Hubbard Press Release
Broiler chick brooding: from theory to practice
Over the first seven days of life, chicks acquire the ability to regulate internal body temperature and, specifically, they develop their digestive system (including intestinal flora) and immune system, both of which will be essential for properly digesting feed and fighting off the biological attacks inherent in the rearing process. The brooding period is therefore an important time.
Brooding starts a long time before the chicks arrive.
Washing the house and its equipment, including water lines, must be finished off by disinfection and drying before litter and equipment is put back in.
Placing one-day-old chicks in a healthy environment enables them to use the nutrients they ingest for growth, rather than for fighting off microbial attacks.
Reception of chicks: a crucial moment.
Assessing the physical condition of a sample of chicks as soon as they arrive makes it possible to anticipate and partially amend certain anomalies immediately:
- Cold feet: increase brooding temperature to 34-35°C for 4 to 6 hours. Check temperature of feet again and do not turn temperature down until feet are warm.
- Signs of dehydration: increase the number of drinkers and add 5g sugar per litre of water for 24 hours.
- Poor umbilical healing: keep under observation and contact a veterinarian if necessary.
Dim the lighting level and gently place chicks on chick paper near the drinkers or nipple lines. Turn lighting back up to full once the chicks have settled.
How to stimulate feeding
Many scientific studies have demonstrated that the first feed ingested:
- Triggers intestinal peristalsis, which in turn triggers yolk resorption.
- Causes rapid development of the gastrointestinal system and related organs involved in the digestive process (gizzard, pancreas, liver).
- Launches the development of digestive enzyme activity, which enables complex feed ingredients to be digested rapidly and more completely.
- Develops immune system organs.
- Promotes development of muscle fibres and multiplication of satellite cells, the guarantee of good meat yield.
In practice, it does not matter a great deal whether chicks start drinking or eating first, since one leads to the other. What does matter is that water and feed is of good quality and easily accessible for all the chicks.
Bear in mind that without light, chicks neither eat nor drink and their activity is proportional to lighting intensity. Nothing beats natural daylight, provided that it is complemented by powerful artificial lighting during the night. (Chart nr.1)
Several times a day during the first week, most chicken farmers walk through the chicks to encourage them to move towards feeders and drinkers. This technique can be complemented by switching off the lighting (for periods of 30 minutes) and then switching it back on, which stimulates the chicks to move, eat and drink.
After this intermittent lighting programme for the first 4 days, we recommend going back to a regime of switching lighting off once a day, to be defined according to the type of house, breed, climate and farm records.
Temperature comfort must likewise be optimal. This means warm litter, adjusted temperature with no draughts and humidity ideally between 40 and 60%. If chicks position themselves evenly over the entire brooding area, this shows that the temperature comfort is correct.
Adhere to equipment and transition standards
It is very difficult to standardise the exact need for drinkers and feeders since it depends on the accessibility of drinkers and feeders: the less accessible they are, the greater the amount of specific brooding equipment will be required, which will have to be left in place longer.
The use of nipple drinkers gives the option to not use any additional drinkers, provided that the brooding area takes up at least 40% of the farm area and that brooding can be done in high ambient temperatures. (Chart nr.2)
Additional drinkers and feeders for brooding should be taken away from day 3 onwards, removing one-third per day to give the chicks time to adapt.
Assess ingestion 24 hours after arrival
Successful settling of chicks can be assessed by performing the crop test 24 hours after chick placement on 100 chicks selected from different areas of the house. The objective is over 99% of chicks with full, soft crops.
Assess brooding after 7 days
The objective is to obtain a more than fourfold increase in chick weight during the first 7 days. Since the mean weight of chicks varies from 33-35 g at the beginning of production to 46-48 g at the end of the life of the Parent Stock flock, fourfold increase will be in the range of 135 to 190 g. Apart from weight, chick uniformity will be assessed by eye, or better still by weighing 100 chicks separately (the goal being a CV < 11%). Condition of feathers, roundness of the abdomen, cleanliness of foot pads and brightness and roundness of the eyes are equally revealing the general condition of the chicks and their living conditions in the first days of life.