It is common practice in broiler breeders to place the birds as day olds with plenty of water and feed available, in combination with 23 or 24 hours of light of high intensity. Often it is recommended to provide the birds with 40 or 50 grams of feed per bird on paper on the litter, sometimes on top of extra feed in the normal feed system or in extra plastic plates of carton egg trays.

All this is done to ensure that the birds are starting off well by finding feed and water as soon as possible. A good start is indeed important, as birds that will not find feed and water very early will have a difficult time catching up later, leading to mortality and poor uniformity. It is therefore a good practice to make it as easy as possible for the birds to find feed and water as early as possible.

However, we should wonder if we perhaps are sometimes overdoing it. After all, day old chick are like very young children, and we can imagine that it might be beneficial to give them a relaxed start without stressing them too much. If we give 40 or 50 grams of feed at start we give the same amount of feed as the body weight of the birds at that moment itself. For the birds itself a feed amount of 15 or even 10 grams on the first day will be more than enough for a good start, providing an enviroment in which all birds do start well with eating and drinking.

On a good or normal starting flock we often see that the majority of the birds are finding feed and water in the first hours, and after 8-10 hours all the birds will have been eating and drinking. It is than questionable if giving 23 or 24 hours of high intensity light per day is really beneficial for the birds. A dark period in the first days of 4-6 hours might help the birds to relax and reduce the stress, and turning on the lights after such a dark period will activate the birds again. Together with a new portion of fresh, not polluted feed the start of the birds might be more relaxed and less stressful than when we push a lot of feed and light on these birds. After all, they are still just young kids, who need their rest to be full of energy later on....