Link between profits and first 14 days of brooding

Members of the AMR Surveillance Pilot Study among chicken layering farmers within Kiambu County disinfect theirs shoes after getting into a chicken farm [Luis Tato, FAO]

To achieve all the benefits of great genetic potential and consistent flock production, it is important that the flock supervisor or farm owner has a good know-how on flock husbandry and a good grasp on flock management program. Here are critical aspects of early flock management programmes that a farmer or his/her supervisor need to know:


Keep your farm neat and clean all the time. Allow only essential persons into the flock houses and keep records of all visitors. Isolate poultry houses from other livestock and keep pigs away from chickens as they tend to share similar diseases.

In Kiambu county, I occasionally witness chickens kept in storey buildings. Yes this is acceptable with conditions that minimum heights are maintained not below 7 feet high between one floor and another. Farm worker must visit different units in order of age from youngest to oldest.

All authorised visitors must change into or wear protective clothes, hair nets, and rubber or disposable boots on location before entering the premises. Hands must be washed and sanitised when entering each house.

Water must be tested twice a year for contaminants. Chlorination system on the farm at 3 ppm will reduce bacterial loads from bore-hole water sources. All mortality must be removed from the houses twice daily and disposed properly by burying. After depopulating, all old used litter must be removed after each cycle and taken off the farm before a new flock is placed.

Between flocks it is a good practice to eliminate any rodents. Rodents carry many diseases that adversely affect the health of poultry. This involves weekly monitoring of rodent bait stations. All feed spills and/or damaged equipment must be repaired and cleaned up to prevent attracting wild birds and rodents. A one-metre barrier around each house free of grass (preferably a concrete “apron”) must be maintained to prevent rodents from entering poultry houses.

The farm needs to have a foot bath using a broad-spectrum disinfectant at each door entrance. Keep all doors locked to prevent unwanted intrusion.

Farm Sanitation, Housing and Equipment

The importance of brooding can’t be overstated. The first 14 days of brooding will determine how successful the broiler flock will be. The importance of brooding starts before the chicks arrive and should start with a plan and checklist. Be sure all birds are removed from the previous flock. 

Remove the old litter down to the soil /concrete and carry away from farms in a covered truck.  Remove all old feed and dispose of properly.  Clean the entire house and equipment with water (and an approved detergent).

Pay close attention to fans, inlets, and curtains in open-sided houses.  After the cleaning let the house dry completely, particularly the floor. Once the house is dry, spray with an approved disinfectant for instance Bimacide. Install a layer 2– 4 cm (depending on outside and floor temperature) of an approved new bedding (wood shavings). Ensure all equipment is working properly. 

Set all brooders, radiant brooders, and space heater to the correct height (check with your local technician for your local requirements).  Ensure that all drinkers are at the correct chick level as recommended by the manufacturer. Supply enough clean water and fresh feed well spread out over the full area.

The house must be heated to the recommended temperature (35ºC) at chick level 24 hours before chick placement. Preheat the house floor long enough (minimum 2 days) before chicks arrive to reach a floor temperature of at least 27-29ºC. 

Litter should be dry, new, level, and of good quality, always obtain new litter from a bio-secure source.

Flock stocking density

The correct stocking density is an important consideration to your broiler success. Having the right broiler density will ensure the proper space given to each broiler and will also ensure the best performance. Aim at 1 square feet per bird or 12 birds per square meter in open sided houses, in environmentally controlled units, aim at 22 birds per square metre.

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