Observing chicks’ response to temperature

In addition to feed and water, a good temperature is important for the health and growth of young chicks. The animals can control their own body temperature to a limited extent during the first phase of life, and a radiant heater for poultry offers a solution. This allows the climate of the barn to be adjusted directly according to the needs of the chicks. As a poultry farmer, you can learn a great deal about how the chicks respond to the temperature through observation, and then respond accordingly.

Heat requirement

Young chicks are dependent on ambient heat to keep their body temperature at the right level. They can only control their own temperature effectively after four to five days. An infrared radiant heater for poultry is an effective solution for keeping chicks warm during the first weeks of life.

Tiny day-old chicks that originate from the hatching eggs of young chickens need more heat than larger, heavier chicks. Feel free to increase the temperature of the infrared radiant heater by one or two degrees. Older broiler chickens produce a great deal of heat themselves, which they need to be able to release into the environment to prevent heat stress.

Desired temperature at individual level

The barn temperature has little bearing on the actual climate experienced by the animals. As it happens, the climate is not consistent throughout the whole barn, but varies from one animal to another. In addition, relative humidity and air speed also play a role. There can be different (slightly deviating) micro-climates in one barn. This leads to the chicks being concentrated in specific zones to a greater or lesser extent.

The temperature needs to be constant and optimal for each animal. In the case of broiler chickens, this is provided by a layer of litter on the floor. At the outset, the layer is very thin and the floor may still be too cold. By the end of the cycle, there is a thicker layer of litter with a temperature of at least 30 °C.

Observe, think, act

Chicks grow very rapidly and it is therefore important to identify irregularities as quickly as possible. If there are problems, you can respond immediately with the necessary adjustments.   

Understanding chickens starts with immersing oneself in the way in which they behave. Give yourself sufficient time to observe their behaviour and consider the signs in the right context. What do you observe and what does it mean? Only then can appropriate action be undertaken. Do not only consider the technical aspects (e.g. growth), but be open to other important signs. You can improve the health and welfare of your chicks considerably with a critical, open mindset.

Identifying deviations from normal temperature

You can measure the temperate of the barn with a thermometer, but the numbers are only a guideline. Observing how the chicks respond to the climate is the ideal supplement to standard checks. Do this several times a day and use all your senses. Assess whether the animals are as active as normal and look at the distribution. Doing a round through the barn in a thin layer of clothing and with bare arms can help you identify deviations.

The effect of temperature on distribution and activity

You can deduce how the chicks are responding to the temperature by observing their distribution and activity.

Optimal temperature

Are the animals evenly distributed throughout the available space and do you observe much activity? Then the temperature is optimal. If they are laying in a small circle beneath the infrared radiant heater with their heads pointing away, there is no problem either.

Temperature too low

If the chicks are holding their heads upright, the infrared heating is positioned too high and they are cold. If the temperature is too low, the animals will huddle together and cheep continually. You can tell if they are cold by feeling their claws.

Temperature too high

Are the chicks positioned in a wide circle around the radiant heater or against the outer wall? Then the ambient temperature is too high or the light intensity is too strong. Older chicks will lay with their wings spread and their beaks open.

Observation tips

You can observe the chicks in a structured manner by following the tips below:

  • Observe without carrying out other activities
  • Observe the entire flock as well as individual chicks
  • Observe at different times and under different conditions
  • Stand still in the barn regularly and sit on your haunches in spots where the chicks are concentrated, or conversely, are avoiding
  • Observe the front, middle and back of the barn
  • Compare your data to standard recommendations, but establish your own standards too (compare your findings to previous findings, for example)

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