Brooding in Poultry – Definition, Types & How to Brood

What is Brooding in Poultry Production?

Brooding is defined as the management of chicks from one day old to about 8 weeks of age, and it involves the provision of heat and other necessary care during chicks’ early growing period. Brooding units are designed to house chicks from one day old until they no longer need supplementary heat (0-8 weeks). Growing pens are used from the end of the brooding period until the broilers are sold or the pullets moved into permanent laying houses (up to 20 weeks). Laying pens or cages are used for pullets and hens from the time they start laying until they are culled and sold at the end of the laying period (up to 78 weeks).

Types of Brooding

  1. Natural brooding
  2. Artificial brooding

Natural Brooding

The natural method of brooding is used on farms where only a few chickens are raised each year. Depending on her size, a hen will brood 15-20 chickens. The broody hen will provide all the warmth required by the chicks. Before placing the chicks with the hen she would be examined for her good health and free from lice, tick and other ectoparasites.

Artificial Brooding

Artificial brooding can be defined as the handling of newly born chicks without the aid of hens. It is accomplished by means of a temperature-controlled brooder (foster mother). Artificial brooding has several advantages over the natural method, which are:

  • Chicks may be reared at any time of the seasons.
  • Thousands of chicks may be brooded by a single person.
  • Sanitary conditions may be controlled.
  • The temperature may be regulated.
  • Feeding may be undertaken according to the plan.
Brooding in Poultry Production
A typical brooding house

The essentials of a good brooder are a dependable mechanism for controlling temperature and regular supply of fresh air, dryness, adequate light, space, easy disinfection, protection against chick enemies, safety from fire, and economic in construction.

Management of Chicks in the Brooder

  • Adjust the temperature as per the requirement of the chicks. In the case of oil heating, see that there is no defect in the stove or lamp. Chicks should not have access to the heated parts of the lamp at any cost.
  • Avoid a damp poultry house. You can use a deep litter system.
  • Discourage litter eating by the chicks, scatter mash over egg case flats when the chicks are first taken out of their boxes.
  • Provide balanced standard mash.
  • Keep provision for the entrance of fresh air.
  • Provide clean, fresh water in front of the birds at least twice daily. (Read about the importance of water in poultry farming)
  • Chicks, after 3 weeks old may be provided chopped green grasses (to increase Vitamin A intake)
  • Clean the brooders including feed hoppers daily.
  • Follow a regular vaccination program.
  • Avoid overcrowding as this will lead to slow growth and mortality. (Read 10 ways of preventing or reducing a high mortality rate in poultry farming)
  • Keep the brooder in such a place that cold wind and rain does not get in.
  • Daily inspect the condition of birds and their faces for any sort of abnormality.
  • Keep in touch with any veterinarian for help at the time of need.
  • It is always advisable to check the fittings, temperature control, feed, and water trough arrangement before shifting the chicks in the brooder.

Also Read: 5 Common Mistakes Some Poultry Farmers Make During Brooding

Key Equipment Required for Successful Brooding

While brooding is an important management practice in poultry production, it is important to know the required brooding equipment. Remember, the purpose of brooding is to raise healthy chicks and provide the required heat (mimicking natural mother hen) until they are able to adapt and regulate their body temperature to the ambient temperature.

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For brooding to be successful, there is some equipment that must be available in the brooder house/pen. Key brooding equipment includes:

  1. Brooder Guard
  2. Brooder or Heater
  3. Thermometer

1. Brooder Guard
Brooder guard is a hardboard that can be made to form a ring or circle with ease. A brooder guard is used to restrict the movement of chicks within a certain heated area. Normally, a poultry farmer should place 100 chicks within a brooder guard having a diameter of 1meter. A brooder guard is not required if brooding is done in battery cages.

2. Brooder or Heater
Many kinds of brooder or heater exist. However, there are four common brooders or heaters:

i. Charcoal / Kerosene Stove
This type of brooder is the best option when or where electricity is not available. A fabricated charcoal or kerosene stove uses charcoals or kerosene to generate or produce supplementary heat to warm the chicks.

ii. Hover
This type of brooder is commonly used on most standard farms. Its heating unit has a 250-watt bulb—usually five well-arranged incandescent bulbs or infra-red bulbs with a power on/off switch or button. The hover is usually covered by an angular or round metal sheet to deflect the produced heat back to the floor. The hover is suspended using a cable or cord fastened to the ceiling, and it can be lowered or raised to any height level, depending on the required temperature.

iii. Electric Brooder
This is a thermostatically-controlled heater that is capable of spreading heat uniformly above a large area. The advantage of this kind of heater is that it prevents chicks from crowding under the heater or brooder directly.

iv. Gas Brooder
This type of brooder, unlike the electrical brooder, uses gas to generate heat.

v. Infrared Bulb Heater
An infrared bulb heater is also used to generate the heat required by the chicks to keep their body warm.

vi. Automatic Heater
An automatic heater has an enclosed 600-watt heating element with a thermostat and reflector. It is hung just like the way a hover is hung.

