What is brooding in poultry?
Brooding is the maximum attention and care given to chicks from a day old to about 4-5weeks of age. This is the most delicate period of a chicken’s life and also the most tedious and cautious aspect of poultry production. Any mismanagement during the first 4weeks of a chick’s life can ruin the farm anytime. So having adequate knowledge of brooding is very paramount in poultry production.
You will agree with me that most farmers do not brood, rather, they prefer to buy point of lay or grow out broiler or cockerel. However, brooding is very cost effective and help reduces cost of production provided you have the right knowledge of how to go about it. Though, it’s very tedious and risky but with proper management, you can always hedge against any mishap.
Preparation for brooding starts at about 2 weeks before the arrival of the day-old-chicks; during this period, all the necessary accessories are all in place and installations of relevant brooder components are done. The brooding pen, If need be, must be renovated; it must be disinfected and cleaned. All crevices and holes, therein, must be blocked. The brooding pen must be covered to ensure the birds are in good conditions. It must be covered to commensurate the environmental conditions of the chicks. At about 2-3 days before the arrival of the chicks, the heat source has to be installed and operated; however, in case of the improvised source of heat, the charcoal pot, it must be on set at about 24 hours before the arrival of the chicks. This is very crucial because the chicks need warmth to keep them fit. Fill the floor with dry and friable litter materials like: wood shavings, groundnut husk. This absorbs moisture and their waste, the brooding pen must be dry always to prevent the outbreak of diseases.
Day old chicks management
Upon the arrival of your chicks, they should be dislodged from their pack and introduced into the brooding pen. They should be served water and glucose solution, this gives the chicks strength and agility. Feeding should commence immediately, feeding should be done Adlibitum, that is, feeds must be made available all the time.
At their tender age, they are very voracious and eat a lot. However, do not panic, it is normal and very helpful. Observe weak and unthrifty birds, separate them from the healthy ones, to enhance feed efficiency and utilization. Serve fresh clean water with vitamin supplements in it to boost their immune system. During the first week, supply them feed in a tray or used newspaper. After a week, raise the feeders and drinkers to their chest level; this reduces contamination and wastage of feed and water.
How much space do chickens need?
Well, this is a very important question as the answer will aid the success of the brooding operation. Overcrowding results to stunted growth and rapid spread of diseases, in short, the chicks need enough space to increase their growth rate, a spacing of 55-70cm² per chick is needed. However, this has to be increased every 3-4 weeks till when they are caged. For example a brooding pen of about 450cm² has to be increased by 50cm² every 3-4 weeks.
Ventilation and heat management of day old chicks
Proper ventilation is very important in brooding, it can make or mar the business. Day old chicks need heat to survive, therefore, adequate heat has to be supplied to ensure their well-being. The behavioral response of the birds to heat supplied is the best way to determine if the heat supplied is enough or not. This is why the farm manager has to be more vigilant and observant. When the heat is too much, you will see the chick move away from the heat source, pant and are drowsy; but when the heat is not adequate, the birds cuddle and cluster together near the heat source to generate more heat within themselves. However, if the heat is adequate, you will see the birds dispersed evenly, move freely in the brooding pen.
During the first 10days of the operation, the temperature of brooding must be around 35 ℃ or 95 ℉ , the temperature should be reduced by 5 ℉ every week till the chicks are about 4-5weeks of age, when the temperature is around 70 ℉ or 21 ℃. The brooding pen has to be fully covered to ensure adequate warmth but as the birds grow feathers, the inflow of air to the brooding pen has to be increased, as soon as the bird grow enough feather, they covering should be removed totally. Also, the source of heat has to be uninstalled or dispatched as soon as the birds grow enough feather.
Day-old chicks vaccination program.
Vaccination is the deliberate administration of biological prepared antigenic compound called vaccine to birds for the purpose of improving their immune system and increase their resistance to a particular disease. This is very crucial in poultry production, there are different routes through which vaccine can be administered, they are:
• Oral or through the mouth.
• Subcutaneous or Under the skin.
