Once a chick is hatched, its body is usually too tiny and feeble to produce enough warmth for survival. That’s why they naturally hide in their mother’s feathers for several weeks. If you are not using the natural brooding method, then you should provide an artificial source of heat. Its temperature levels should be carefully controlled, as a little heat or extreme heat can harm young chicks’ health. Chicks that are feeling cold cannot eat or drink properly, leading to retarded growth and poor development of the internal digestive organs.
With a poorly developed digestion system, chicks cannot benefit from eating highly nutritious feed, including an egg yolk. Speaking of an egg yolk, you should prevent a condition called omphalitis or yolk infection by helping the chicks develop a healthy digestive system. The infection is caused by multiplication and growth of bacteria in the yolk when it is eaten and not digested properly. The infection can lead to early deaths (called Early Chick Mortality, ECM) and growth retardation.
Ensuring proper chicks brooding
As we have noted in our previous articles, you should give the brooding process your best effort. By so doing, you will not only prevent early deaths but also painful injuries. So, make sure that you have a brooding house that is separate from your usual chicken pen or coop. Then, make a brooding guard in the form of a ring using a flexible sheet of material. Plywood is always the first choice among the top Kienyenji chicken raisers in Kenya.
How to make a perfect brooder guard or ring
If you are waiting to place 50 chicks in the brooder guard, then you should make a ring that is up to 20 feet in diameter. If you have double the amount (100chicks), then you need 5 feet more in diameter–a 25 feet ring. If you triple your chicks, 150 chicks, then increase the diameter of your brooder guard material (aluminum sheet or plywood) to 30 feet. This is simple math!
Ensure that your ring is about 0.6 meters tall so it can prevent curious birds from jumping out of the ring. Then, pad the ring with wood shavings or straw to about 4 inches thick and place newspapers on top. If building your own brooder ring is a piece of work you don’t trust you can do, get a customized brooder ring.
Once you make a ring, place its essentials inside, beginning with the heat source. Place your heat source in the middle of the brooding circle. Then place feeders, drinkers, trays and light source in the ring. A bright light source is needed during the first week, mostly, to help the chicks see their feed and water.
Chicks’ placement process
Now you have a brooding house and a fully equipped brooder ring. The next thing you should do is to disinfect the entire brooding system. Use a sprayer to sterilize the entire brooding house and its components. Next, clean and disinfect your feeders and drinkers a few days before the arrival of your baby chicks.
Spread the litter on the floor and keep everything where it should be. As the brooding house has open ventilation holes, there should be curtains to cover them at night when there is a lot of cold.
These curtains don’t have to be bought; you can use old sisal sacks or old pieces of fabric you have no better uses for. Prior to chicks’ delivery, spray the brooding house for the last time using a high quality terminal disinfectant. There should be foot baths with lime powder or another disinfectant (TH4 or Ominicide) at the entrance. Once the chicks occupy their brooding enclosure, start protecting them from the obvious dangers: hunger, cold, heat stroke, injuries and deaths and so on.
Supporting your baby chicks
One thing you should always do is to check the crops of your tiny chicks in the morning. The way the crop feels will tell you whether a baby bird has eaten anything at all. If the crop feels soft and supple, the chick is well fed and not thirsty. About ninety-five percent of your flock should have found water and feed by the time you inspect their crops. If you notice a chick with a hard crop, give it some water immediately as it hasn’t drunk adequately.
On the other hand, swollen and distended crops are a sign that the chicks have drunk a lot of water and eaten very little. So guide them to where the feed is in the ring. As for the lighting in the brooder, light should be consistent and bright enough in the first week. Temperature is taken just a few centimeters above the litter level and the right time to watch and adjust your chicks’ responses to heat level is during the coldest time of day.
If you don’t have a thermometer to help you know when the place is cold, watch the chicks’ behaviors. If they sleep in bunches near the heat source, they are feeling cold. On the other hard, if they are feeling too hot, they will move away from the source of heat. Chicks that are receiving just the right amount of heat will spread out and cover the whole brooding ring. That’s because the heat is evenly distributed and chicks are feeling comfortable.
We cannot emphasize enough the importance of doing successful chicks brooding. If you make mistakes, even if simple, there will be a hefty price to pay. Thus, you should prepare financially to either put up a brooding structure or get a custom-made one. As well, you need money to buy feed and brooder appliances. Then, a lot of time commitment is a must as baby chicks will have you as their mother for several weeks. You should strive to copy the same strategies that broody hens use to bring up healthy chicks. With adequate information on how to rear free-range chickens from their brooding stage available, as well as artificial brooding equipment, you shouldn’t make costly mistakes at all.