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General Information

General Information

It is the light rays from the heat lamp that gives the warmth to the birds. There are three important things that have to be remembered in brooding with heat lamps:

  1. Put in a room heater and use it every time it is necessary to bring room temperature up to 75-80 degrees. This could be in the daytime or in the night time. To brood baby chicks, the room temperature must be at least 75 degrees and then the heat lamps will do their job.
  2. The heat lamp must be 18" from the floor to make the birds comfortable and warm.
  3. Raise the heat lamp 6" a week in order to maintain the same comfortable position and that is as they grow bigger, the lamp goes up.

Heat lamps do not warm up the brooder house, but the ray of light does keep the birds warm.

A single heat lamp will accommodate 50 baby chicks. A cluster of four heat lamps will accommodate 325 chicks or 250 turkey poults.

Healthy, well-hatched, vigorous chicks come from good parent stock, free from disease and infection.

Improper environment and unsatisfactory brooding conditions not only affect the chick during the brooding period but the results of these unsatisfactory conditions are apparent throughout the entire life of the bird.

The greatest single cause of chicks losses during the brooder period comes from the birds being exposed to too high a temperature in the brooder room and then getting out away from that high temperature and being chilled. This situation is often brought about due to the fluctuation in the brooded temperature because of the change in the outside temperature.

It is good practice to have ½ sq. ft. per chick in brooder room; ¾ to 1 sq. ft. per turkey.

Litter for the Brooder

It is important that the litter be kept dry. This can be accomplished by providing good ventilation.

Putting the Chicks under Brooder

In order to keep the chicks from getting too far away from the brooder heat, it is necessary to put a circle of cardboard which will serve as a fence around the brooder about two feet away from the edge. This fence should be about 18 inches high.

Each day the circle may be enlarged by a foot or two in diameter on the fifth or sixth day it may be removed entirely so that the chicks can have the run of the room.

If chicks crowd together at the center of the brooder and tend to pile, it is an indication of not enough heat. Increase the temperature slightly until they spread out properly. Be sure to check accuracy of the thermometer.

The Brooder Room

Brooder Temperature Chart

Age Chicks Ducks Poults
1 day 90 F. 90 F. 95 F.
1 week 85 F. 80 F. 90 F.
2 weeks 80 F. 75 F. 85 F.
3 weeks 75 F. 70 F. 80 F.
4 weeks 70 F. 60F. 75 F.
5 weeks 65 F. 50 F. 70 F.
6 weeks 60 F. 40 F. 60 F.
7 weeks 55 F. 40 F. 50 F.

Baby chicks require lots of room for brooding, one half square foot of floor area per chick. They need lots of fresh air. It is advisable to ventilate the brooder room.

If windows are used for ventilation do not be afraid to have the windows open as long as they do not create a strong draft on the floor.

The best way to ventilate a brooder room with windows is to use the type, which hinge at the bottom and tilt into the room towards the ceiling.

To have windows on only one side of the room is not sufficient. There should be openings on both sides of the room so that you get a definite cross movement of air. All air coming into the room should be directed towards the ceiling.

If the room is closed up too tight so that the circulation of air through the room is nil then the moisture may make the litter soggy. The remedy - - remove the wet litter and put down fresh and provide better ventilation in the brooder house.

If it is not possible to obtain satisfactory ventilation through the openings provided in the room it may be necessary to install a forced ventilator system. This will provide a continuous and constant flow of air through the room and will not create a floor draft.

The floor under the brooder should be of sufficient thickness to conserve the heat given off by the brooder. Where the floor is up off the ground the space between the floor and the ground should be closed tight to prevent the wind and drafts from cooling the floor too much.

In brooder houses which have only one thickness of board flooring it is advisable to add insulation in order to maintain a proper brooding temperature on the floor.

It is important to have plenty of feed troughs, about one inch of trough length for each bird, and one water fount for about every 80 chicks, more for poults.