• Through the wing web
• Intraocular or Through the eye:
• Aerosol or through the air.
• Intramuscular or Through the muscle:
These are routes of vaccine administration, each vaccine used in poultry production has its own routes prescribed by the vet. Below are the vaccination schedules of chicks:
• The first vaccine to be given to the day-old chicks is the Marek vaccine, it is commonly done immediately the chicks hatch, before evacuating the chicks from the hatchery. You can inquiry to be sure if this has been done, to curb the future outbreak of the disease. It is administered through subcutaneous or aerosol route of vaccine administration.
• The second vaccine is the Gumboro vaccine I, it is administered orally, through drinking water. It should be done when the chicks are 10 days old, it protects against Infectious Bursal Disease(IBD).
• The third vaccine is the Gumboro vaccine II, it is also given orally and it should be done when the birds are 18 days old.
• The next vaccine to follow is the Newcastle disease first dose vaccine; it is done orally through, through drinking water. It is given when the birds are 3 weeks old.
• The next vaccine to be given is the fowl pox vaccine, this vaccine can be given at 3 or 6 week of age, depending on the environmental temperature. In hot weathered areas, it should be given at 3 weeks age but other areas, 6 weeks of age. It is administered through the wing webs.
These are the vaccines used during the brooding process of chicks, day old to 6 weeks. It is very important you note these key points about vaccination, they are:
• Do not vaccinate chick birds.
• Do not use vaccine in lieu of drugs.
• Vaccines are used for prevention while drugs are used for treatment.
Feeding of day-old chicks
Feeding of day-old chicks is very important, at their early stage in life, they are very voracious and eat a lot. Do not put them on a routine feeding program, rather feed them AdLibitum. Ensure they eat always and serve them fresh water. Water is very important in poultry, ensure water is always available at all time, even when feed is not available. The feeders or drinkers should be placed in the brooder or brooding pen such that they point toward the heat source to aid the birds have access to warmth. The size of the feed is always cogent, the feed particles size must be very small to enhance palatability and aid digestion. Quality feed has to be provided; avoid deteriorated or caked feed, it might be detrimental to the chicks’ health.
Day-old chicks disease management.
It is very possible you do not experience any outbreak of disease during the brooding period. Diseases, at times, are not factors to be considered in animal production because they are secondary. The greatest factor is the day old chicks management. Following strict and necessary precautions can make you have a disease free brooding experience, mortality is normal but it must not be above 5%, that’s abnormal. Medication expenses increase cost of production, thereby, reducing profit of the venture, but with proper management and strict adherence to precautions, you can scale through this fence. The following are the precautions you should take note and work with all the time to avoid disease outbreaks:
• Ensure you maintain proper hygiene:
Proper hygiene is very key to the success of this venture; ensure all the equipment and materials used are cleaned and possibly sterilized; especially your farm outfit, your boot and coat. Do not enter into another pen with it, even if you have other pens in your farm, use a particular outfit for your brooding pen. This is because chicks are very vulnerable to little infection. You have to ensure that you are cleaned and disinfected before going to the brooding pen. Also, the feed and water you serve must be very clean and safe from contaminants.
• Litter management:
The litter material in your brooding pen, either wood shaving or groundnut husk, must be dry at all time. Your brooding own must be dry at all times, apply new litter material in any wet areas. Change the litter materials at least every 10-14 days to prevent ammonia build up in your pen because they can cause disease outbreak.
• Ensure you use bio-security in your farm:
Do not allow anybody to step into your farm especially your brooding unit. It is a sacred area in your farm.
• Prevent predators for your farm:
Predators, could be of any size or animal, birds, ants, termites, snakes etc are threats to poultry farm. Ensure you chase them away as possible.
• Cull sick birds form healthy ones, to prevent spread of diseases.
• Check the chicks several times a day, especially in the evening to detect any change in attitude.
• Report any threatening observations to the veterinary doctor as soon as possible.
With this guide, am sure you can brood chicks to rearing stage with mortality rate below 5%, thus, having a cost effective brooding operation.
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