Brooding is a process that is commonly seen in the poultry industry. The chickens especially whose production now is increasing more than ever for various reasons that serve human purposes.
The highest production of chicken is for meat consumption and chicken eggs are consumed as a source of protein. It is all the more important because the eggs are of good quality only when hens are well fed to be able to produce such quality eggs.
However, the country chicken is used for various purposes like soil aeration for a garden bed, chicken manure as organic fertilizer and as insect patrol. Now that we have understood some of its uses let us understand the cycle of growth from the early stages which are where brooding comes in and what is the optimal condition for brooding.
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Brooding is an important step in poultry animals, especially the brood of chicks. Brooding in chicken is an important part of making the relationship between mother and chick strong as well as ensuring proper growth and development.
The female chickens which participate in brooding are the ones that reproduce and lay eggs which are called hens. The brood of chicks must be indefinitely be performed by hens. Brooding meaning basically can be stated as caring for the young chicks in their early part of life. And this care for the young brood of chicks is done by provision of optimum environment.
Application of heart is the method of brooding that is used by a female bird or hens to sit on her eggs. It is very important to have a clear understanding that optimal brooding is essential to optimize the health of the chickens. And brooding also contributes to a good performance of chicks in their life span and also manages to survive for long in later life. Since the chicks in the initial stages cannot regulate their body temperature, brooding the offspring helps them regulate their post-hatch. Let’s further understand the importance of brooding, how to better the brood of chicks, and how feed also plays a part in brooding.
There are naturally two types of brooding: one that is done by the broody hens which are via the natural method and the other is instigated by the industrial and farming conditions via the artificial method.
1. The natural type of brooding is when the broody hen sits on her laid eggs and provides warmth. The broody hen is the hen whose maternal instincts have kicked in and she needs to take care of her chicks. In this period emotions surge in and she feels the need to sit and hatch eggs. These broody instincts last up to 21 days and in the starting 3 weeks, the eggs are completely warm and ready for proper growth and self-regulation of temperature.
In an unnatural situation where the broody hen is in search of the eggs but they are not present then, it can be taken care of by removing the nest and allowing her to roam freely or giving the fertilized eggs to sit on. But the fertilized eggs way seems very harsh because when the broody hen starts the process of brooding she forgets herself in the process and rarely gets up only for an emergency. And in this process, she becomes dehydrated and pale and one must be considerate and not lay fertilized eggs to be hatched because the hen will not see the desired result.
2. The artificial way is very different and in this case, the brooding can be done in three ways and in any case, there is not much difference in performance. The three ways are;
Either the chicks can be scattered in the entire area of the house for the brooder to start brooding this way is called whole-house brooding.
The other way is only using partial houses, which is called partial house brooding.
And the third way is where some of the chicks are subjected to brooding in the winter and others in the summer and this type is called colony brooding.
Types of Artificial Brooders
A brooder is a piece of artificial equipment that plays the role of broody hen and at an optimal temperature, providing warmth, food and shelter to the broods of chicks.
Now it is important to know that there are different types of artificial brooders and they are;
Conventional hover brooder- This can be a large plastic box or a cardboard box with six square inch spaces per chick. This space is helpful for the first two weeks and then space must be increased once hatched. The box provides a warm and comfortable environment for the chicks.
Pancake brooder- In this type of brooder which is also called jet-type brooder, some heat is transferred to the air in convective form. So the air becomes warmer where the chicks reside giving them enough to grow well.
Hot air furnace brooder- This kind of brooder uses profane material and a ventilation system is provided for the air to be well circulated and be spacious enough for hatching and further growth.
Electric lamps brooder- Operating on electricity lamps provide infrared light where the chicks are put in a confined place until hatched and old enough to step out and be on their own.
Radiant brooder- The infra-red radiations are used to create an optimal condition for the chick's growth and development. They do not just warm the air, the chicks are directly exposed to optimal high temperatures.
Optimal Conditions for Brooding
The best conditions must be provided for the brooding in an unnatural environment that is when their mother or broody hen is not present. So the conditions must be as follows-
Proper Litter Management- properly conditioned and fresh litter with controlled moisture must be provided right from the start. The purpose of litter is to provide bedding and if it is cold and wet it surely is a recipe for disaster.
