Rearing Tips - First 4 weeks and Beyond

Greyling Wentzel

The first 4 to 6 weeks are critical to a new chick’s development. This is not a period to be afraid of. All you need is the correct equipment and check on your chicks regularly. You will learn to differentiate between a happy and unhappy chick quickly.

To ensure success, preparation is key. Ensure that you have a suitable place for them to sleep. It must be clean & dry, free from draughts, but there should be sufficient ventilation. Make sure you have to following points ticked before your chicks hatch:

  • HYGIENE: clean & disinfect the space thoroughly before the chicks arrive

  •  LITTER: Use wood shavings, chopped straw, and grass or cotton husks. This will help keep chicks warm and dry. Change shavings every few days.

  • FEED: Ensure that you source suitable feed for your chicks before their arrival. Starter feed is suitable for chicks up to 4 weeks.

  • RODENTS & PREDATORS: Make sure your chicks are not easily accessed by pests.

  • HEATING: You will need a reliable heat source. You can get away with a 60W bulb for smaller hatches, but an infra-red light is recommended. 


For smaller hatches you can get away with a cardboard box and a 60W bulb. Be sure to put the bulb in a corner of the box. Chicks are sensitive to overheating and have to be able to get away from the heat source if necessary. They prefer a temperature of between 20 and 30°C.

For bigger hatches you will need one 175W infrared lamp per 100 day old chicks. These should be mounted 1m above floor height. On really cold nights you may need an additional form of heating. On really cold nights you may need an additional form of heating.


  • DRINKERS & FEEDERS: Make sure the drinkers and feeders are designed for day olds

  • VENTILATION: There must be sufficient ventilation in the brooder area so that litter can dry out and air quality remains good, but not so much as to create draughts.


If you have followed the steps above you are ready for your chicks to hatch. Remember, they have a couple of basic needs. Warmth, food, water, space, light and fresh air.


Get your chicks into their new space as soon as possible after. They will be thirsty, hungry and stressed, so ensure that they have access food and water, and that the brooder lights are on & their space is warm - between 20°c and 30°C. 

The first 72 hours are critical, and every effort must be made to keep temperatures between 20°c and 30°C


Watch out for signs of overheating. Feather pecking, chicks spreading away from the heat sources, chicks not feeding or chicks are panting with their beaks open.


Heat sources should remain on constantly for the first week, and can be switched off during the day providing the temperature is not below 20°C. From week 5 the heat source can be switched off at night, again proving temperatures do not drop below 15°C.

Keep draughts to a minimum, but ventilation is important. It will allow bedding to dry out and provide fresh air.

Hygiene is extremely important so be sure to clean out wet or damp bedding immediately, and disinfect with Viru-Kill regularly.



The right type, and right amount of feed is very important. Under-feeding in the early stages will affect growth and development, and will delay the start of laying, thereby adding cost to your business.

Use a good quality feed from a reputable manufacturer, and ensure that you do not give layers broiler feeds if you want them to lay eggs. Broiler feeds may contain hormones that could cause your layer to start laying late or not at all.

The right mix of proteins vitamins and calcium are important for egg production in layers. Good quality commercial feeds contain these ingredients in the right proportions to ensure optimum performance.

Chickens should also always have access to fresh, clean drinking water (cool not warm). This is as important as feeds. You would be surprised at how much water a chicken drinks.


Recommended feed chart for layers:

Layer Feed Chart

Age in weeks

Amount of feed per bird

0-3 Weeks

do not restrict feed

Pullet starter mash

4-6 Weeks

50g per day

Pullet Grower Mash

7-8 Weeks

60g per day

9-12 Weeks

80g per day

13-18 Weeks

100g per day


120g per day

Layer mash



Recommended feed chart for Broilers

Broiler Feed Chart

Age in weeks

Amount of feed per bird

day 0-15

50g per day

Broiler Starter

day 16-25

110g per day

Broiler Grower

day 26-36

180g per day

Broiler Finisher

day 36 to slaughter

140g per day

Broiler Post Finisher


We wish you success with you hatch.