Brooding – Feed Management

Chicks need special care as they transition from the incubator to the rearing house. It is imperative that they eat and drink enough right away. Flocks that fail to make a quick transition to feed and water may suffer from higher early mortality rates. Stimulating feed and water consumption during their first several days will give chicks the best start during the brooding period.

Supplemental Feeders

Add supplemental feeders to the rearing house for the first seven days to help chicks get as much nutrition as possible early on.

  • Use starter feed during this period in either a mash or fine-crumb form.
  • Place the trays between the main feed and drinker lines and adjacent to the brooders. Never put trays directly beneath the brooder, where the excessive heat may drive chicks away.
  • There should be approximately one tray per 50 chicks.
  • “Top dress” feeders several times throughout the day to ensure that feed never runs empty and remains fresh at all times. Frequently adding small amounts helps stimulate feed consumption.
  • After the first 2-3 days, gradually move feeder trays closer to the automated feeding system; then slowly remove them altogether over the following week.

Feeder Specifics

The feeding time should be consistent each day to help chicks establish a routine. It is also important to distribute the feed evenly to ensure each chick has proper access to the feed.

  • Distribute feed throughout the house in less than three minutes from the time the feeder belt begins releasing feed to provide the most feeder space per bird.  
  • Adjust the feeder trough height throughout the brooding period so all chicks have easy access to the feed. At first, rest the feeder on the litter so chicks do not have to climb into the feeder to eat. As the chicks grow, raise feeders so that the lip of the trough is level with the birds’ back at all times.
  • Provide adequate feeder space for males and females, taking into consideration the flock’s age. From four weeks to housing, provide a minimum of 4.5 inches (11.50 cm) of feeder space for pullets and a minimum of 6.0 inches (15.0 cm) for males.

Monitoring the Transition

Examining the chicks’ waste, also known as a “Crop Check,” is necessary to see if chicks are consuming adequate feed and water.

  • If chicks are placed the same day they hatch, check the crops the morning after placement to ensure they have found feed and water. If chicks are placed one day after they hatch, crops should be checked 8 hours after placement to evaluate feed and water intake.
  • Ideally, a minimum of 95 percent of the crops should feel soft and pliable, indicating chicks have successfully located both feed and water. Hard crops indicate chicks have not found adequate water. Evaluate and water availability immediately. Swollen and distended crops indicate chicks have located water but insufficient feed. Check the availability and consistency of the feed. 

Male versus Female Management

Good management practices recommend growing males and females separately for at least the first six weeks, although sex-separate rearing through the first 140-154 days has produced the best results.

Growers should help chicks transition from the hatchery to brooding environment, which includes making sure the chicks begin eating and drinking right away. With optimal nutrition, chicks will develop strong skeletal and cardio vascular systems. The brooding period sets the precedent for good performance throughout the life of a flock and enables chicks to reach their full genetic potential.

For information about managing each phase and factor of brooding, read more in our complete Broiler Management Guide.

Related Articles

Brooding - Temperature management

Correct litter and ambient temperatures are vital to ensure chick activity. Pre-heating is important

Managing 21st Century Birds

Every year, we strive to bring innovative solutions to every facet of the poultry industry, includin

Brooding - 5 essentials

By providing chicks with the right environment and nutrition during the brooding period — the first

Brooding - Ventilation management

This is the 3rd of our five essentials series of articles. All five brooding essentials are equally

How to Give Chicks the Best Start in the Brooding Period

The brooding period – the first 14 days of the broiler’s life – is the most sensitive period because

Water Management in Broiler Flocks

Water management is one of the most crucial components in a top-performing broiler flock. Broilers h

Good feather cover for optimising energy use

More than 8,000 feathers cover broilers although their number differ by breed and genetic line. Feat

Choice of Ventilation Key Decision in Any New Project

In hot summer weather house design becomes critical in ensuring optimal airflow for the cooling and

Flock uniformity

Management must be geared to preserving flock uniformity while accomplishing the feeding and body we

Brooding – Key Performance Indicators

The brooding period – the first 14 days of the broiler’s life – is the most important stage because

The Importance of Ventilation in Broiler Management

Broilers should easily achieve their economic and genetic potential when they live in a specifically

Cold Weather Preparation

Today’s broilers have huge genetic potential and can reach their target body weight sooner and on le

4 Factors for Creating an Effective Holding Area

A successful holding area keeps the birds comfortable before processing and prepares them for all su

Brooding - Light management

Light intensity is not always seen as an important factor in brooding, yet it is. Chick activity dur

Designing Ventilation and Airflow to Optimize Bird Comfort

When designing a modern broiler house the first question one considers is the optimum floor area for

Brooding - Water management

The following is the fourth of our five essentials series of articles. All five brooding essentials

How To Optimize Feed Intake in Young Broilers

Getting broiler chicks eating early pays dividends in the long term. Today, feed accounts for up to

Brooding – Pre-Placement Checklist

The key to successful broiler rearing starts with having a systematic and efficient management progr

Brooding – Post-Placement Checklist

After chicks arrive, use this checklist to ensure that chicks have the feed and water they need to a

How to Establish Water Purity for Broiler Management

Water is an essential nutrient that impacts virtually all physiological functions; and good water qu

Countering Early Losses in Chick Condition

Chick quality varies from chick pullout to farm placement due to procedures such as vaccination, qua

The Importance Of Appetite Development In Young Broilers

Appetite development is the most important priority for every broiler grower during the first 72-96

Three Keys to Achieving Proper Ventilation

Proper ventilation in the broiler house is of the utmost importance. Be on the lookout for these ind

How to Tell if Chicks Are Getting What They Need

Checking to see if your chicks are getting what they need to grow and thrive helps maximize results

Improving ROI with Ventilation

Most investments have a targeted approach, and a poultry operation is not any different. Knowing whe

Mobile App

Get the Mobile App

Available on Google play and the App Store