If you desire to rear broiler chickens as a way of making extra income in our extremely economically challenged country like Nigeria, then you must understand brooding broiler in Nigeria or any other tropical country requires a different approach.
This is exceptionally critical if you are the type of person that buys Day old chicks to rear, as you will do one very important thing that the mother hen usually does for her chicks, that process is called Brooding. It is worthy to note that the method of brooding will go a long way to determine how well the broiler chicks will grow. That is to say, if your brooding is wrongly done, your chicks might suffer untold hardship in the feature such as low immunity, stunted growth, paralysis, etc.
Note, this article is going to be a very long one. grab a cup of tea, or something chilled
let get down to business.
However, brooding broiler in Nigeria is a very key and important process as one tiny slip up could spell disaster because chicks aren’t so well adapted to cold and are unable to regulate their temperature by themselves.
The warm temperature in Nigeria is quite an advantage since chicks require a warm temperature during brooding, but care must be taken to also avoid heat stress due to the extremely hot weather condition change common in a tropical country like Nigeria.
Besides, you must understand the seasons and weather climate changes in Nigeria. In Nigeria we have two types of seasons; the rainy season, characterized by heavy rainfall, and the dry season, characterized by low humidity and extreme drying wind. In between these two seasons, the weather could become extremely hot, which may be
more favorable for brooding but critical for adult broilers because this is the period most broilers pass through heat stress, which is one of the causes of sudden death in broiler chickens.
Therefore in brooding broiler in Nigeria, you must understand the various seasons and their climate change to adjust your brooder temperature accordingly to achieve the best result in brooding broiler in Nigeria.
In general, you should provide warmth and a comfortable environment for the chicks because, in the earlier part of their life, they lose body heat much more quickly due to their higher metabolic rate, body size, and their lack of feathers. At this young stage, their immune system, digestive system, and thermoregulatory system are not completely activated, so they are more susceptible to diseases and infections.
To ensure proper growth, a stronger immune system, and good feather cover, your brooding should be top-notch, because it determines if the chicks will live long enough to bring profit to the farmer.
There are two types of brooding actually, they are;
In natural brooding, this has nothing to do with you actually; a broody hen provides all the warmth required by the chicks, right after hatching up to about 3 or 4 weeks of age. This is used on household farms where only a few chickens are raised each year mainly for consumption and not for profit. It is also a way of hatching chick naturally without an incubator
Artificial brooding, on the other hand, requires all your collective input; this is done using a temperature-controlled brooding house. This type of brooding allows for optimum temperature regulation and for large numbers of chicks to be raised in the absence of brooder hens.
There are some special poultry brooding equipment used for artificial brooding called brooding equipment and they are composed of three main element
The electric brooder is thermostatically controlled equipment capable of spreading heat uniformly above a large area. It prevents the chicks from crowding under the heater or brooder directly, which could result in burns.
There are also the infrared bulb heaters and the brooding lamps. Their gas counterparts, on the other hand, utilize natural gas or methane and are connected to a heating element-hanged above the floor of the brooding pen. The rest types of heat equipment will be discussed in details under lighting/heating subheading.
Another important equipment is the
Brooder guards are a wooden or cardboard structure that can be in the form of a ring or circle. It is used to restrict the movement of your chicks to a certain heated area. This is very important; as you would want to minimize heat and make sure, they all get needed heat. A poultry farmer should place 100 chicks within a brooder guard having at least a diameter of 1 meter. The brooder guard is not required if the brooding is done in battery cages as a brooder guard is required for floor-reared birds only.
You may see it as a daunting task but it is required for the successful growth of your birds. The good news that will comfort you is that the brooding is a small fraction of your chickens’ lives, just 20% of it. When your chicks have gotten feathers and able to control their body temperatures, they can go outside of the brooder.
This is usually somewhere around 4 weeks, depending on the breed. Although many people do and I recommend having a night light heat lamp to make sure all their hard work is not undone by one cold night and continue to provide starter feed for an extra week after brooding.