The raising of heavy meat birds usually leads to leg problems due to the rapid weight gain of the particular breed of chicken. Over the years, this has become a great concern with the chick breeders and as yet, no one solution to this problem has been diagnosed. They have developed a few recommended methods that may help and because of its great importance to the breeders, it is a very active concern for them.

  • We find that in over 90% of the cases where people encounter severe leg problems, they are cleaning their brooder house quite frequently. This is not recommended. Until the birds are moved out, the original litter should be left on the floor and any fresh litter should just be added on top of the already existing litter. This existing litter can be dried out by the use of dehydrated lime.
  • Chicks or turkeys should never be started on newspaper or any slippery surface.
  • After your broilers are ten days old, move your waterers to one end of the building and the feeders to the other end. This keeps your birds moving around and helps reduce leg problems.

Laying Hens

When mixing light and heavy breeds, it is almost a must that the light breeds (leghorns) be have their beaks trimmed as the heavy breeds are slower feathering and this causes the light breeds to pick on them. Contrary to popular belief, picking is not caused by a lack of any particular type of mineral within their diet; picking is purely an environmental problem such as too much light, too much heat, too crowded, or too much room. It is very important that your birds feel comfortable.

  • It is not recommended to have a large window exposed to the south, as excessive light is a major factor causing cannibalism within your flock.
  • Never use white lights for lighting.


Should be confined to a small area the first 14 days, as they are more temperamental than chicks. Food and water should be kept in abundance and in front of them at all times.

  • Turkeys require a minimum of 90 - 95 degrees F. Temperature which is warmer than what is required for chicks.
  • 10 turkeys for the first ten days do not require an area much more than 2 feet by 3 feet.
  • We suggest putting their food in containers such as 2 ½ dozen egg flats so that the birds can walk right into it. This method may waste a bit of food but in the end will save you money by not losing poults.
  • Also, we suggest that for the first two or three days adding in addition to your medication a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar per gallon to their drinking water. This makes the birds hungry and again, your survival rate will be better.
  • Day old poults can be brooded with your day old chicks. This will give them warmth and the chicks will aid in teaching the turkeys to eat and drink.
  • The birds require 2" of feed trough and 1" of water trough during their growing period. This means 30 - 36 birds per pan.
  • They require 1 square foot of floor area on the floor and 43 square inches in the cage.
  • Should not beak trim in hot weather - - beak trim at 7 - 10 days, cut and cauterize for 2 to 3 seconds.
  • Maximum light should be 15 - 17 hours.
  • Maximum afternoon temperature is best at 70º F.
    Which is approximately 22º C.

Water and Feed Consumption

Below is a table indicating the amount of water consumed and the amount of feed consumed.

50 5.1 GAL - 100 Birds/Day 26.4 LBS - 100 Birds/Day
60 5.2 GAL - 100 Birds/Day 24.2 LBS - 100 Birds/Day
70 5.3 GAL - 100 Birds/Day 22.0 LBS - 100 Birds/Day
80 6.7 GAL - 100 Birds/Day 19.8 LBS - 100 Birds/Day
90 10.4 GAL- 100 Birds/Day 17.6 LBS - 100 Birds/Day

  • Eggs should cool slowly down to 65º F. With and 80% humidity in the egg room.
  • It takes approximately 3.5 lbs of feed to produce one (1) dozen eggs.


Most small flock owners couldn't care whether it takes 80 days to grow a roasting chicken or 140 days, as long as the birds survive, are good sized and cost a minimum of cash to raise. As a consequence of this desire to save money, there is a longer growing season, mortality is far too high and in many flocks the results are very disappointing.

Alternate Methods of Feeding

All Commercial Feeds

A chick when hatched has the potential to grow at a particular rate as determined by its breeding. No chick ever attains its maximum potential; because poultrymen never have the best surroundings and the most suitable food. Nevertheless, we can come close to this genetic potential.

