helps them in passing stool.

When carrying out chick brooding, it is important to ensure that you have maintained the correct temperature in the brooder over several weeks. You should step down the temperature in the brooder gradually. Here is an overview of how the temperature should be maintained based on the age of the bird.

AGE(Weeks) Temperature in ºC at Chick Level Temperature in ºC in the House
1 33-35 30-32
2 30-32 27-29
3 27-29 24-26
4 24-26 21-23

In order to ensure optimal conditions for chick brooding, monitor temperatures closely by installing a few thermometers in the brooding area just at the height of the chicks in the brooder. Another good indicator on the temperature of the brooder is the behavior of the chicks.

Below is a diagram of chick behavior and various temperature conditions:-

Chick Behaviour Under Different Brooding Conditions
Chick Behaviour Under Different Brooding Conditions

If there is excessive chick noise during brooding, that can be a sign that the chicks are not comfortable. The most common cause of discomfort in the brooder is generally improper temperature. If you don’t follow the temperature step-down in the brooder outlined above, then you are going to cause some discomfort in the chicks. Common temperature induced conditions in the chick brooder include the following:-

Chilled Chicks

  • These are the chicks which huddle together under a brooder due to cold conditions in the brooder.
  • They produce wet or watery droppings thus causing wet-pasted vents inside the chick brooder.

Overheated Chicks

  • Overheated chicks will lie prostrate on the floor with both heads and necks stretched out on the brooder floor.
  • The chicks will pant
  • There is increase in water consumption by the chicks and as a result, both the crop and the intestines of the chicks is distended due to excessive water.
  • The chicks will be moving away from the source of heat towards the cooler areas of the brooder. In some cases, they will be overcrowding around the drinkers.

Chilled chicks will be under stress and are likely to have higher mortality, dehydration, poor uniformity with the rest of the chicks along with an increase in ascites.  On the other hand, checks which are overheated will also suffer from dehydration and will have higher mortality, stunting syndrome as well as poor uniformity with rest of your flock. In more serious cases where you completely get the temperature wrong, mortality is likely to result due to cardiovascular failure.

Expansion of Brooder Area

After every two days, the brooder area should be expanded. Within 10-14 days, allow the birds to occupy as much as 2/3 of the house. When they hit three weeks, allow the chicks to occupy the whole poultry house.

When carrying out brooding, it is also important to ensure that there is very good ventilation even if this will mean higher heating costs. Ventilation will get rid of the ammonia in the house and also ensure that the litter is always dry and this will in turn reduce incidence of diseases.  The chicks will also need the fresh air from the ventilation in grow and also maintain high productivity.

>

Chick Brooding: Ensure 90% Survival Rate

Best Practices When it Comes to Chick Brooding

Chick brooding is one of the trickiest parts when it comes to chicken farming. A lot of chicks will be lost during the brooding stage if the right conditions are not met. It is important to make a round brooder.

Chicks tend to hurdle in corners of brooders with sharp edges and this is one of the most common causes of chick deaths. A round brooder doesn’t have those constraints.  Your brooder should have the following:-

  • Have a jiko or infra-red heat source. A single jiko is enough heat source for every 300 chicks during the first three weeks of their lives. If the temperature is ok and the chicks are warm, they will move around the brooder. If the temperature is not sufficient and the chicks are cold, they will huddle in the corners or under the jikos. If temperatures are too hot, they will move away from the heat source into colder areas of the brooder.
  • Have a single feeder per 30 chicks
  • Have one drinker for every 50 chicks
  • Put some wood shaving or sawdust on the floor

Caring for Your Chicks

The feed the chicks as much as chick and duck mash as possible. In the first week, you can give them water which has vegetable oil or some little liquid paraffin in order to assist them with the digestion of food. You can put a single drop of these in each drinker. When the chicks arrive in the brooder for the first time, you can mix glucose and a packet of vitamins with some water in one drinker and give to them.  The glucose and vitamins generally come with box of day old chicks from Kenchic.

Appropriate Chicken Houses

An ideal chicken house must be secure, clean and also dry. The house that will house your chicks and chickens must have good ventilation on both the North and South-facing sides. Additionally, it should be orientated in the East-West direction. The East and West sides should be closed off in order to stop the draught and the wind.

The open sides of the house should have curtains and these should be closed at night so to stop the draught and the wind and keep the chickens warm at night. Make sure the house has at least a single feeder and drinker for 50 chicks although the more feeders the house has, the better.

It will ensure every chick, including the weak ones is able to get enough water and food and the chicks will roughly grow at the same speed.

Space Requirements

Every chicken should have 1 square foot of space inside the chicken structure. So if you are planning to keep 500 chickens, you will need a house that is ideally 500 square feet.’

Good spacing inside the house will stop antisocial behavior inside the chicken house such as henpecking and it also reduces incidences of injuries inside the poultry house.  It is important to always keep the house cleaning and cut down any bushes which are growing around the house in order to stop rats and mice. Rats and mice generally transmit fatal diseases to chickens.

>

Chick Brooding: Brooder Setup for Chicks

Chicks should be kept in the brooder for the first three weeks under controlled conditions. There are modern brooders made of plastic or steel but you can as well make use of plywood brooders in a round pen which should be at least 60cm high.

The wooden brooder should have the following:-

  • Wood shavings on the floor to keep the brooder dry and also provide warmth to the chicks
  • Have enough feeders and drinkers. There should be one feeder and one drinker for every 50 chicks but you can reduce the ratio to one for every 30 in order to provide optimal feeding conditions with very little overcrowding of the chicks.
  • Have enough of high quality commercial chick mash. The Fugo and Chick and Duckling mash is a good one and this should be fed to the chicks for the first 8 weeks.
  • Have clean drinking water in good and efficient drinkers where there is less contamination.
  • Have a jiko in the middle of the brooder in order to keep the chicks warm. There should be one jiko for every 300 chicks. Check out our Kienyeji Chicken Farming Manual for additional information on the chick behavior at various temperatures and how to achieve optimal temperature.

Below is a diagram on how you can set up your brooder:-

Diagram of Chick Brooder Setup Management
Diagram of Chick Brooder Setup

When you are changing feeds, do it slowly so that you do not put the chicks under any duress. For example, you can change one feeder at a time. Use red feeders as well red color drinkers in order to attract the chicks to the feed. You can also use feeders and drinkers with bright yellow colors. Check out our post on the importance of red or yellow feeders and drinkers.

Vaccination Schedule for Common Diseases in Poultry

Follow this schedule when it comes to vaccinating your chicks:-

Kienyeji Chicken Vaccination Program
Kienyeji Chicken Vaccination Program
>