Grandparent Management

Chick Management

1.1 Preparing for Chick Arrival

The key to success in rearing lies in an effective management program starting well before the chicks arrive on site.

  • The brooding farm must be a single age farm. Isolate the brooding farm from older birds. Brood chicks on an all-in, all-out program. Have a good brooder house security program. The stockman should work only on the brooding farm.
  • The rearing facilities must be clean and pathogen free before the chicks arrive. Detailed cleaning and hygiene procedures are described later in this guide. Remember that site biosecurity must be maintained at all times and that biosecurity regulations apply 365 days of the year, including periods when the farm is empty.
  • It is advised that you have trained and experienced people who know the local customs regulations and the necessary documentation procedures required, ensuring clearance from customs as quickly as possible.
  • It is essential that transport for chicks from the airport be carried out in clean, sanitized, properly ventilated, temperature controlled chick vans. Every effort must be made to coordinate transportation schedules so that upon arrival, day old chicks are cleared through customs and transported to the GPS farm and placed under brooders as soon as possible.
  • Grandparent farms must be secure. The poultry house doors must be kept closed and vehicles entering the farm must first carry out approved wheel-cleaning procedures. Only authorized visitors and personnel should enter the premises (after showering) and they must wear clean protective uniforms provided on the farm.

1.2 Planning for Chick Placement

Take time to plan stocking rates to suit environmental or local climatic conditions, and remember that males will be significantly heavier than the females at selection. Extra floor space is needed for the males to ensure the best potential from the stock.
  • Assignment numbers may vary at each intake. Before laying out a site for a placement of day-old chicks, be sure that you have received confirmation of chick numbers. 
  • Cover the whole floor with litter to prevent heat loss. Level shavings by raking and compressing firmly. Uneven litter creates uneven floor temperatures, causing groups of chicks to huddle in pockets or under equipment. This could restrict access to feed and water at this critical time of development. 
  • Ventilate the house to ensure that all residues of formaldehyde are removed before the chicks arrive. Formaldehyde gas can inhibit early growth rate and create immediate uniformity problems.
  • Start pre-heating the buildings 24 to 36 hours before the chicks arrive, depending on climatic conditions. This will ensure the floor is warm and the air temperature is correct when the chicks are placed. Make regular checks to ensure that all brooders are working correctly.

Ensure that minimum ventilation rates are applied from the day before the chicks arrive. Never sacrifice fresh air quality for heat.

  • Provide 2 supplementary drinkers for every 100 chicks and position them near to the feed.
  • Feeding equipment should not be placed directly under or too close to the brooders, and feed should be distributed as near to the chicks’ arrival as possible.
  • Provide one feeder tray for every 75 chicks at day old. Ensure that supplementary feed remains fresh; do not allow chicks to consume contaminated feed.
  • Brooder surround guards (cardboard or metal) should be no more than 460 mm (18 in) high. The maximum stocking density for chicks in a surrounded brooding area should be 30 chicks/m2 (0.36 ft2/bird).
  • Where possible construct pens so that chicks from supply flocks of the same age can be reared together. This will improve subsequent flock uniformity.
  • Provide brooding light so that the chicks remain close to heat source. Never grow different lines together in the same pen.

1.3 Chick Placement and Bird Density

Fresh feed and water must be made available to chicks on arrival in the rearing house.

  • Brooders and heaters must be checked regularly to ensure that they are working correctly.
  • Supplementary drinkers are recommended for the first 2 to 3 days. Use mini drinkers or chick founts, not open trays. This will help to avoid problems with foot infections. Do not place drinkers directly under brooders.
  • All chick boxes should be unloaded into the house with the appropriate number of boxes adjacent to each brooder for even chick distribution. Do not stack full boxes inside the house or place full boxes inside the brooding area. If chicks are grouping at the sides of the brooding area: (See diagram on page 3.)
  • Check that the temperatures are not too high.
  • Check that the temperatures are not too low.
  • Check that they are not being attracted to brighter light or noise.
  • Check for draughts. Make necessary improvements and disperse the chicks.

Bird density in the rearing period Bird density depends on 3 basic factors; feeder space, litter quality and ventilation or environmental conditions. In a typical 12m wide house with 2 loops of chain feeder lines the maximum density to be used is 4.5 females /m2 . With 3 loops of chain feeder lines in a 12 m wide house the density in females in rearing can be increased to 6.6 females/ m2 in the FLF. However in the MLF it is preferred to stay on the 4.5 females /m2, then uniformity and litter quality tend to be worse in this line. This means that the MLF needs only 2 loops of chain feeder track.

If oval pan feeders are used in the rearing, calculate 14 to15 females per pan feeder and apply the same density norms mentioned on page 2. Males: Male density in the first 6 weeks is normally 10 males/ m2 for both lines (MLM and FLM). After the selection the male density should be maximum 4 males/m2.

1.4 Brooding Methods

Place no more than 500 chicks per individual brooder or as recommended by brooder manufacturer. Brooders should be operating for at least 24 hours before the chicks arrive, maintaining a temperature at chick level of 29°C -32°C (84°F - 90°F) at the edge of the brooder for the day-old. House temperature should be reduced until it reaches between 21°C (70°F) and 22°C (72°F) at 28 days of age, subject to bird behavior. Observe the chicks and adjust the temperature for their comfort, but be careful not to over-heat. The diagrams on page 6 illustrate how to interpret chick behavior. Thereafter maximum and minimum house temperatures should be 24°C (75°F) and 19°C (66°F). The brooding area should be gradually increased from day 3 to assist in temperature reduction and provide more space.

1.5 Lighting

Lighting should be continuous for the first 48 hours following chick placement. The light intensity should be at the achievable maximum, or at least 60 lux (6.0 Ft. Candles), to ensure that the chicks find feed and water. All GP rearing houses should be light proof. For details of the lighting program refer to pages 28-31.

1.6 Beak Trimming

Beak trimming is not usually necessary for Cobb Avian 48 grandparents kept in fully controlled lighting. Beak trimming may be necessary to control aggressive pecking in open sided houses or situations in which light intensity cannot be controlled. If required, precision beak trimming should take place for the females between 7 to 10 days. Do not beak trim the males until after selection, typically between 35 and 42 days of age. Increase the feed level in the feeders for 2 to 3 days after trimming to reduce stress and maintain uniformity. Females Remove approximately one third of the upper and lower beaks using the hot blade method. When properly trimmed the upper beak will be slightly longer than the lower beak. Check the pullets’ beaks closely at 18 weeks of age to be sure that they have not grown out to the extent that they may cause injury to their flock mates. Birds with overgrown beaks, spoon beaks, parrot beaks or other beak deformities that may prevent them from eating or drinking properly should be further trimmed or culled.

Males It is essential that male beak trimming, undertaken post-selection (between 35 and 42 days of age), be carried out with precision to maintain uniformity and maximize fertility. To reduce the variation between birds one qualified person should do the work. Remove only the keratinized tip of the beak. Check the males’ beaks closely at 18 weeks of age and re-trim or cull any birds that show beak over-growth or any beak deformity. Beak trimming males also reduces the risk of damage to females during mating in the hen house.