Ideal brooding protocols for day old chicks

Brooding is the art and science of rearing baby chicks. A newly hatched chick does not develop the thermoregulatory mechanism fully and takes about two weeks to develop this mechanism and homeostasis. Therefore, they cannot maintain the body temperature properly for the first few weeks of life; and may be subjected to chilling, if not properly taking care of. Brooding can be classified into natural and artificial brooding.

Brooding can simply defined as “Application of heat to the birds at early part of their life”.

Brooding is the care of young chicks by provision of optimum environment. The temperature by external heat source provided until the chicks not become able to regulate its body temperature efficiently. The temperature is most important factor during brooding. The metabolic thermoregulatory capacity of chicken develops when feathering starts at 2-3 weeks of age to replace “down”.


Chicks at earlier part of life cannot efficiently regulate its body temperature because:

Lose heat more quickly due to:

– Higher metabolic body size.

– Higher body temperature than adult bird.

– Lack of feathers.

Hypothalamus is not completely functional. When chicks hatched, the following systems not activated:

– Immune System.

– Digestive system.

– Thermoregulatory system.

Low body temperature delays the maturation of above-mentioned three systems and make chick mores susceptible to different infections.

Chicken is poikilotherm for first 4-6 days and then become homeotherm. The chicks from mature flock become homeotherm earlier than the chicks from younger flocks.

Purposes of Brooding

– Proper growth of body tissues.

– Better immune system.

– Good body framework.

– Activate endocrine system.

– Good feather cover.

– Well activated digestive system.

Brooding Duration

Brooding period duration is greatly depending upon environmental temperature. Higher the environmental temperature the lower will be the brooding period. The brooding period may range from 2 weeks of age to 6 weeks of age.

Types of Brooding

– Natural.

– Artificial.

Natural brooding

It is done with the help of broody hens after hatching, up to 3 to 4 weeks of age.

Artificial brooding In artificial brooding large number of baby chicks are reared in the absence of broody hen. Equipment used for brooding are called brooders. Brooder comprises of three elements:

  • Heating source
  • Reflectors
  • Brooder guard

Heating source may be electrical, gases like natural gas, LPG and methane, liquid fuel like kerosene, solid fuel like coal, wood can be used as a heating material.

1) Charcoal stove / kerosene stove:

Where electricity is not available, ordinary charcoal / kerosene stoves are used to provide supplementary heat to chicks. These stoves are covered with plate / pans to dissipate the heat.

2) Gas brooder:

Natural gas, LPG or methane is connected to heating element which is hanged 3 to 5 feet above the chick to provide heat.

3) Electrical brooder:

It is also thermostatically controlled heating system that spread required amount of heat uniformly above large area, this avoid crowding of chicks under brooder directly. One electrical brooder can be used for 300 to 400 chicks.

4) Infra-red bulbs:

It is a self reflecting bulb. One 250 watts IR bulb can provide brooding for about 150 to 250 chicks.

5) Reflectors:

These reflectors are called Hovers. Flat type hover – These hovers are provided with heating element, heating mechanism and pilot lamp and in some cases thermometer is also there in order to record the temperature. Canopy type hover – These reflectors are in concave shape consisting of ordinary electrical bulb, thermostat mechanism and in some cases thermometer.

6) Brooder guard / chick guard

They are used to prevent chicks from straying too far away from heat supply until they learn the source of heat. We have to provide brooder guard with a diameter of 5 feet, height of the brooder should not exceed 1.5 feet. For this purpose, we can use materials like cardboard sheet, GI sheet, wire mesh, and mat etc. depending upon the season of brooding. During winter season, brooding is done for 5-6 days. In summer season it is 2-3 weeks.


1. Gas Brooder

2. Radiant Tube heater

3. Solar Heating System

4.  Under Floor Heating

5. Trombe Wall Poultry Chick Brooder

6. Kerosene Brooder

7. Pot Charcoal Brooder

Parameter which to be consider to reduce the heat loss of poultry farm —–

Avoid air leakage

The roof and wall should be fully sealed

Providing well sealing brooding curtains

Minimizing over ventilation

Monitoring abnormal heat rate of consumption

Enhance insulation: it is used to reduce heat transfer i.e. heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter

Regular maintenance and inspection of heating system

Environmental parameter —————-

Relative humidity (RH), CO2 and ammonia (NH3) plays very important role in growth of chicken. Proper ventilation require to control all these parameter. If RH exceeds above 70% then it will create undesirable effect& RH below 50% creates dust in poultry house. Modern techniques are trying to reduce heat losses for maintaining temperature of poultry farms. Due to this formation of CO2 takes place. Gas heater helps in formation of CO2 & also birds create their own CO2. High level of NH3 create impact on growth of chicken. It reduce rate gain of weight of chicken. Different rate of NH3 production in farm gives different rate of growth. Various factors affects the rate of production of ammonia i.e. ambient temperature, ventilation rate, humidity, composition of food etc.

