When the chicks arrive, the main concern is getting them access to heat at approximately 32 degrees C.  Once they have warmed up they will then seek out water and food.  Our recent batch arrived on a day when it was approximately 37 degrees C so the chicks were straight to the food and water.

 

Day olds in brooder

We use timber shavings and sawdust for the bedding of our brooder, which is light enough that the chicks can scratch and stir it, so that the top does not get coated with a layer of manure.  We also top up the bedding every week with some fresh material to ensure that the chicks have a hygienic environment.


This is the first point of difference between our methods and an industrial shed - even for chicks housed in free range or organic situations.  In a commercial shed, the bedding is put in before the chicks arrive and remains the same for the entire stay (6-8 weeks)

 

We have a maximum of 300 chickens to an individual brooder space, which means that if the chicks get scared and run to a corner they shouldn’t be able to cause enough pressure to hurt or kill any of the other chicks.  We do expect losses of 1-2% in the first few weeks which is basically the chicks that arrive sick or that have some sort of developmental issue.  After this we do not expect any more deaths, although for various reasons they will happen from time to time. 

 

Industry standard is an allowance of 5% losses and so losses of only 1-2% demonstrate that our methods are more hygienic and healthy for the chickens. 

Brooder

 

The chicks stay in the brooder pen for between 2 to 4 weeks and over the course of the first 2-3 weeks, the access to heat is decreased so that the chicks are hardened and ready to go to pasture.