Raising Day-old chicks
You have just received day-old chicks from your supplier. What next? Other than feeds and drugs, the other immediate challenge will be to provide these chicks with the required warmth. When young chicks are being taken care of by their mother, one may not know the importance of a brooder. The mother hen provides the most required warmth to the chicks. With the introduction of incubators to aid in hatching, brooders have become very important structures in poultry farming. A brooder is a structure designed to provide warmth to the chicks in the absence of the mother hen. A good brooder should have adequate heat to ensure that chicks get enough warmth to avoid overcrowding which often leads to an increased mortality rate. Source of heat for this structure will range from kerosene or gas lamps to electric bulbs. The amount of heat to be provided is dictated by the number of chicks in the brooder. The brooder should be adequately heated. When the source of heat is inadequate, chicks will tend to overcrowd near the source of the heat. On the other hand, if the chicks are seen keeping off from the heat source, then it means that the heat is too much and thus should be reduced. Apart from proper heating, a good brooder should have dry litter, adequate feeders, and drinkers. Care must be taken to avoid the dry litter from catching fire especially in cases where kerosene lumps or jikos are used.
Before your day old chicks arrive, make sure that there is clean water and that the temperature within the brooder is at 33 -35ºC. The structure should also be disinfected a few days before the chicks arrive. Feeds should also be provided. For day-old chicks, often times you may have to dip the beaks of these chicks into the water to encourage them to start drinking water. Depending on your supplier, chicks can come when vaccinated against Marek’s disease but if that is not the case then you have to organize for the same.
Clean water and feeds should be available in the brooder throughout. Proper hygiene should be maintained in the brooder to avoid cases of disease outbreaks. If water is allowed to stay for long in the drinkers without being replaced, there is always a likelihood of bacterial growth which might cause infections and disease. Feeds should be kept clean at all times. One should avoid stale or mouldy feeds which might also be the source of diseases or nutritional deficiency. The number of feeders and drinkers to put in the brooder depends on the number of chicks. The most important thing is ensuring that your birds get access to water and feeds easily. Clean your feeders and drinkers as more often as necessary. Actually, as a rule of thumb ensure that the entire poultry structure, as well as the feeding equipment, are clean always. This is the first step in keeping diseases at bay. Shallow drinkers are recommended to avoid the chicks drowning. The choice of feeders can vary but go for the ones that will ensure the chicks feed without causing wastage of food. Depending on the seasonal temperature and the housing type, the brooding can take 4-6 weeks. The temperature should, however, be reduced steadily during the 6 weeks of brooding. It is worth mentioning that the one-month journey with your chicks is full of fun. Seeing the chicks grow day by day and the colour of their feathers change gradually is just but an awesome thing!