1. Relative humidity:-Relative humidity of over 70% is undesirable and should be contained through use of ventilation. RH level below 50% result in higher production of dust and air born microorganism. During summer bird experience discomfort due to high relative humidity combined with high temperature.

2. Carbon dioxide:- Modern poultry housing is designed and constructed to reduce heat loss and improve energy efficiency but when combine with reduction in ventilation to prevent loss of heat energy .this can result in increasing CO2. Two main sources of CO2 are from gas heater and from the bird themselves.

3. Ammonia:-Increase in NH3 concentration level in poultry can be caused by high moisture level along with high temperature which promote bacterial growth & cause organic material to decompose. NH3 level should not exceed 20ppm over 8hr period or 35ppm over in10 min period during poultry production cycle.

Need of exhaust system————

In order to reduce energy loss the ventilation is avoided in traditional method but it result in increase in co2 and RH which affect on growth and development of chicken. So as to avoid it proper exhaust is needed in poultry farm. It is necessary to throw NH3 out of poultry farm in order to avoid microbial growth.

Necessary considerations of Brooding system————

  • Per unit installation cost
  • Efficiency of overall heating system
  • Consumption of fuel
  • Cost of fuel
  • Heat distribution
  • Number of unit require
  • Overall heating system efficiency
  • Availability of required fuel
  • Daily maintenance and its cost

Housing space

Firstly, we need to start with a good quality chick which will meet these criteria:

• Chick yield must be between 66 percent to 68 percent (chick weight as a percentage of initial egg weight) — a vital measurement to achieve early chick weight gain and low chick mortality in the first seven days

• Chicks must have closed feathers on their wings at placement

• Chick legs should feel waxy and moist to touch — veins not visible and protruding

• Hocks should be free from abrasions and not blood red in color

• Chicks should have long fluffy down and be bright yellow in color

• Beaks should not contain any blemishes or red dots

• Chicks, when turned on their backs, should regain a standing position within three seconds

• Chick navels should be clean and well healed — a slight abrasiveness is allowed

• Chicks that have defects like missing eye, or blind, poor leg development or cross beaks are culls and should not be sent to the broiler farm.

Receiving of chicks

• After culling the previous adult birds, clean and disinfect the poultry house.

• 3 to 4 weeks interval may be provided between 2 batches as down tome.

• Form a circle of about 5 feet diameter with brooder guard. The 5 feet diameter brooder can hold about 200 to 250 chicks.

• At the center of brooder guard, provide any one of heat source like IR bulb, ordinary incandescent bulb or gas brooders.

• Spread litter material about 2” height in a circle and then spread old newspaper over the litter material.

• Arrange feeders and waterers alternatively like cart-wheel fashion.

• Check the brooder for proper temperature 24 hours prior to arrival of chicks.

• Switch on the brooder heating source several hours before the arrival of the chicks in order to maintain required brooding temperature.

• Spread ground maize or fine mash / crumble feed on the old newspaper for 1 or 2 days. Afterwards, they will learn to consume feed from the feeder.

• Provide electrolyte, glucose and vitamins in the drinking water for first 2 to 3 days to overcome stress. After arrival of chicks, moist the beak and leave the chicks under heating source.

• Maintain a brooder temperature of 90 to 95F for the first week and then reduce 50F every week until it reaches the room temperature.

• Watch the behavior of chicks in order to find out whether temperature provided is correct or less or more. In case of too much temperature, we can reduce the heat by reducing the power of the bulb or we can raise the heating element. In case of too low temperature, we have to supplement more heating source or we can further down the heating element. In case of chill weather or chill breeze, we can provide curtains towards the wind direction.

• Remove the old newspaper after 3 days and destroy it by burning. If necessary, spread another set of newspaper.

• Remove brooder guard after 7 to 10 days depending upon the season. While removing the brooder guard, see that the corners of the sheds are rounded in order to avoid mortality due to huddling.

• Change the feeders and waterers according to age and requirement.

• 24 hours lighting program may be adopted during 0-8 weeks of age. One hour darkness may be provided to train the chicks in case of any power failure.

• Medication program: First and Second day – Electrolytes and vitamins. 3rd to 7th day – Antibiotics. (Other medications as and when required).

Types of artificial brooding are:

– Whole House Brooding.

– Partial House Brooding.

– Colony Brooding.

• Chicks are scattered in whole area of the house in Whole house brooding.

• Partial house area is utilized in partial house brooding, usually 1/3rd in winter and 1/2 in Summer season.

• Brooding accomplished in colonies in colony brooding type.

• There is no significant difference on bird’s performance and production among different systems.

Types of brooder

  1. Hot Air Furnace.
  2. Radiant Brooder.
  3. Pancake Brooder.
  4. Conventional Hover Brooder.

Provision of Physical Environment during brooding

• Temperature Control.

• RH.

• Ventilation.

• Lighting.

Temperature Control

• Temperature control is the most critical factor during brooding.

• Ability of bird to regulate its temperature in an effective manner will directly affect the ability to grow proficiently.

• There should be “room of error” under Pancake brooder to access the chicks for comfort zone. This room of error is not possible in Whole House Brooding or by using Hot Air Furnace.