Optimum Temperature- This is the most important factor that has to be maintained because it is also detrimental to all the other factors. The heater and the venter are constantly monitored. Depending on the type of chicks and at which stage of growth they are in, the optimal temperature requirement will change in the initial days it has to be 90 degrees Fahrenheit and by the fifth week, it can be brought down to 75. At relatively low temperatures they chirp and huddle or else in too high temperatures chicks show signs of drowsiness and panting. Constant adjustment of the heater by the manager is mandatory to be certain of their proper growth.
Quality of Air - This condition is based on the humidity in the air in the brooder. The relative humidity should be 65% which is ideal. High will lead to wetness in litter and an increase in ammonia that is undesirable. And lower relative humidity will cause respiratory problems so the ideal value has to be maintained throughout its brooding period.
Ventilation - A good brooder can be distinguished from the rest by its minimal ventilation. A pressure test for the fan, the inlet door opening is checked, and the fan run time is monitored accordingly.
Availability of good quality water - Even though chicks consume much less water than chickens and hens it is only right to still tend to their needs when in the brooding period. Water should be available at all times and without just assuming it to be abundant check it because their needs and demands can be unpredictable. And ensuring it to be of good quality is the duty of the manager. Water filters must be installed and regularly monitored and 24 ml per bird must be available and always accessible.
Quality of feed provided - Right from the start chicks must be fed with a good quality feed. The feed tray or the chick tray must be filled at all times. One must also ensure that the temperature near these trays is not too hot or cold because that will also affect the feed of the chicks. They will keep at bay if the temperatures are under or above rather than optimal for them. Proper nutrition is necessary not only for growth and development but also to maintain proper physiological health.
Lighting - For the first three days a proper 2fc light for 24 hours must be provided without fail. Then it can be 0.5fc light and 0.75fc light for the broiler and layer or breeder respectively. Availability of light stimulates feed and water consumption. The intensity should be apt and not harsh or dim. Without just assuming it to be properly verifying it by buying a meter calibrating the dimmer in each house. The settings can be far off from the optimal intensity one can only find out through calibrating the dimmer.
Importance of Brooding
It is known that brooding is done to provide an optimal environment for the chicks to grow and develop in their initial stages. The process of brooding is important because-
Chicks in the starting stages cannot regulate their temperature efficiently. Their thermoregulatory metabolic ability only develops when feathering starts after 2-3 weeks post-hatch.
Since maintenance of body temperature is the most important factor in the initial survival of chicks brooding plays an important role.
The process is also important since chicks are incapable of self temperature regulation due to higher metabolic body size and lack of feathers. Without brooding they would lose more heat from their body and end up not surviving.
Hypothalamus in the brain does not function completely at an early age and if there is no brood of chicks done then it leads to the inactivated digestive system, thermoregulatory system and immune system.
Brooding is important to not be susceptible to infections due to less immunity because of growing in low temperatures.
Results of Brooding
Brooding ensures the proper growth of body tissues in chickens.
The development of tissues through brooding helps gain a proper body temperature and a good body framework.
The body temperature regulation through brooding also makes for the chicks to develop a good feather cover.
Brooding is very important also because it activates the endocrine system in animals.
The process of brooding also ensures that the animals have a well activated digestive system.
The most important effect of brooding is that it develops a better immune system in the chicks that helps them lead a long and healthy life which is the main purpose.
Brooding is a very natural way of growing the broods of chicks from day zero to a period of 3-8 weeks into well developed and high performing flocks. Nowadays these techniques are very well known and practiced widely. The most important thing to consider here is the understanding of the requirements and managing accordingly. And the first three days or the first 72 hours are the most important period as the chicks then are vulnerable and if not cared for well they will not miraculously survive and turn into healthy, well performing flocks. The underwhelming treatment provided is a disaster and the mistake made in the initial stages cannot be corrected when they become chickens and hens. One should follow up constantly to ensure that they are provided for.