A good flock of roasters (cockerels) will weigh 8 lbs live at 80 days, using 18 to 22 lbs of commercial feed. Mortality of only 5% is common. Cash costs for feed in this method may run approximately $2.80 per bird but the bird will be healthy, of good weight and with the fewest losses.

Concentrate Pellets & Whole Grains

In as much as most farmers have suitable grain on their premises, it makes sense to use your own grains. Most commercial roaster growers use a 20% protein starter, 18% grower and a 16% finisher. They would use about 4 lbs of starter, 7 lbs of grower, and 9 lbs of finisher per bird. Using concentrate (38% protein) you would use a total of 7 ¼ lbs of starter and concentrate, and 13 lbs of grain for each bird. For best results, you would likely buy 4 lbs of starter and 3 ¼ lbs of concentrate with 13 lbs of grain. The proportions for the 18% grower would be ¼ concentrate, and for the 16% - 15 lbs of concentrate for every 85 lbs of grain. With using this feeding procedure and good management, you should be able to get nearly the same growth as with all commercial rations. Cash cost for the feed using this method would run approximately $1.40 per bird.

Starter & then Farm Grains

This is the method used by too many small flock operators. The birds get off to a good start with a balanced ration of chick starter, only to be abandoned just as they really get going. With farm grains, grass and scraps they will get about 12 to 13% protein, very little vitamin A, almost no calcium and little usable phosphorous, as well as a shortage of other nutrients. Nutritional diseases, as well as other diseases, will now have an easy time getting established. Because the body health is now weakened, coccidiosis can take a toll, as well as predators; mortality of 20 to 50% is usual. This certainly is not the way that makes sense or cents.


The first 48-72 hours of a chick's life is critical

To maximize immunity, performance and liveability the barn floor temperature should be 90 to 92 degrees F / 32 - 34 degrees C. This will create a comfort zone for the chicks. The feeders and waterers should also be in the comfort zone.

At the farm the chicks will be spread out, eating and drinking. The chicks feet will be warm.

The chick is panting in the bar. A "chirping" distress sound may be heard. Chicks may move away from the heat source and line up along the wall.

The chicks will be less active. The cold chicks may huddle or "bunch" around the heat source or in the feeder trays. Low temperature chicks have cold feet. If the chicks feet feel cold to the touch on your cheek then they are too cold. These chicks are struggling and are diverting energy that should be used for growth and development to maintain body temperature.

Chilling in the first 48 hours of brooding
Chicks do not have the ability to control their body temperature completely until they are 2 weeks old. floor temperature and insulation will mean more to the chick during this time than the air temperature. The chicks need at least 3-4 inches of Fluffy Dry litter to provide protection from the cold floor.

Feed and Water
Must be within the comfort zone of the chicks. A good crumble, not pellets or mash will encourage uniform distribution of nutrients and give the chicks a good start.

Carbon dioxide and ammonia, if they are present in the house, tend to sink to the floor, displacing oxygen and this low oxygen level at the floor can cause Ascites.

Chick uniformity is influenced by temperature, access to feed, access to water and air quality. Any time a portion of the flock is forced to struggle to maintain temperature, access feed, water or to breathe - uniformity will suffer.

Manually keeping the chicks spread out (walk the chicks) allows them better access to feed and water.

Remember, temperature is the most important factor for good flock health and liveability. Floor temperature 90° to 92° F / 32° to 34° C.

Before Chicks Arrive

  • Remove old litter. Make sure you clean and disinfect the ceiling, walls and floor of the poultry house. Let the house dry thoroughly before putting down new litter.
  • Clean and disinfect all equipment including feeders, waterers and brooders
  • Repair Windows, doors, ventilators or any part of the brooder house which needs attention. Eliminate drafts. Cover the floor with 3 to 5 inches of dry litter. Use shavings, poultry peat moss, straw, etc. or other material that is readily available, economical and has good moisture absorbency.
  • Use a corrugated cardboard chick guard, 12 inches or 18 inches high, to teach the birds to stay near the brooders, where they belong.
  • Check all the equipment to see that they are working. Operate the brooder [whatever type it is] for 24 hours before the chicks arrive. This will warm and dry the house, and demonstrate to you, the accuracy of brooder control and thermostats. Put out the feed in containers and the waterers a few hours before the chicks arrive and make sure the medication is in the water.

