New Chick Checklist – Tips for Getting Started

New Chick Checklist

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.

Are your chicks ready to leave the brooder?

Pullets are experiencing their first day out of the brooder representing chicks ready to leave the brooder
These pullets are experiencing their first day out of the brooder.

Don’t they grow up fast? It seems like only yesterday you brought home those peeping, fuzzy little balls of cuteness… but you need to get ready for your birds to hit their “teenager” stage. Just like a teenager that has their learner’s permit, your birds may be sorely tempted to try out those new feathers they are working on growing by attempting to take flight. Let’s face it – you’re brooder won’t hold them forever and it’s time to form a plan around how and when to introduce them to the great outdoors! So, how do you know when your chicks are ready for the big step of moving to the coop and leaving the brooder?

Feathered and Ready: Assessing Chicks’ Feathers for Outdoor Life and Leaving the Brooder

At 5 to 6 weeks your fluffy chicks will start to resemble adult birds by growing out pinfeathers. These adult feathers will help them regulate their body temps better than fluffy chick down. Having a majority of their feathers is essential for birds who are headed outside.

Gradual Acclimation: Temperature Adjustment for Brooder Comfort

Although they start off at 90 – 95 degrees in the brooder the first week of life, you need to decrease this temperature each week until the temperature inside the brooder is somewhat close to what daytime temps will be outside. For example, if your birds are in the brooder at six weeks old, your brooder temp should be around 60 – 65 degrees.  For the first few weeks (and especially if outdoor temperatures are fluctuating), you may want to bring the birds back into the brooder at night or in bad weather to make sure they don’t get too cold.

Chicks have been introduced to your existing flock

nobody wants henhouse drama, and taking a few simple steps to introduce new birds to old will save a great deal of time and potential injuries from bullying and aggressiveness towards the newbies. At this point it is important to remember if you have youngsters joining your existing flock that everyone needs to be fed chick starter until the youngest bird is 16 weeks. The extra calcium in regular layer feed can harm young chicks.

Treats and Transition: Preparing Chicks to leave the Brooder

it’s a great idea to get your birds used to eating treats (if you plan to offer them) a few days prior to putting them outside. That way, you can use the treats in case you need to lure the birds into a secure space at night. Until they are used to thinking of the coop as “home base” they may need just a bit of encouragement. Just remember, if you start feeding treats (offer no more than 15% of the total diet) you also need to offer grit free choice to aid in digestion.

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