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Broiler chickens: first days life management

During the first week of rearing, a broiler chicken can gain up to five times its starting weight. This period corresponds to one-third of a standard broiler chicken’s life. The objectives, at the end of this first week, are to have animals that are as homogeneous as possible, with controlled and increasing growth and the highest possible viability, all while minimising the impact of pododermatitis and with humane treatment of the animals.

table zootechnics for first days in poultry broiler farming

Focus on three key criteria for this rearing phase

1. Conducive ambient and environment

Like most birds, broiler chicks are homoeothermic animals. This means that they must maintain a constant body temperature between 40 and 42°C. Above or below their thermoneutrality, chicks have the ability to produce heat (thermogenesis) or to lose heat (thermolysis). However, chicks do not have the ability to efficiently respond to a lower temperature, this is why it is very important to monitor the atmosphere, especially the temperatures at different places in the building. Farmers must provide their animals with all the comfort they need so that they can feed and drink properly.

Before the arrival of the chicks, it is important to verify several points:

  • depending on the season, the outside temperatures, the installation and the building sealing, the preheating time for the building must be between 24 and 72 hours before the arrival of the animals
  • several hours before the arrival of the chicks, it is important to ensure that the required temperatures are maintained.
    • In buildings with external combustion and no heating points, 32°C at room temperature.
    • In buildings equipped with radiant heaters, 30°C at room temperature and 38 to 42°C under radiant heaters.
    • Litter temperature is a key element to the success of the starting period, a surface temperature of approximately 30°C is recommended.
  • it is necessary to check the installation and equipment. The measurement tools must be calibrated and checked regularly.

The first hours of life are essential. Several hours after the arrival of the animals, and then over the next few days, the following points must be checked.

Stimulate the feed consumption during first hours. The fact that all the animals have been eating and drinking is indicative of the quality of the starting period, particularly the Litter temperature. The standards are as follows:

  • 2 hours after the animals arrive, 75% of the animals must have a full crop
  • 12h = 85%
  • 24h = 95%
  • 48h = 100%

The spatial distribution of the animals; around the heating points, along stringers, to avoid drafts, etc.

Body temperature: It is possible to check the body temperature of the day-old subjects to make sure that the animals are not too hot or too cold. Using a forehead (or ear) thermometer placed on the animal's cloaca, verify that the temperature is between 39.5°C and 40.5°C (103°F and 105°F).
“Tips & Tricks”

To check the body temperature of the animals, take several chicks and place their feet on your cheek or on the back of your hand.


2.  Litter requirements: Clean, Dry and Smooth

Well-managed litter is an additional element to ensure technical and environmental performances and animal welfare.

The first function of the litter is to absorb moisture, much of which comes from animal excretions and the drinking system. Regardless of the type of support, quantity and quality chosen, the litter must fulfil several functions and roles.

  • Minimise the contact between the animals and their excretions,
  • Act as thermal insulation,
  • The feel of the litter must be pleasant for the animals so that they exhibit natural behaviours such as scratching

“Tips & Tricks”

Take the litter in your hands. When touching the litter material, it must feel:  Clean, Dry and Smooth.


3. Nutrition management

Without mentioning the technological and nutritional specifications of a starter feed, here are some ways to improve feed intake during the starting period, specifically feed intake as soon as the chicks arrive.

The essential standards are:

  • 17 g, this is the feed average consumption of a day old chick
  • 50%, this is the minimum surface area of a building covered with paper and feed.
  • 60 chicks per feeder.

poultry broiler chicks building feeder

Under no circumstances should the distribution of the feeders over the span of the building, the distance between the water and feed points, the amount of feed and number of animals per feeder (or drinker point) be underestimated. Above, an example of how the animals are distributed on day 7 when the light comes back on, after their night. It can be seen that the drinking and feeding equipment are very in demand. That is why, during this period, it is important to make sure that all the animals have access to water and food so that all forms of competition or restrictions are avoided.
“Tips & Tricks”

If the feeding lines need to be empty, so that the chickens consume the crumbs, or if the drinking system needs to be purged (to limit biofilm formation), it is preferable to do this at a time when the material is being used the least: during the day for example. Avoid empty line when the animals are waking up and sleeping and during the hours that follow.


You want to learn more about the way to manage the first days of broiler chickens, please contact our experts!


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