After Chicks Arrive

  • After the chicks arrive in the brooder house, keep the temperature 95 degrees, measured 2 inches above the litter. Maintain this temperature for the first week. Reduce the temperature five degrees each week until 70 degrees Fahrenheit is reached.
  • Watch chicks closely for the first few days and nights to see that they are comfortable. They will crowd under the hover if the are too cold, and away from the hover if they are too warm.
  • If the infra-red heat lamps are used, raise the lamps when chicks appear to be too warm. Normally, lamps should be set 18 inches high the first week, and raised three inches each week.
  • Provide plenty of fresh air for chicks. Do not close house tightly to keep it warm. Chicks need fresh air, and air is used to carry moisture out of the house. The floor will be drier and the chicks healthier, when proper ventilation is provided.
  • Keep litter dry. This is important to prevent coccidiosis and other diseases. Frequent stirring of litter will help keep it dry. Adding some hydrated lime to the litter will also keep it dry.
  • If you are not using infra-red heat lamps, then it could be advisable to use a 15-watt bulb for each 200 square feet of floor area for the first week for lighting. If you are raising replacement chicks, it is advisable to use roosts, when chicks are 4 to 6 weeks of age, to provide each chick with 4 inches of roost space.


  • Keep feed and water before the chicks at all times. Clean waterers frequently and place them on slated or wire platforms, so birds will be kept away from the wet floor.
  • The first three weeks, feed 20% to 23% protein chick starter.
  • After three weeks, change to 16% to 20% protein grower. This can be mash or crumbles.
  • During the growing period, you should have a coccidiostat in the feed.

Beak Trimming

  • Anytime birds are confined, they are subject to cannibalism. When picking breaks out, you should trim the beak of the birds immediately.
  • You can rent a beak trimmer at the hatchery.
  • See Beak Trimming baby chicks

Brooder setup

  • Arrange your brooders, feeders, waterers, chick guard in accordance with the drawing below.

B=Brooder stove with hover
=Feeders are arranged in spoke-like fashion
=Waterers [gallon size]
=Chick guard 18 inches high arranged in 4-6 foot diameter circle around brooder

By Miller Hatcheries

The raising of heavy meat birds can lead to leg problems due to the rapid weight gain of this particular breed of chicken. Over the years, this has become a great concern with the primary breeders and as yet, no one solution to this problem has been diagnosed. We have developed a few recommended methods which may help minimize this problem.

  • Chicks or turkeys should never be started on paper or any other slippery surface.
  • After your broilers are 10 days old, move the waterers near one end of the building and the feeders near the other end. This keeps your birds moving around and helps reduce leg problems.
It is very important that your birds feel comfortable.
  • We find that in over 90% of the cases where people encounter severe leg problems, they are cleaning their brooder house quite frequently. This is not recommended.
  • Until the birds are moved out, the original litter should be left on the floor and any fresh litter should just be added on top of the already existing litter. This existing litter can be dried out by the use of hydrated lime and frequent stirring
  • Never use white lights for lighting during the brooding period.

Chickens and turkeys go off their legs for many reasons, but generally the reasons fail into three areas:

  1. Infectious diseases such as Marek's Disease, Viral or Staph Arthritis, Infectious Synovitis and Epidemic Tremors.
  2. Nutritional problems such as Vitamin D and calcium problems causing rickets, riboflavin problems causing curled toe paralysis, and numerous factors causing perosis and twisted legs.
  3. Genetic or mechanical problems such as "Kinky Back" which is a spine deformity, and Tibial Dyschondroplasia which is a deformity of the tibia [drumstick].

