Raising Chicks: Things You Must Do During the First Week

Chicks need warmth and to satisfy this they are raised in brooders. The chick stage is one of the most critical stages in the life of chickens. If there is loss of performance during the first week, it can hardly be compensated for later in life. Under good management, chicks can increase their body weight by fourfold or more in the first week. To achieve this in the first week, below are some management tips that will help.

#1. Avoid Caked or Wet Litter:

One of the most important functions of litter is to absorb moisture. Chicks retain only about 20% of the water that they consume and the remainder is excreted onto the floor. If litter becomes excessively wet, it will cake up. Caked or wet litter result in high ammonia production but when coupled with the high temperature required for brooding, much more ammonia will be produced. Also wet litter can serve as an evaporative cooling pad that chills the chicks. This will result in poor weight gain and poor immune system (i.e. the chicks can easily get infected).


Make sure the litter is in good condition. It should be dry and in loose form with a moisture content of 25-35% .

#2. Maintain Proper Bedding Depth

Many people don’t know that chicks can get chilled if their little legs are in contact with cool floor. It can also happen when they lie down on cool floor. To prevent this, insulate them from the cool floor using a bedding material like wood shaving. The litter depth should be about 3-4 inches throughout the house. Areas that do not get adequate litter depth will be cooler and will become wet more easily.

#3. Provide Adequate Feed and Water

Make it easy for the chicks to find feed and water. Place feed in feed pans and water in chick drinkers. At day old, provide extra pans and drinkers so that they can easily find feed and water. Throughout the first week, feed should be available all the time. This doesn’t mean you should overfill the feed pans, but provide feed as necessary to prevent wastage.

#4. Preheat the House

Heating should not start few hours before the chicks arrive, many sources recommend 48-96 hours before chicks’ arrival. This is because litter temperature is a very important factor with respect to chicks’ health and performance. In fact, floor temperature is more important to chick health than air temperature (1). Recommended litter temperature is 90-95oF (32-35oC). It is important to note that to record the litter temperature, you need a non-contact infrared thermometer.

Importance of Litter Temperature: Chicks are unable to regulate their body temperature for the first 72-96 hours after hatching. If they become chilled either through the floor/litter or other means, they become stressed. This can cause them to become immunocompromised (there ability to resist diseases will be compromised). Growth rate will be higher if you maintain the recommended floor temperature (weight gain will be lower if litter temperature is cooler by as little as 5oF). For birds that were chilled during transportation, you can make them perform as well as un-chilled chicks by using slightly higher brooding temperature than normal (1).

#5. Maintain Proper Air Quality

Because of the fact that chicks need warmth does not mean that you should seal the brooder house so tight that gas/air can’t come in or go out. Doing so will result in poor air quality which is a recipe for a lot of diseases. The brooder house should be well covered but you must leave small openings at the top (close to the roof) so that fresh air can come in and used air and gases can go out (good ventilation). Having the openings at the will also prevent draft.

Poor ventilation can lead to wet litter and accumulation of dangerous gases like ammonia, CO2, and CO.

#6. Provide Good Uniform Light Intensity

The light intensity should be high enough so that the birds can easily find food and water. If there are dark areas in the house the chicks in those areas will find it difficult to find food and water and this will affect production. Light intensity can be affected by dirty and defective bulbs.

#7. Go for Day Old Chick Screening: Although DOC screening can be quite costly, it is worth doing if you have large number birds. The test (serological monitoring) which is carried out in an animal lab will help you to know the right time to vaccinate your birds.


Following these tips will help ensure that your birds reach their full potential in the first week.


Works Cited

  1. Jones Hamilton. [Online] [Cited: Dec 9th, 2014.] http://www.joneshamiltonag.com/what-you-might-not-know-about-poultry-house-floors.
  2. Gietema, Bart. Download EM-32-e-2005-digitaal.pdf. cd3wd.com. [Online] 2005. http://www.cd3wd.com/cd3wd_40/lstock/001/agrodoks/EM-32-e-2005-digitaal.pdf. 90 5285 006 2.
  3. Aviagen Limited. Download Ross_Broiler_Manual_09.pdf. Aviagen.com. [Online] Nov. 2002. http://en.aviagen.com/assets/Tech_Center/Ross_Broiler_Manual_09.pdf.
  4. N. van Eekeren, et al. Downlad AD4.pdf. Journeytoforever.org. [Online] 2006. http://journeytoforever.org/farm_library/AD4.pdf. Agromisa: 90-8573-069-4.
  5. Download 2009_Hy-Line_Brown.pdf. PoultryHub.org. [Online] March 2011. http://www.poultryhub.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/2009_Hy-Line_Brown.pdf.
  6. Poultryhub.org. [Online] [Cited: 08 3, 2014.] http://poultryhub.org/production/husbandary-management/housing-environment/climate-in-poultry-houses.
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