You’ve just arrived home with a brimming box of peeping chicks, how exciting! The journey you are about to embark on is an exciting one, so get ready to learn about and love those new fluffy creatures.
Before you go to pick up your new chicks, make sure the brooder is ready to go at home. This will prevent any unnecessary stress, for both you and the chicks. Expect some peeping as the chicks get acquainted in their new environment, learning to drink and eat. They will likely do this for 4 or 5 days. If the peeping seems to be excessive, make sure you evaluate the brooder for anything that may be causing distress. A good indicator on temperature is to evaluate where the chicks are located. If they are spread out, they are likely comfortable. If they are huddled under the heat source, they may be too cold and temperature adjustments should be made. If they are on the edges of the brooder (not under the heat source) then they are likely too hot. Don’t forget, the journey to their new home was a long one, so consider providing some bottled water with vitamins and electrolytes for the first 3 days.
After the first week, their down will start to turn into feathers, and by week 4 you can expect to see more feathers than down. With adequate food, water and proper temperature, your chicks should be acclimating quite well to their new home. Don’t forget the importance of brooder maintenance during this time. To keep odors at bay and cleanliness paramount, make sure you are cleaning out the brooder once a week and adding fresh shavings. Place the waterer in the corner to prevent dampness throughout the entire brooder.
Weeks 4 – 6:
At this time, you may notice your chicks starting to test their wings. At week 6, the brooder is likely getting a little crowded, and you should consider the transition outside to the coop. It’s wise to choose a nice day to do this, as it will be less of a shock to the birds. It’s important to note that during this transition, you should make sure your chicks are fully feathered so they are prepared for the elements. A gradual integration of new chicks with mature hens may be necessary to prevent older birds from picking on the young birds. A good option is to separate the two groups with a gate or some fencing, so they can be exposed to one another before being fully integrated.
Are you a new chick owner? Then this guide is for you!
Chicks thrive in ideal conditions, so consider these tips for getting started:
- Heat: Suspend a warm bulb about a foot above the brooder floor for warmth – and have a second bulb on hand in case one burns out. Keep temps in the brooder about 90-95 degrees F for the first week, decreasing about 5 degrees per week. Raise the light as chicks grow.
- Environment: Be sure your brooder is big enough so your chicks can move about comfortably. Keep it out of drafts. Stock tanks, plastic tubs and homemade brooders are a few good options. Do not allow the brooder to become wet or damp.
- Bedding: Pine wood shavings are ideal. Avoid straw and newspaper as these become slippery for chicks. Clean bedding daily.
- Water: Be sure clean, fresh water is always available. Dip chick beaks into water and let them drink 4-5 hours before introducing feed. Elevating the waterer a couple inches off the floor will help it stay clean and prevent bedding from contaminating it.
- Feed: Scatter feed on the brooder floor so chicks can find it at first. Then place in a feeder. Have chick starter feed available 24/7. Your chicks will eat just what they need. One chick will eat about 10 pounds of chick starter in its first weeks of life. There are some great options available when considering chick starter feeds.
Many people associate spring with fuzzy baby chicks, but modern hatchery practices make chicks available year-round. Once you know which breed is right for you, select a reputable hatchery or dealer from which to purchase your chicks.
Young chicks must have a brooder for warmth and protection. Prepare the brooder by cleaning and disinfecting it at least two days before the chicks arrive. Once it has dried, cover the floor with 4 to 6 inches of dry litter material. Pinewood shavings or sawdust is recommended to aid in disease prevention. Hardwood litter is not recommended. Place the brooder in a draft-free location. Carefully position an incandescent bulb about a foot above the box floor to provide heat and add a second light in case one bulb burns out.
Newly hatched chicks will find their perfect temperature in the brooder. If it’s too hot under the bulb chicks will move away from the heat; if too cool they’ll move closer. Give chicks space to move about. Baby chicks huddle together when they’re cold, which can cause smothering or suffocation, so check your chicks regularly to be sure they are comfortable. Raise the height of the lights as they grow, because their need for artificial heat will diminish as they grow feathers.
Clean, fresh water is the most important thing to give your chicks. Make sure it is always available and that the waterers are clean. Check water levels daily to be sure your chicks are consuming enough. Chick starter grower rations are available in medicated and unmedicated formulas. Select one with the protein, vitamins and minerals chicks need to thrive. Sprinkle the feed on the brooder floor at first but use a chick feeder when the chicks are a few days old.
Given a snug brooder, fresh water and good food, your chicks will soon be big enough to move into their coop.