On arrival of “Day Old Chicks” (D.O.C) to your farms, they should be unloaded as quickly as possible, examine each and everyone of them carefully. Deformed chicks should be rejected and the hatchery / agent sellers are encouraged to bring along extra chicks to enable them change the rejected chicks for the customer.
Chicks suspected to be sick should be culled immediately and the report of this should be made known to the hatchery/sales agent. One should also make sure that chicks are spread evenly in the brooder guards, chicks should be checked every 2hours to make sure they are comfortable, eating and drinking.
Today’s layer flocks live for about 90 weeks. Despite the rearing phase only accounting for a small proportion of the birds’ life cycle, it plays an important role in subsequent egg production.
Good rearing management is more than just following breeding company guides. Those working with birds must also pay attention to flock condition and behavior, and make decisions based on observation.
What the pullet rearer sees on a daily basis is often overlooked, yet it is one of the most important factors in successful pullet rearing for instance.
Brooding period for Day Old Chicks (D.O.C)
The main objective in brooding chicks is to efficiently and economically provide a comfortable, healthy environment for growing birds. Temperature, air quality, humidity and light are critical factors to consider.
Failure to provide the adequate environment during the brooding period will reduce profitability, resulting in reduced growth and development, poorer feed conversion, and increased disease, condemnation and mortality.
The first week can be termed the brooding period. Post-hatch, chicks are cold-blooded for the first five days of life, unable to maintain their body temperatures at 40-41C, and dependent on external heat sources.
Consequently, air temperature is among the most important factors for successful rearing. Using an infrared thermometer, chick body temperature can be monitored, and the house temperature adjusted as necessary.
But crucial mistakes are often observed in the poultry house:
- Reference thermometer not at chick level. At 50 cms above chick level, there can be a temperature difference of 2-3 C
- Behavior ignored. Looking at the thermometer is not enough, chick behavior must also be closely watched. Some flocks are comfortable with 34C during the first 24 hours, others need 26C. Chicks should be evenly spread throughout the barn. If huddled, they are cold, while if inactive with spread wings they are too warm.
- Air humidity. To ensure heat distribution across the poultry house, and to prevent chicks dehydrating, air humidity must be at least 60 percent. If not, chicks will feel uncomfortable, despite the temperature being correct. Humidity is easily improved, for example through moistening areas where chicks are not present, or by hanging wet sheets.
It is also worth remembering that drafts will chill chicks and lead to piling.
How to Handle the Arrival of Day Old Chicks (D.O.C)
1st evening of chicks arrival: You should not hesitate to provide lights in the night on the chicks to avoid crowding and pileup which also make the chicks to eat and drink during the nights.
Next morning: In the following morning of chicks arrival, you should look inside the brooder guards whether or not there are sick or dead chicks.
One should not be discouraged if one loses 1 or 2 dead out of 100 chicks but more than this, one should contact the veterinary clinic or seller for help.
The drinkers should be brought outside the brooder house and washed with clean water while feed-mash must be available always. Left over feed must be discarded.
These are simple steps on how to bring your day-old chicks (DOCs) into the brooder house for the first time. This applies to any kind of poultry be it layers, broilers or cockerels. Starting off well is important to avoid chick mortality and high productivity.
Before you bring in your Day Old Chicks
- Have a brooder house (a place to keep the chicks warm) with enough space to keep the number of chicks you are bringing in.
- Clean and disinfect the house.
- Cover the floor of the house with paper or wood shavings. If you use wood shavings, do it lightly and not as in deep litter.
- Get your chick feed and water with glucose ready.
- Get your heating and lighting system ready. Chicks cannot feed in darkness.
After the Day Old Chicks (D.O.Cs) settle in the Brooder House
This day old chicks lighting program can be applied during the first 7-10 days post-hatch
- Stay close to them at all times and monitor for any unusual behaviour for immediate attention.
- Regulate the brooder house temperature when necessary.
- Keep feeding them the right feed and medication.
- Introduce them to the main poultry house after 3weeks or a month.
Follow these simple steps to receive your day old chicks into your brooder house, and you stand a better chance of reducing mortality and low productivity of your birds.
How to Introduce your New Day Old Chicks to Water
Once chicks arrive, introduce them to the brooding area. Water, at room temperature, should be available, but wait a couple hours to introduce feed.
“This gives chicks a couple hours to drink and rehydrate before they start eating,” Dr Ballam says, explaining that fresh, quality water is essential for healthy chicks.
“Dip the beaks of several chicks into the water to help them locate it. These chicks will then teach the rest of the group to drink. Monitor the group to ensure all chicks are drinking within the first couple hours.”
How to Teach them to Eat
After your Day Old Chicks (D.O.C) have had a chance to rehydrate, provide the nutrients they need through a complete starter feed.
Provide a feed with at least 18 per cent protein to help support the extra energy needed for early growth. The feed should also include amino acids for chick development; prebiotics, probiotics and yeast for immune health; and vitamins and minerals to support bone health.
“Feeding a complete feed from the start helps provide the nutrition chicks need as they develop,” Dr Ballam says.
“First, teach the chicks to eat by placing feed on clean egg flats, shallow pans or simple squares of paper. On day 2, add proper feeders to the pens. Once chicks have learned to eat from the feeders, remove the papers, pans or egg flats.”
Adjust feed as chicks develop
To keep feed fresh: empty, clean and refill waterers and feeders daily. Also, raise the height of feeders and waterers so they are level with the birds’ backs as chicks grow.
At age 18 weeks, adjust the feed provided to meet the birds’ evolving nutrition needs.
Dr Ballam adds: “As chicks mature, their nutritional needs change. Transition layer chicks onto a higher-calcium complete feed when they begin laying eggs at age 18 to 20 weeks. For meat birds and mixed flocks, choose a complete feed with 20 per cent protein and feed this diet from day one through adulthood.”
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