Of all of these, only a few are within the direct control of the small flock owner, but those that are, need to be prevented. In general, follow these rules:

  • Never stress the birds by overheating, chilling, crowding or under-ventilation.
  • Use only 24 hour bright light long enough to get the birds on feed and water, but never more than two or three days. The birds need rest. Either continuous dim light [if you can read the newspaper, then it's too light] or 4-8 hours of darkness per day is necessary.
  • Always buy the feed designed for the bird's age and the kind of bird being fed. Chick starter for chicks, and turkey starter for turkeys.
  • Never introduce farm grains as part of the diet until the birds are at least 6 weeks old and then replace the starter with a correctly mixed concentrate and grain designed for the bird and it's age. Approximately 1/4 - 38% concentrate and 3/4 grain.
  • Always feed some concentrate to all birds regardless of how old they are. Concentrates contain the balance of vitamins, minerals and proteins needed to make farm grains do the job they can do.

Flocks raised to 9 weeks of age [4 to 5 lbs] will almost, always 3% of the birds with leg problems. Birds raised to heavier weights will likely have a higher percentage, perhaps up to 5 or 6%. If more than this have problems, you should take a good look at your feeding and management, and possibly take some birds into your local veterinarian or laboratory.

The Role of Sanitization & Disinfectants in the Control of Poultry Disease by: DR. WINSTON MOFFATT, SALSBURY LABORATORIES LTD.

Sanitization of cleaning is the establishment of environmental conditions favourable to good health. Procedures used to sanitize a facility would utilize water and detergents or sanitizers to physically remove organic debris and micro organisms. Sanitizing does not kill all organisms but reduces them to safer levels.

Disinfectants are chemical compounds or agents that destroy or kill microbes such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, but not all spore forms of bacteria. Disinfectants possessing a residual activity will help delay repopulating of organisms as long as it remains as a residue.

Benefits of Sanitization & Disinfectants

1. Eliminate certain diseases.

Some microorganisms are very pathogenic and must be eradicated from the premise by thorough cleaning and disinfecting. Examples of such diseases may be avian influenza, velogenic Newcastle disease, infectious laryngotracheitis, and fowl cholera.

2. Reduce certain diseases

Some microorganisms are very resistant to several disinfectants and even though it is desirable to eradicate them, quite often it is only possible to reduce their numbers to safer levels by conducting a thorough sanitation program between flocks. Some examples of these diseases would be the Infectious Bursal disease and the Avian Reovirus group.

3. Reduce stress on birds

A reduction in the exposure of disease-causing organisms to birds reduces the amount of stress placed on the bird resulting in improved performance, improved profitability and reduced medication costs.

Why clean or sanitize our poultry houses?

Studies have shown that under normal conditions, a billion bacteria (excluding viruses) may exist on one square centimetre of floor space. Washing with a sanitizer/detergent and scrubbing, removes most (95%) of the contamination. Reasons for cleaning houses are as follows:

  • Removal of organic debris exposing microorganisms to air and light. Organic matter provides suitable shelter for disease microbes to survive. Organic debris also reduces efficacy of the follow-up disinfectant.
  • Removal of microorganisms. Microbes, as well as organic debris become mixed in the foam and suds of the detergent and water mixture are washed away from inside the house.
  • Cleaning with a water-sanitizer mixture will kill a proportion of microorganisms, lessening the microbial load for the disinfectant to kill.
  • Thorough cleaning and rinsing enhances the microbicidal activity of the disinfectant. A material is clean when it has been returned to its original colour and structure, assuming its surface has not been destroyed.

Suggested Cleaning and Disinfecting Program

Cleaning is a very responsible job and should be conducted in a fairly orderly sequence of events.