3. Thermometer
It is important to have a room thermometer inside the brooding pen or house. It is used for monitoring the ambient temperature inside the brooding house. With the help of the room thermometer, you will know if the temperature within the brooding house is cold, moderate or high.

How To Brood Chicks And Turkey Poults

How To Prepare for Brooding

About two weeks before your chicks or poults (turkey) arrive, check the house properly for any crack or leak. Mend as necessary then thoroughly wash and disinfect and fumigate the inside of the house with a suitable disinfectant (quaternary ammonia) and leave the house to rest.

  1. Two or three days before arrival, cover the floor with suitable litter material about 7.5cm deep. On top of this, place rough thick paper.
  2. Place the brooder box in the middle and then arrange feeding and watering equipment radial from the center of the hover. The feeder should be half under the hover and half outside. All these equipment are then enclosed by a brooder ring 45cm high. This guard can be made from strong cardboard paper.
  3. Check all heating and lighting equipment to ensure that they are working properly.
  4. Two hours before brooding starts, feed should be placed in feed-trough. The drinkers which should have been thoroughly washed are filled with clean cool water.
  5. On arrival of the chicks, they should be rapidly unboxed and inspected individually for defects and quickly placed under the brooder.

Also Read: How to Fumigate a Brooding House & Pen

What to do When Brooding Broiler Chicks or Turkey Poults

  1. After placing chicks in the brooder, they should be closely watched to ensure that they receive adequate heat and are not subjected to draught. The behavioural reactions of the chicks will suggest whether the artificial heat is adequate or whether there is a draught.
  2. When chicks or poults huddle under hover or near the source of heat, there is inadequate heat, where they move far from the source of heat, there is excessive heat; when they evenly spread, then there is adequate heat. When all the chicks huddle to one side, then it shows there is draught.

Temperature Requirement for Broilers


Floor Space Requirement for Broilers

AgeFloor space cm2
Week 1100-120 cm2 per chick
Week 2-4250-300 cm2 per chick
Week 5-8700-800 cm2 per chick

These indicate the need for expansion of space as your chicks grow older and bigger (increase in body size).

Adequate ventilation: Ventilation of the brooder house is restricted for the first 1-2 weeks.

For the first four days of brooding, the chicks are supplied feed in shallow feeders like egg trays or thick sheets of papers. Freshwater is supplied every day.

Apart from managing the chicks by regulating temperature, ventilation and providing feed, there are certain routine daily operations which must be followed in the same sequence from morning till evening:

  • Remove all dead chicks from the flock to prevent cannibalism and possible infection by pathogenic organisms.
  • Fresh feed is supplied and constantly activated with hand.
  • Drinkers are taken out and washed thoroughly before being filled with clean cool water.
  • There are some special operations which in the short-run are stress-inducing but in the long-run confer some overall advantages. These include de-beaking or beak trimming, deworming and vaccination.

Feeds and Feeding During Brooding


The following is the feeding regime for broilers

  • Day 1 – Week 4 = Broiler Starter
  • Week 5 – Week 8 and above = Broiler Finisher

Also Read: How to Raise Broiler Chickens Successfully

View Broiler Feed Intake and Weight / Growth Chart

Also Read: How to Increase the Weight of Broiler Chickens Faster


The following is the feeding regime for cockerels

  • Day 1 – Week 6 = Chick mash
  • Week 7 – slaughter = Grower mash

Layer / Pullet

The following is the feeding regime for pullets/layers

  • Day 1 – Week 6 = Chick mash
  • Week 7 – Week 17 = Grower mash
  • Week 18 and above = Layer mash

View Layers Feed Intake and Weight/Growth Chart

Health Management During Brooding

Health management entails procedures for preventing disease and providing supportive medication. Read more about poultry health and biosecurity management here

Vaccination During Brooding

Click here to view the vaccination chart / schedule for broiler

Click here to view the vaccination chart / schedule for layers

Click here to view the vaccination chart for turkey

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Akinbobola A.

I am an entrepreneur, certified animal scientist, consultant and blogger. You can follow Livestocking on Facebook and Twitter. Click Here to E-mail me
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13 thoughts on “Brooding in Poultry – Definition, Types & How to Brood”

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