Brooding – Key Performance Indicators

The brooding period – the first 14 days of the broiler’s life – is the most important stage because chicks are forming the building blocks for future performance. Their skeletal, muscular and neurological systems are all developing at an extremely rapid pace. Poultry managers can check their flocks’ progress using several key indicators.

Performing a Chick Check

The main objective of management during the first hours after placement on the farm is to achieve as much intake of both feed and water in as many chicks as possible. If chicks do not readily eat or drink, their ultimate performance will be irreversibly compromised. This expresses itself as poor growth, poor feed conversion and poor flock uniformity.

  1. An excellent indicator of floor temperature is the temperature of the chick’s feet. If the chick’s feet are cold, the internal body temperature of the chick is also reduced. You may also need to reevaluate pre-heating temperature and process to ensure chicks stay warm enough.
  2. Cold chicks will be seen huddling with reduced activity and resulting in reduced feed and water intake and therefore reduced growth rate.
  3. By placing the feet against your neck or cheek one can readily learn how warm or cold the chick is. If they are comfortably warm, the chicks should be evenly and actively moving around the brooding area.
  4. If the crops of the chicks are checked eight hours after placement a minimum of 85% of examined chicks should have both feed and water present. A minimum of 95% of the bird’s crops should be filled upon examination the morning after placement. Read more about feed management here.
  5. For best results, sample 100 chicks per brooding area.

7-Day Mortality

The ultimate performance gauge is the seven-day mortality of chicks. Mortality percentage accurately indicates chick quality, hatching process, house set up and early brooding management. The maximum seven-day mortality should not exceed 1% cumulative.

Measuring seven-day weights will give an indication of how successful the brooding management has been. The objective is to achieve four to five times the day old weight at seven days of age. On the other hand, failure to achieve good seven-day weights will mean an inferior result at the end of the growing cycle.

An extra gram (.002 lb) of bodyweight at seven days of age will yield 6 grams (.013 lb) extra at 35 days of age.

Find more tips and recommendations for management during the brooding period in our Cobb Academy

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