This is a very critical time for your young chicks. They are growing rapidly; they can’t handle most outdoor environments and temperature fluctuations because they don’t regulate temperature as adult chickens do, and they are susceptible to most diseases. Note that it is in the
Brooding process that when incorrect incubation or poor parent stock is most obvious; sickly chicks are difficult to raise and require more extensive management, so I advise you to research well before choosing your supplier.
There are a few ways that I can explain brooding to you that will make sense.
Therefore, I will have to categorize it
There are 7 factors chicken keepers need to remember when they are brooding broiler or any kind of poultry bird, be it chickens, turkeys or quail:
One of the aims of a brooding broiler is to maintain chicks within their comfort zone-zone where energy gain is not used to maintain ambient temperature. Energy is expended when birds are kept in ambient temperatures above or below their comfort zone. This extra energy will ultimately be supplied by the feed consumed.
Subsequently, the energy from the feed will be used to maintain body temperature instead of growth and development resulting in a poorer feed conversion rate. Therefore, the albeit temperature plays a major role in determining the cost of producing a pound of table meat.
What is the recommended temperature for broiler chicks?
From day one of age, the chick should be housed at a temperature between 87-92°F (30-33°C), at a relative humidity between 40 – 60%. Care must be taken to prevent the chicks from being exposed to drafts which could result in the wind chill. At one week old, the temperature can be reduced by 4°F (2°C). Continue reducing the temperature until housing temperature of 70°F (21°C) is reached
Table: Recommended temperature for broiler chicks
|Age||Temperature range in °C||Temperature range in °F|
|Day 1-7||30-33°C||87-92 °F|
|Day 7-14||28-31°C||83-88 °F|
|Day 14-21||26-29°C||79 - 84 °F|
|Day 21-28||24-27 °C||75 - 80 °F|
Your lighting fixture will have to fill two important needs: heat and light most farmers use electric bulbs hung over the brooder, remember tungsten heated coil bulbs are the best. These bulbs are easy to find at local stores and are easy on the money wallet— that can’t be said for pan brooders or heaters. The degree of temperature generated by the bulb can be easily adjusted by raising and lowering the bulb. Remember to never hang bulbs by their electrical cord, as this is the easiest way to start a fire in the brooder n; instead, use a chain or rope to suspend it.
Pan brooders or heaters are used in larger brooding situations (i.e., commercial flocks) and are large and expensive for the average small flock; I recommend the bulbs unless you are considering a flock of 2000 chicks upward. Even the mid-sized flocks often use multiple bulbs to save the initial investment and the expense of other heating methods.
The main thing to remember if you are maintaining the temperature of your brooder via a method other than heat lamps is that chickens aren’t always very good at self-preservation. Electric bulbs are the safest and tend to be the safest method of giving the chicks the possibility of searching their temperature comfort zone.
Now let us talk about heaters that do the bulk of the work when supplying heat;
many kinds of brooder or heater exist. However, there are four common brooders or heaters:
Charcoal / Kerosene Stove:
This is the cheapest and most widespread form in Nigeria, mostly because of its cost-effectiveness
this type of heater is the best option when electricity is not available. A charcoal or kerosene stove uses charcoals or kerosene to generate or produce heat to warm the chicks. Please note that you have to watch them as the kerosene or charcoal in it left carelessly could begin smoking and choke the birds, also it has to be checked as a lot to prevent overheating,
This is mostly used on most standard farms. It has a 250-watt bulb—usually five incandescent bulbs or infrared bulbs with a power switch. It is usually covered by an angular or round metal sheet to deflect the produced heat back to the floor and to prevent heat loss by radiation. The hover heater is usually suspended using a cable or cord fastened to the ceiling, and it can be lowered or raised to any height level, depending on the required temperature.
The Electric Brooder
this is a thermostatically controlled heater capable of spreading heat uniformly above a large area. It prevents chicks from crowding under the heater or brooder directly and keeps you free from the worry of a fire outbreak.
