(NB Although this article refers specifically to breeders, management principles remain the same for layers and broilers)


Handling of the day-old chick and management of the brooding program has a direct relationship on life-time production of the bird – whether breeders, layers or broilers, as well as flock mortality. 

The four factors to control are  

  1. Feed
  2. Water
  3. Temperature
  4. Air quality

Effective chick management begins before the day-olds arrive, particularly if they are being imported from another country.

  • Staff must have a good grounding in regulatory issues and documentation procedures to ensure that chicks are customs-cleared as quickly as possible.
  • Transport from the airport must be in clean, sterilised vehicles, preferably temperature controlled.
  • 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.
  • All facilities must be clean, sterilised  and pathogen-free (See Biosecurity In Poultry)
  • Brooders and heaters must be checked to ensure that they are working properly before the arrival of the chicks. This is a routine check to be carried out daily.
  • Fresh food and water should be available on arrival of the day olds.
  • Litter is used to conserve heat and must be leveled and compacted to prevent chick crowding.
  • Ventilation should be adequate to remove undesirable gases such as ammonia and provide clean air but not so much to remove heat or create draughts.
  • Depending on ambient temperatures, the brooding house should be heated to  29 – 32ºC for 24 hours before the arrival of the chicks. Be careful to always check the temperature at the level of the chicks.
  • Chick feeders should be provided at a rate of 1 per 75 chicks. Birds must always have fresh food available from the time of arrival.
  • 2 supplementary drinkers to be provided per 100 chicks. These must be chick fonts, not open trays and should not be placed directly under the light source.


The diagram below shows how to observe the behaviour of the chicks and correct for brooding temperature (Source: Cobb Breeder Management Guide http://www.cobb-vantress.com/contactus/brochures/Breeder_guide_2008.pdf )



Stocking Density 

For breeders – Males will reach a heavier weight than females so require extra floor space to ensure they reach their adult weight. Males and females must be grown separately for at least 6 weeks, but preferably to 21 weeks. 

Brooding – Males and females – for the first 5 days stock at 30 chicks/square metre

Rearing – Females -  6 – 7 birds/square metre

-       Males – 3.5 – 3.9 birds/square metre

Production  Breeder Females -  3.8 – 5 birds/square metre

                      Broilers 6-8wks – 12 – 14/square metre       

                      Laying pullets – 10/square metre

                      Laying hens -   max 5/box 30cm x 30 cm     


Lighting should be continuous for the first 48hours, at an intensity of 20 – 60 lux. This will ensure that the chicks find food and water. 

To ensure that chicks are feeding and drinking adequately, a random sampling should be done 6 – 8 hours after arrival. The crop of the chick should be soft and pliable, showing that the chick has taken in adequate food and water. A hard crop shows inadequate water intake and a swollen, distended crop shows inadequate food intake. 

At 7 days of age a random sample weighing should be undertaken. This is a good indicator of successful brood management. Low weight gains show inadequate protein intake (low feed consumption or inbalanced nutrition) This will have repercussions in lower 4 week weights, less uniform flocks and lower egg production. 

The graph shows optimum temperatures from day old to 7 weeks.

(Source: Cobb Breeder Management Guide http://www.cobb-vantress.com/contactus/brochures/Breeder_guide_2008.pdf )


Ref: http://www.cobb-vantress.com/contactus/brochures/Breeder_guide_2008.pdf

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