Care of Chicks

Care of Berg’s Chicks


One of the most common mistakes customers make when taking chicks home is having the heat on HIGH in the vehicle. A safe temperature is 70 F (21 C),roughly room temperature. The best place for a box of chicks is in the back seat of the car, van or truck, not in the trunk or box of truck.  Good air circulation around boxes is important and there should be no direct heat or air conditioning blowing on the boxes.  If you’re transporting chicks on a hot day and you need to make a stop make sure there is sufficient air and proper temps around the chick boxes, but it is best to go directly home with your birds. The the floor temps in charts below DO NOT apply to transporting birds in a vehicle.


Use fresh litter placed on floor of a well disinfected brooder house. The litter material most commonly used for brooding is a good quality wheat straw.  Soft wood shavings can be used, but must have virtually no sawdust in it.  Three or four inches of litter should be used, spread evenly over the floor. DO NOT USE PUPPY PADS

Good examples of bedding are wheat straw or softwood shavings.

  • HORTICULTURAL PEAT MOSS – it may cause respiratory problems
  • NEWSPAPER OR CARDBOARD – they do not hold heat and they also have a slippery surface causing damage to the bird’s legs


Temperature is a key element for proper bird development.  Newly hatched chicks, especially CORNISH CROSS GIANTS, cannot regulate their body temperature until day 14. Meaning they can’t distinguish between hot and cold, so you must do that for them. A chicks’ body temp is 104.3 (40.16C) so recommended ideal floor temp the first 3 days is 93F(34C). When searching the internet, you may find lesser temps which may have to do with relative humidity and sometimes is not applicable to our climate. These recommendations are for Western Canada (Prairie Provinces).

The brooding area should be able to maintain a temperature of 95F (35 C) to 90F (32C) at coldest spot chicks have access to. When setting up your brooding area one of the most common mistakes people make is trying to heat much too large of an area with a red heat bulb or other source of heat. You can have as large of brooding area as you want but the coldest temperature the birds should have access to for at least 3-7 days is 90F(32C). Have a thermometer on the floor at the coldest edge of brooding area and that should read 90F (32 C) if it does not, it’s too cold. If it is too cold make your brooder smaller, then increase pen size as the birds grow. A laser heat gun is also a good tool to take temps. A thermometer on the wall is good for knowing room temperature but is completely useless for brooder area temperature.

Temperatures should be taken at the coldest part of day which is usually 6 to 7AM. If you do find you cannot achieve proper temperatures make your brooder smaller but not too small because the birds do need to get to cooler temperatures which is the 90F (32C). In general, the temperature under heat lamps is usually warm enough and probably too warm but the main goal is the overall brooding space temperature. The temperature at edge should be dropped 5F using day 7,14,21,28 as anniversary dates. This is recommended to make temp readings easier. DAY 1 TO DAY 14 is especially crucial. Week 4 floor temperature is 70F or 21C.

Watching the birds in brooding area is a tool that has been recommended for years and it does apply somewhat but knowing the exact temperature is best. By the time you notice your birds are huddling under the heat lamps they may already be damaged as body temp is significantly too low. Therefore, a thermometer is used as it eliminates the guess work. Any guess work you can eliminate is a bonus and will ultimately help with your success. Dual purpose and layer lines will probably recover if heat is increased but Cornish giants and turkeys probably will become sick and possibly have mortality. If you are comparing a farmyard breed or layer line to a Cornish cross or a turkey poult when it comes to brooding, please don’t as they have significantly different temperature tolerances. All temperatures I have stated work for all breeds. Turkeys do better a few degrees warmer.

Please remember when searching for information on the internet that there are very good recommendations but also some completely wrong recommendations. My advice is following the recommendations of the hatchery you purchased your birds from.

  • Remember:
  • -thermometers replace guessing what is warm enough
  • -use size of brooding area to help control heat
  • -only use RED heat bulbs, not white heat bulbs

The diagrams below are good management tools, but KNOWING your floor temperature is the best brooding management there is.  

Age of Chicks (Weeks) Room Temperature
1 95° F (35°C)
2 90° F (32°C)
3 85° F (29°C)
4 80° F (27°C)
5 75° F (24°C)
6 70° F (21°C)

The above table should be used as a guide only.  The best thermometer to use in determining proper brooder temperature is an actual thermometer.  The chick or poult itself may give you some indication of how they are coping. If the birds huddle too close to the brooder, the temperature is too low.  If the chicks tend to congregate some distance away from the heat source the temperature is too high.  If the proper brooding temperature is used, the chicks should be evenly distributed over the entire brooding area.  The diagrams below show how to use chicks as a guide for the correct brooding temperature.

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A contented peep, and evenly distributed chicks around the hover indicates comfortable conditions.
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When the chicks chirp and wedge behind the hover, There is a draft.
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If too cold the chicks will group and pile up under the hover.
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If the chicks move away from the heat source and are drowsy the temperature is too warm.

As the birds grow older, lower the temperature about 5 degrees per week until 65° is reached.  A temporary increase in brooding temperatures of about 5 degrees may be of value for reducing side effects of stress resulting from handling and moving.

Extra Tips:
Cleaning, disinfecting, brooding, and  water is all the same as for the Cornish Cross Giants (meat birds).
1. Floor Space – The first 3 weeks they need 1/2 square foot per chick.   Expand this to 1 1/2 square feet per bird for the balance of growing period.
2. Feed – To start baby chicks use small troughs, box tops or egg flats.   Then switch to 3-50 lbs. feeders per 100 chicks or equivalent.
3. Lighting – Day old to 16 week birds will need 8 hours of light.  Gradually add 1 hour per week until you’re at 16 hours of light for maximum production.
4. Nests – The bottom of the nests should be 27 inches above the floor.  With a two tier nest, provide one nest hole for every four birds in the laying flock.  Nests should be filled with an ample supply of clean nesting materials.   Close nests at night to keep them clean.  Open nests early in morning to avoid floor eggs.
5. Flock Health – Dead and culled birds are a source of disease and therefore should be collected and disposed of daily.
For good management practices keep complete, accurate records of daily feed and water intake, egg production and mortality.

Also see Nutritional Guidelines and F.A.Q.