There are two common systems for brooding broiler chicks — spot and whole-house brooding.
Spot brooding (canopy or radiant heaters and pots)
The heat source is local, so chicks can move away to cooler areas and, thus, select for themselves a preferred temperature.
The heat source is larger and more widely spread, so chicks are less able to move to select a preferred temperature.
Whole-house brooding refers to situations where the whole house or a defined part of the house is heated by a direct or indirect heat source and the aim is to achieve an equal temperature throughout the house or air space.
No matter what brooding system is used, the objective is to encourage both feed intake and activity as early as possible.
Achieving the optimum temperature and relative humidity (RH) is critical because it is this that determines feather and general growth.
For the first seven days, provide 23 hours of full light intensity and one hour of dark to help the chicks adapt to the new environment and encourage feed and water intake.
Light can be got from electric bulbs, as well as lanterns. During early brooding, if a ring is used to control chick movement, the area contained by the brooding ring should gradually be expanded after three days.
The rings should be removed completely after five to seven days.
Prior to the delivery of chicks, a final check should be made of feed and water availability and distribution within the house. At placement, chicks must be placed quickly, gently and evenly onto paper within the brooding area.
The longer the chicks remain in the boxes after hatching, the greater the degree of potential dehydration. This may result in early mortality and reduced growth as indicated by seven days and final live weight.
After placement, chicks should be left to settle for one to one hours to get accustomed to their new environment. A check should then be made to see that all chicks have easy access to feed and water and that environmental conditions are correct.
Adjustments should be made to equipment and temperatures where necessary. At all stages, chick behaviour should be monitored to ensure that they are experiencing an adequate temperature.
If their behaviour indicates that the chicks are too cold orhot, the temperature of the house should be adjusted accordingly.
Ventilation without drafts is required during the brooding period to maintain the required temperatures.
In addition, it allows sufficient air exchange to prevent the accumulation of harmful gases, such as carbon monoxide (from oil or gas heaters placed inside the poultry house), carbon dioxide and ammonia.
These gases can lead to diseases like bronchitis. Young chicks are prone to wind-chill effects, which may include breathing challenges.
Therefore, actual floor/air speed should be less than 0.15 metres per second (30ft per minute) or as low as possible.
Monitoring chick behaviour
Temperature and humidity should be monitored regularly and, by far, the best indicator of correct brooding conditions is frequent and careful observation of chick behaviour.
In general, if chicks are spread evenly throughout the brooding area, it indicates that the environment is comfortable for them.
If chicks are grouped together, under heaters or within the brooding area, this indicates that they are too cold and temperature and/or relative humidity should be increased.
If chicks are crowded near the house walls or brooding surrounds, away from heating sources and/or they are panting, it indicates that they are too hot.
Therefore, the temperature and/or relative humidity should be reduced. Panting chicks can be noticed if they are breathing with open beaks.