by Winfridus Bakker / Cobb World Technical Support Team In the first four weeks of the rearing period, the following five points are important for starting chicks properly. Preparing the house for chick arrival Before the chicks arrive, the floor and the litter need to be warmed up to 30oC to guarantee that chicks maintain warm feet and feel comfortable. The environmental room temperature needs to be between 31ºC and 35ºC depending on the relative humidity in the house (see table). The side of the paper can be curled upwards against the chain feeder line to keep the chicks within. Note the auxiliary drinkers. Chicks well distributed over the whole reception area. Feed is added several times per day to maximize intake. Pre-warming the floor and litter to 30oC temperature can increase body weight at seven days of age from 10 to 12 grams. Placing the parent stock chicks on 100% paper is the best practice for the first days with water and feed readily available. Feed intake and frame development It is important to weigh a sample of chicks every week to track the target body-weight for proper development of females and males. The first four weeks represent 50 to 55% of total frame development. Vitamin balance, proper calcification and leg quality Feed consumption is low in the first week and the feed needs to contain all the required nutrients. A crumbed feed gives clear advantages in weight development. Proper calcification of the bones is important for good leg and toe quality in the males. Soft or pliable legs can be seen at 7- 8 days of age if calcification is compromised. Uniformity and grading Uniformity needs to recover quickly to obtain a uniform frame size between four to eight weeks of age. When serious uniformity issues in frame size are measured at the end of the rearing period, the producer should initiate a grading by weight at seven to ten days of age, dividing the chicks in three or four groups (heavy, medium, light and super light). For many of the companies worldwide, the first grading of 100% of the chicks is done at four to five weeks of age. A four-week grading is normally the better age. From four to eight wks of age the different weight groups need to come together to attain a flock uniformity of 75% or more. Water intake and nipple management On arrival, chicks need to find the water quickly. Water intake goes hand in hand with feed intake. Parent stock chicks often do not arrive on the farm within 12 hours of hatch. Chicks can be very thirsty. Use auxiliary drinkers and/or nipples showing a water drop on the end of the metal pin. Chicks learn drinking from each other. If the first chicks find and start drinking, the others will copy quickly. The correct water flow needs to be determined looking constantly at the litter conditions below or around the drinker line. A litter that is too dry means the chicks do not have the right water flow (pressure), while a too moist litter means that the water pressure is too high and there is spillage. Ensure nipple height is at eye height on the first day, then increase the nipple height each day. Chicks need to reach up to the nipple at a 45º angle.