  1. Remove all birds from poultry house.
  2. Remove manure and litter and haul it far away from house.
  3. Empty feeders, hoppers, and bins.
  4. Remove all equipment possible and begin soaking them.
  5. Blow down (vacuum) dust from beams, ceiling, walls, inlets, fans, hoods, stairways, etc.
  6. Use high-pressure spray as a pre-wash to remove any residual dust. Soaking (pre-wash) saves time, energy, and water and improves cleaning.
  7. Shovel and sweep up dust and organic debris.
  8. Use high-pressure spray (400 psi) with detergent/sanitizer to clean. Scrape and scrub where necessary. Use approximately 20 Imperial gallons water per 1000 square feet at a maximum rate of 3 gallons per minute.
  9. Rinse entire house ensuring removal of all detergent.
  10. Clean inside of water lines by flushing with a disinfectant. Flush well with pure water.
  11. Uniformly apply a disinfectant to entire interior of house. A pressure sprayer or fogger may be used. High pressure is not necessary for disinfecting. One gallon of stock solution will disinfect 2000 square feet with an 8-foot ceiling.
  12. Clean and disinfect all removed equipment.
  13. Make necessary repairs to equipment.
  14. Return equipment and assemble.
  15. Apply cresylic acid and diesel fuel to outside areas surrounding the poultry house and to earth floors.
  16. Implement an insect and rodent control program, if necessary.
  17. Close up house, shut-off fans and fumigate with formaldehyde gas. This step may be optional. Adding formalin liquid to potassium permanganate (2:1 ratio), or using paraformaldehyde prill (91%) or using an aqueous formalin disinfectant will generate the formaldehyde gas. Fumigation must be conducted carefully as the gas is toxic, irritating and flammable.
  18. Keep the poultry-house clean by enforcing stringent biosecurity and isolation management.


  • Remember that disinfecting is not a substitute for cleaning.
  • Vaccination is not a substitute for cleaning and disinfecting.

By Miller Hatcheries

Temperature - Temperature - Temperature

  • Chicks require 90E to 92E F at the floor.
  • Turkeys require 95E at the floor
  • For the first 10 days keep chicks and poults confined to a smaller area close to the heat source, food and water.
  • Provide 3" to 4" of fluffy dry litter. Never start chicks or turkeys on paper or any other slippery source.
  • Until birds are moved out, the original litter should be left on the floor and fresh litter should be added to the top. The existing litter can be dried out by the use of lime and frequent stirring.

Use Proper Feed
Chick Feed for Chicks - Turkey Feed for Turkeys

  • For meat birds, once they are one week old try to regulate how much they eat by feeding smaller portions more often.
  • When feeding farm grains, always provide the proper amount of supplement to give the birds the nutrition they require to perform to their potential.

Heating and Temperature

  • Chart of temperature on a daily and weekly basis
  • Prevent extreme temperature fluctuations
  • Record high and low temperatures daily
  • Record outside temperature
  • Prevent cold stress, especially during the first 21 days
  • Drafts and chilling should be avoided
  • Avoid overheating


°F °C
1 89-91 31-33
3 88-89 30-32
7 86-88 30-31
8-14 80-83 27-29
15-21 75-78 24-27
22-28 72-75 22-24
29-38 68-71 20-22
39 and on 65-68 19-20

** These figures apply to Broilers raised under Industry Standard Conditions **

Water and Feed Consumption

Approximate Water Consumption (Per 100 Broiler Chicks Per Day)

Approximate Feed Consumption & Live Weights
Feed Consumption (lbs) Live Weight (lbs)
Age (Weeks Liters Imperial Gallons Weekly Cumulative End of Week (lbs)
1 3.0 0.75 32 32 .33
2 9.0 1.98 67 99 .87
3 14.4 3.17 125 224 1.73
4 16.7 3.67 189 413 2.85
5 17.4 3.88 212 625 4.10
6 21.6 4.75 295 920 5.33
7 25.3 5.57 274 1194 6.44
8 28.8 6.34 219 1413 7.39
9 32.3 7.14 301 1714 8.16