• High and low temperature will cause loss of energy.

– To cool by panting during high temperature.

– To warm by increased heat production during low temperature.

• The rule of thumb is to provide 90°F temperature during first week and reduce 5F/week up to 5th week and maintain on 70F. Brooding temperature is always less than body temperature because bird cannot dissipate heat if environmental temperature is at or above body temperature and hence birds will feel uncomfortable and panting will starts.

• Temperature is measured at Chick height.

• Floor Temperature is a good indication of pre-heating. The Hot Air Furnace quickly heat the air but takes time to heat walls and floor. Cold floor may cause heat loss in chicks and may cause chilling in chicks

Chick Behavior during high temperature is:

– Drowsiness

– Panting

– Scattering away from brooder.

Low Temperature

– Huddling

– Chirping (Loud)

• Low brooding temperature idealize the risk of ascites in broiler.

Chick Behavior

• Excellent indication of environment and chicken health status.

• At high temperature, the chicks show drowsiness and panting and away from brooder.

• At low temperature, the chicks show huddling near heat source.

Relative Humidity

• 65% RH is considered as ideal all the times.

• High RH may cause wet litter which results in high Ammonia level inside the shed and Coccidiosis.

• Low RH may cause Respiratory problems.


• Never heat the house at the cost of ventilation.

• Use minimum ventilation during brooding.

Lighting Management

• Provide 24 hours light of 2 fc for first 3 days.

• Then Provide 0.5 fc light for broiler and 0.75 fc for layer and breeder up to start of production. 0.5 fc is sufficient during laying.

• For layer and breeder, 8 hours light is provided during brooding.

Brooding Management

• First week management

• Water and Drinker Management

• Feed and Feeder Management

• Flushing

• Litter Management

• Stocking Density

Watering and Feeding

Proper nutrition is always essential for better growth and production. Nutrition directly affects the physiology of bird.

Water and Drinker Management

• The chicks must provide with fresh, sweet and cool water quickly after receiving.

• 24 ml/bird water for first 24 hours must be ensured.

• The water temperature should be similar to room temperature with optimum quality.

• The higher temperature causes poorer livability especially during first three weeks of age.

• Extra small drinkers or fountain drinkers placed in a way that chick should not travel more than one meter to drink water especially during day 1.

• The height of nipple drinker should be at chick eye level for first three days and then at birds tail height.

• The pressure of water in nipple drinker kept low to show water drops on nipple pins. This will help to attract the chicks to drink water.

• The level of water in bell type drinker should be near to top.

• One nipple drinker is sufficient for 25 chicks and bell-type is for 100 birds.

Feed and Feeder Management

• Always use good quality, toxin free and fresh feed.

• The chicks GIT is immature at an early age so provide feed, which should be:

– High digestibility.

– Specific for that breed- Hygienic.

– Proper size.

• Brooding sheet or paper is used to feeding baby chicks for first 3-7 days.

Stocking Density

• 0.35 ft2 per chick is sufficient.

Immunity in Chicks and Management

The chick vaccinated against various diseases during brooding. The maternally derived antibodies (MDA) normally protect the chick at the early days of life. The vaccine should be administrated after first especially against ND+IB. The broad-spectrum antibiotics should use to prevent bacterial infections. Improper dosing may lead to antibiotic resistance in chicks. Temperature fluctuation or any type of stress will make the chick more susceptible to different infections.

Uniformity during Brooding

• Uniformity must be maintained during brooding to get maximum uniformity during next phases.

• Uniformity is key to achieve maximum output.

• For maximum uniformity during brooding, 1st 7-10 days have prime importance.

• Weight at day seven is a good indication in broiler but uniformity is more essential. In broilers, the weight at day 7 should be 4-5 times more than day old chick. Prevention of slower starter chicks is more important than weight at day 7.

• Uniformity should be maintained from day 1st.

• Crop-fill testing is an excellent indicator to maintain uniformity. Chicks should be crop filled. This also called chick-check evaluation.

  • 80% chicks after 8 hours
  • 95% after 24 hours

•  Start weighing and grading of layer and breeder chicks from 3rd week.

Mortality during Brooding

• Mortality should not be more than 1% during first week.

Diseases which affect at an early age

The important diseases that can affect at early age are:

• Omphalitis.

• Pullorum.

• Mycoplasmosis.

• E.coli Infection.

• Newcastle Disease (ND).

• Avian Encephalomyelitis (AE).

• Infectious Bronchitis (IB).

• Infectious Bursal Disease (IBD).

• Chicken Infectious Anemia (CIA).

• Aspergillosis.

• Coccidiosis.

So, After installing brooder in poultry house

1.productivity of farm increases. 

2. Implementing brooder in small poultry farms with low initial cost help poultry industry in India. 

3. Health of chicken mainly depends on surrounding condition hence brooder makes it possible 

4. In rural areas poultry farmers still not using brooder because it is costly hence their productivity is low by providing them economical brooder increases their profit.

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