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.
Timing is everything when it comes to feeding your laying hens. Ensuring they have the correct nutrition at just the right time is an important part of having a happy and healthy flock.
Hatch to approximately week 6: Provide free choice access to a quality chick starter ration and make fresh clean water available at all times. Proper nutrition in this critical growth stage will impact the performance of the chicken for their entire lifespan. Use a heat lamp to keep birds warm and provide 1 sq. foot per chick.
Approximately 6 weeks to 16 weeks: Continue to provide free choice access to chick starter and water. If you choose to feed treats (scratch grains, kitchen scraps, etc.), put out what birds will consume in about 15 minutes once per day. This a good guide to follow to make sure treats don’t exceed 15% of the total diet. Add treats only after week 6. If birds have access to anything other than a crumble or pellet, provide grit free choice in a seperate feeder.
16 weeks +: Now is the time to switch to layer feed! Provide layer pellets or layer crumbles and grit free choice along with access to fresh clean water at all times. Treats can be provided at no more than 15% of the diet. At this point it is also important to make oyster shell available free choice to provide supplemental calcium for hard-shelled eggs. Adult birds require approximately 3-4 sq. feet of space per bird in the coop; you also need to plan on one nesting box for every 4-5 hens.