Experienced poultry raisers know that chicken brooding is one of the most important aspects to raising healthy birds. Brooding, which is basically making sure the newly hatched chicks stay warm, is a key element to successfully bringing them through their first weeks of life. When chicken brooding is not performed properly, trouble is sure to follow.
Generally speaking, there are three ways for chicken brooding:
The first method of brooding chicks is called spot brooding. This method entails setting up a heat source, along with a separate area that is kept cooler. The chicks migrate from one area to the other as they wish.
The second method is to warm a large area and not offer the cooler area at all. This is sometimes called whole house brooding or whole house warming.
The third option is often called partial brooding and it entails warming only a selected portion of the whole house. This saves on energy bills. This option often starts with a small area that is warmed when the chicks are small and that area is expanded as the chicks grow.
All of the above chicken brooding options require good ventilation in order to ensure the chicks survive.
For those new to chicken brooding, a good plan is to get the warming devices set up and running one day before the chicks are expected to arrive. The temperature should be set at between 90 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature should be measured at about one inch above the litter.
You should also place a brooder guard on the perimeter of each brooder. This guard helps to prevent cold drafts from getting to the chicks. You can remove the guard after the chicks have reached the two week mark.
For every 100 chicks, you should have 2 one-gallon watering systems and 2 18-inch feeders. Do not place either of these directly under the brooding heat source.
It is important to get a reliable temperature scale and to follow that scale as the chicks age. The temperature of the brooder must be reduced periodically as the chicks begin to lose their down and grow feathers. It normally takes between 2 and 4 weeks for the bird to reach full temperature control.
Many losses occur to overheating, especially in the summer time. Make sure you monitor the brooding area daily and make the needed adjustments. One way to tell if the chicks are content is to listen for peeping and look for even distribution of the chicks around the brooder. If they are chirping loudly or if they are massing in one area, the temperature may be off and you should investigate.
Successfully brooding chickens take time and energy but is well worth it once you get through this critical time. By being mindful of all the possible problem areas associated with brooding chicks, you can reduce your dead loss and end up with very healthy chickens.
Lastly, it is very important that you read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions when it comes to setting up and operating your brooder. This is especially true if you are using gas operated brooders as fire is a potential danger if these brooders are not used properly. Once the brooding period is over, it is a good idea to extinguish all pilot lights and make sure the gas is turned off completely. Happy chicken brooding