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Brooding is an important and crucial step in poultry farming. It is important in the sense that it helps to add to your income when you do it yourself than when you buy the already brooded chickens which makes you pay more. It is crucial because anything that affects the chicks at this stage of their life will affect their growth and health which has a great impact on the profit you could make,brooding therefore is an essential procedure that the poultry farmer needs to master and leverage it in order tomake more profit in the poultry business.
Brooding broilers and layers all require the same process. Once you know how to brood layers, you can also do same for broilers though the type of vaccines they need vary.
Materials (items) needed for Raising (brooding) Baby chicks
- Housing:you will need a house to keep the chicks in it. It should be a house that its corners are not sharp, the corners of the house should be curve and not at right angle; this is important because when the chicks become cold, they climb on one another and also press themselves, hence those at the corners may not be able to breathe well and could die as a result of that.
- The house should be more that one because you may need to isolate the ones you suspect to have infection and also those that might have been injured. This is important in order to reduce the mortality you may encounter. I normally refer to this other extra house as the recovery house.The house should have proper ventilation to allow the free flow of air especially in places whose temperatures are hot but for places that are cold, you may only need to have a little window to ensure ventilation with most of the remaining space closed to provide warmth.
- Vaccines:for the two weeks of the brooding, you need about 2 schedules of vaccines: one for Gumboro and the other for Lasota. You need to starve the birds in the night of water around 9 pm so as to make them thirsty and then the vaccine is administered in the morning in a liquid form. The birds will rush the water and each will struggle to drink because they are thirsty, this will ensure that all of them get the vaccine. Some birds will not drink the vaccine if you fail to starve them of water. You need to know that the vaccine makes them drool saliva after they drink, this should not make you fear. After they have taken the vaccine, you can wait for like 30 minutes before giving them normal water and feed to take.
- Source of light and warming:the chicks need light to enable them eat and drink. If you have regular electric power supply, it is good you use 200 watts bulb to light the house, this will provide the light at the same time it provides heat that warm the house. But if you do not have regular power supply, you need a charcoal pot but make sure that the charcoal is burning without smoke first before taking it into their house. You also need to cover the top of the charcoal pot or any opening to prevent any chick from jumping into it. For houses that are made of wood, you need to add a flat block and then the charcoal pot is placed on top to prevent burning the wood and I normally use a roofing aluminium sheet to cover the top (any metallic sheet can be used for covering it).
- Drinkers and Feeders:You need a flat feeder for the first week of the brooding, this is to ensure that the chicks can reach the feed easily. You may use a flat plastic tray for it, just make sure that the chicks can find the feed. For the drinkers, they should be lowered to a height that the chicks can reach.
- Newspapers and wood shavings:you need to cover the whole chicken house with wood saving and then followed by newspaper to prevent the chicks from eating the wood shavings which could get stuck in their throat and could lead to mortality. The wood shaving is necessary to absorb their litter and also to make the ground soft and warm, it prevents the birds from direct contact with the cold floor. The newspaper is only needed for the first three days after which the birds can distinguished food from wood shavings and also identify their drinkers.
- Feed and Water:you need to start the chicks on a starter mash to give them the required nutrients and help them digest the feed easily. For the first two days, you need to add glucose and vitamins (commonly referred to asAnti-stress) to their water to provide energy and help them relief the stress of transportation from hatchery to the poultry farm.
Brooding procedure for raising chicks from day old to 2 weeks of age
Brooding takes about 2 weeks after which the birds can be able to control their own body temperature. The essence of brooding is to provide the care normally given by the mother hen to the chicks. This involves helping the chicks know their environment, their feeder, drinkers and also to be able to control body temperature in the presence of varying environmental temperatures.
Step one:Getting the house ready
Before you go to bring the chicks from the hatchery, make sure that the house is ready for the birds to start their new life. You need to have spread the wood shaving on the floor and the newspaper made to cover the wood shaving. Wood shaving is preferred to sawdust because the later causes respiratory infection due to the fact that it is tiny and can easily get into the nose of the birds and it does not absorb the wet litter like the wood saving.
The water should be made available and depending on the number of chicks that you buy, you need to make sure that the water is available to all of them. I do use 2 small drinkers for 100 day old chicks; add about a spoonful of glucose and vitamins mixture (Anti-stress) – I do use the normal glucose given to humans (the one in the satchet) and also a spoonful of vitamins (you can ask of broiler premix).
There is broiler premix and also layers premix, so make sure you ask of the correct one. The chicks need water mixed with anti-stress first before feed is given. This is to help the chicks re-hydrate themselves and to give them energy and ease off the stress. Here in Jos Plateau State, we sometimes order for the birds from Ogun, Oyo and different states, the transportation may take several hours before the birds reach, this makes them stressed up, so you need to really help them relief the stress by giving them the anti-stress solution.