The Gas Brooder
This type of heater, unlike its electrical counterpart, uses gas to generate its heat. Remember to watch out for gas leaks to prevent explosions
The Automatic brooder Heater
The automatic brooder heater has an enclosed 600-watt heating element with a thermostat and reflector so that it can be set to a specific temperature. It is hung just like the way a hover heater is hung.
it is highly imperative to have a room thermometer inside the brooding pen or house, used for monitoring the temperature inside the brooding house. With the room thermometer, you will know if the temperature within the brooding house is cold, moderate, or high, although, In reality, most people follow the cluster rule:
If your chicks are clustered all under the lamp, it’s too cool,and if your chicks are all clustered around the edge of the brooder, it’s too warm. Optimally, they should be evenly spread throughout the brooder.
Ventilation and humidity are very closely related and are very important in brooding your chicks. High ventilation lowers the humidity by blowing water vapor in the air away, and low ventilation can cause humidity to become too high, creating a soggy environment, which is deadly for chicks. Balancing the two is necessary for the health of your chicks and tends to be easy in brooding a small number of chicks but is difficult with a larger flock.
Ventilation is compulsory for preventing the accumulation of ammonia fumes; if you have experience raising chicks in an enclosed area, you must know how potent the extremely choking smelly gas in an unclean brooder can reach. However, you must be careful not to become overzealous and create drafts that can chill the chicks, as they are a lot susceptible to cold.
Most brooders usually have an open-top setting with the top covered by a wire mesh at day and the mesh-covered with nylon at night. Be aware that tall brooders may not have adequate ventilation down on the floor where the chicks are, even though there is airflow at the top.
Humidity isn’t much of an issue with small flocks unless you have large flocks, the reason being small flock brooders aren’t fully closed systems that allow humidity to build up to worrying levels that could cause a variety of illnesses. Check your bedding constantly to make sure it isn’t moist; if it’s dry, then your humidity is fine. If it is wet and you feel that the chicks will become chilled, you can increase the ventilation as a way to dry the litter up.
There are two rules for brooder bedding
Changing your bedding is the best way to prevent moldy bedding and feed, foul odors, and disease. Use absorbent litter material is critical: Paper and rice hulls are the best. Straw and sawdust are not good options though they are used quite commonly. Straw doesn’t absorb water from feces very well and tends to forms lumpy mats easily.
Sawdust can have toxins from mold on them. Be careful the way you use paper too because the paper is not 100% absorbent and can also have toxic inks. Absorbent bedding will reduce smell and dust, and clean bedding will reduce disease and mortality; it’s a definite win-win!
Nutrition and feeding are highly imperative in raising and brooding your chicks. When do you use a starter feed versus a finisher diet? What’s the difference anyway?
Starter feed is a type of feed developed to be nutritionally perfect for growing birds, whether it's meat or layer birds. It’s high in protein—around 23 percent in composition and should be fed for the first 4 weeks of life.
How long to feed a starter depends on your breed. Slow-growing breeds need that nutritional support for much longer, so to avoid this, I suggest you get a fast-growing breed like a broiler, while the fast-growing breeds are ready to move onto finisher within a few weeks. Layers skip this finisher step and are transitioned directly onto a maintenance adult diet, which is called a grower diet.
Finisher feed should be fed from four weeks until the time of slaughter for broilers, as its main concern is to fatten up the birds. Another issue flock owners have about their feed is hormones and antibiotics. Concerning hormones; no poultry feed contains hormones of any form. The reason for this is because it’s illegal to stuff up your feed with hormones and sell it to farmers without extensive regulation. Since our feed is mostly produced around us, then no hormones are added there.
Antibiotics are another matter. The feed is sold as “medicated,” which means it contains a medication called amprolium, which is used exclusively for the treatment of coccidiosis, caused by organisms called protozoa that live in your chickens’ intestines. The good news is that amprolium is an antiparasitic antibiotic: It kills these coccidiosis-causing protozoa by denying them thiamine, an essential protein nutrient.
Recent studies have shown that amprolium is safe to use in chickens (as long it is at recommended doses) and does not transfer itself to humans in meat or eggs. Make sure to compare the labels on the feed bags of various feed companies in Nigeria to a list of required nutrients as not all of these feeds are nutritionally balanced for chicks so you can determine which one is perfect for the chicks that you are brooding.
You have to also consider how you are dispensing your feed. Chicks need easily accessible food. Place paper down under the heat lamps with food sprinkled on it for the first few days, with food in semi-open to open containers at the edge of the paper.