Another thing you need to do is to make sure there is constant light source. The chicks fear darkness so much that they can wake you up from sleep when their light goes off. Therefore, you need to have a good source of light. In Jos, We do make use of Charcoal pot as source of heat for the birds because of the irregular electricity and the cold environment; for lighting, we use rechargeable lanterns or Kerosene lanterns. This will safe cost but you need to be checking the birds regularly, if you see them gathering round the source of heat, it means they need more warmth; whatyou need to do at this moment is just to close the room but do not add more heat; if they are staying far from the heat, remove the charcoal pot and open the windows or door for some minutes because excessive heat can kill them just the way cold can make them cause stampeded of one another because each will try to lie down on another one and they end up pressing a few that may lead to mortality. You need to check the birds regularly for every 15 to 30 minutes especially when the charcoal pot is heated. This is the hard part of brooding.
If you have a generator, you can use it to provide the light and also the heat during the night and you may not be checking them often the way you do for the charcoal pot. Make use of 200 watts bulb because it also generates heat. For a 7-feet tall and 6-feet wide house, we used 2 bulbs.
Step two:Transportation to brooding area
When transporting the birds, you should avoid direct sunlight for long hours or minutes on the chicks. May sure there is ventilation. A woman once bought some birds and stopped on the way to buy somethings before going home. When she got back, almost all were dead. This is because she left them at the back seat of her car and the sun was hot and directly heating the birds, she also closed all the doors without any fresh air. The heat led to mortality of the birds.
Step three:The brooding proper
When you bring the birds, transfer them to the house immediately to start drinking and resting. After they drink, wait for about 15 minutes and introduce the feed by spreading it on a flat tray and/or on the newspaper. The birds may lie down in the tray because they are looking for a warm spot. Do not worry about this. All you need to do is to keep adding the anti-stress to their water for the next two to three days and continue feeding. You may dim the lantern or off the light for about an hour during the night to make them rest small or if possible sleep to refresh themselves before making the lantern bright again. They will litter the feed and water of which you need to change it like twice or three times a day to avoid causing infection. By the fifth day, you can start using the normal feeder that is small of which the birds can reach and feed.
Once the birds start developing feathers which is around 1 week and some days ( the standard being 2 weeks ) the birds can start regulating their body temperature and hence, the source of heating should be taken. Even though I say two weeks, it is not a hard rule that you must follow strictly, once you find out that the environment is warm and the birds are evenly spread out, you may stop heating the room. We sometimes add the charcoal even after 2 weeks because sometimes the weather becomes so cold that their feathers may not help, use your judgment to know when to withdraw the heating.
You should start the birds on a starter diet: you can make it yourself or buy the commercial feed, if you are new to it, I advise you start them on the commercial feed for the first two weeks first before you start giving them the locally made feed.Knowing the requirements of the feeds that the birds need at each stage of their lifeis important to boost productivity of the birds and also in making profit because they will grow big, healthy and lay well.
Step four:Vaccination of the birds
Vaccination is important, because it helps prevent sudden death of the chickens. For broilers, you need 2 doses of vaccines each of 2 different diseases bringing the total vaccines to 4 schedules. Once the birds are 1 week old, you will administer Lasota vaccine to prevent Newcastle disease. The Second week, you will administer Gumboro vaccine to prevent Gumboro disease. The third week, you will administer Lasota again (2nd dose) and the fourth week, you will administer Gumboro again. The second doses are booster doses. This vaccine is for commercial broilers which are intended to be sold out about 6 or 7 weeks. If the birds will stay more that 7 weeks, then you will need additional doses afterwards. Always try to vaccinate your birds and ensure you complete the schedules. The earlier the vaccines, the better they can withstand the real disease whenever it comes. Do not wait for the disease to strike first before you give the vaccine because it will be meaningless. The vaccine is meant to help the birds develop resistance to the disease whenever they have the infection. The vaccines are not costly, they are about 3 naira or 4 naira per bird in Jos.
Step five: Maintain cleanliness and hygiene
That you have given them vaccine does not mean you will be careless about their health because there are more than a hundred diseases and infections of chickens. Change the wood shaving whenever the litter starts smelling, this will prevent respiratory infections. Give the birds clean water and wash their cans, drinkers and other equipment that you use in their house. Allow for proper ventilation. Treat the birds like a human baby! The profit you will make starts from cleanliness, when the birds live, eat and drink healthy, they will lay eggs and add weight and you will not need to buy drugs.
These steps will help you to start brooding successfully, especially in broilers because it will reduce cost and maximize profit than buying already brooded chickens.