Trough feeders are the best for this period; it is worth some feces in your food for those important days to make sure you don’t have hungry chicks. The Trough feeders are good, as most have a roof attachment with head holes for when your chicks are older to prevent them from pooping in the feeder. Another option for older chicks are Bell feeders; just be careful with smaller chicks, as they may climb inside the feeder and get stuck!
The water system you choose for your brooding house dictates the watering system you will use later when your chicks grow. Chickens can relearn anew drinking system, but you will have a lot of issues with dehydration or even mortality when they are getting the hang of the new water dispenser.
If your birds will drink from a bucket or bell drinker as adults, you will have to have a bell waterier for them as chicks. If you are lucky to afford nipple drinkers in your brooder, start them on a nipple system. I don’t recommend you to have an open dish or pans filled with water in a brooder as chicks can fall in and drown or become very chilled even if the dish is very shallow.
Always change the water in your brooder twice daily to reduce fecal, food, and bedding contamination. Your water systems should be scrubbed and cleaned with a diluted bleach system weekly to prevent any mold and bacterial growth ( add 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water). , water should always be available at any point in time; don’t ever remove the waterer at night or for more than 15 minutes at any time.
If you need to give some medications, like antibiotics or mineral/vitamin additives, which are dispensed via water, change out the current water once a day to prevent wasting your medicine. Contact your vet before purchasing any of these because only a few drugs are approved for use in poultry, the rest could be deadly to the birds or their human consumers.
Mortality is a sad side effect of brooding chicks. No matter how perfect you think your brooding system is, there will be some deaths. Some of these deaths will be from poor chick quality from the hatching plant, aggressive pecking, or starvation from the competition with each other.
Some mortality is to be expected, but excessive mortality or sudden death in large numbers is a good indicator that something is going seriously wrong. Keep track of the deaths; it will help you know if something is wrong and may allow you to figure out what the exact cause of the problem is.
You should expect to lose up to 1 to 4 percent of your chicks during the short brooding period, so it is imperative brooding is done right; this will exponentially increase if they were chilled, dehydrated, had infected navels, or were obtained from poor breeding stocks.
Losing a lot in the first week indicates a bad chick source, a bad batch of chicks, or improper pre-management; losing them after the first week of brooding means it's incorrect management. By always keeping track of your chicks’ mortality, you can tell what you should be looking at more closely when brooding, whether it’s your incubation system, your management habits, or your long-term brooding management.
If you start having excessive mortality, a necropsy is never a bad idea. Necropsies can pick up on the specific cause of death and that can go a long way toward preventing a similar issue in the future, always make sure this is done by a qualified vet and not by you! Reason being that some of these diseases can be zoonotic. Contact your local Vet or state agricultural service for this
Day1: Administer Marek vaccination
Day 2-5: Administer multivitamins and antibiotics.
Day 6-8: Administer Anti-coccidiosis and vitamins.
Day 9: Administer Gumboro vaccine.
Day 10: Administer vitamins.
Day 11-13: Administer Anti-coccidiosis and vitamins.
Day 14: Administer Lasotavacc mixed with milk (cowbell)
Day 15-20: Administer vitamins.
Day 21: Administer 2nd Gumboro back.
Day 28: Administer 2nd Lasota.
Day29-33: Administer Anticoccidiosis and vitamins.
Day 42: Administer Dewormer.
Now that you have all aspects of brooding your chicks under control, how do brood your broiler chicks? How do you get started exactly? You should begin by setting up where you plan to raise your future chicks. (I say “future chicks” because setting up a brooder house should never happen when you already have a box of chicks ready to place in it.)
Make sure you record their day one weight, to enable you monitor your broiler expected weight as the week progresses
Note: all these will be of no use if you fail to obtain your chicks from a reputable hatchery. Make sure they are cleaned after hatching, stand firmly and walk well, alert and active, free of deformities, and vocalize contently.
Again, don't forget that the first seven days is the most crucial days in the chicks' life. Because this is the growth rate determining stage. Any mistake made here will have an adverse effect in the chicks' life and the expected weight of your broiler chicken will not be achieved. Ensure that their welfare is at the optimal level.
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