You’ve went thru your options, thought, possibly flipped a coin and chose the breeds you want to fill your coop and yard with. Now the big day, your chicky chicks are here. So what do you do with them?
Your chicks will either be picked up from a store or directly from the hatchery by you. If you don’t live close to reputable place to buy chicks, they may be shipped in the mail to you. Once chicks arrive they need to be placed in a brooder to stay warm.
What’s a brooder? A brooder is a small pen to house your chicks during one of their most crucial periods. Babies have to stay warm. You are their mother hen, congratulations! You do not need to buy a fancy brooder from a hatchery. Espically if you are only planning on doing a group of chicks here and there. Don’t get me wrong, you can, they work and they’re fairly expensive. We have a homemade brooder. It’s real fancy…
Our brooder is a water steel water tub. I told you, fancy. But it’s effective. We simply bed with pine shavings and then add a feeder, water source, heat lamps, thermometer and of course fluffy chicks! While we live in an old farm house, we’re fortunate to have a heated garage. This helps maintain a nice temp for our fluffy friends. If you’re not sure what to use for a brooder, there are many plans you can find online. Let’s dissect what makes a successful brooder. You don’t want to buy your chicks, only to lose them to some preventable tragedy.
It is crucial to your chicks survival that they stay warm. Like I said earlier, you are their mother hen, which means you have to keep them warm. The first week of life chicks need to stay a constant 95 degrees (F). As each week passes you can back them down about 5 degrees. Ex. 2 weeks in age 90 degrees, 3 weeks in age 85 degrees. This is done by raising and lowering your heat lamps. A thermometer is a helpful tool so your chicks are comfortable.
A chick needs to eat! I prefer trough feeders. They need to be changed frequently to stay free of bedding and poo. In all honesty any tray will do. If your little balls of fluff or going to be layers once they grow up, a 18-20 percent protein chick starter is sufficient. If they are going to become nuggets you may want to look at a 20-22 percent protein starter to have a little higher growth rate.
Most chick feed is medicated to prevent coccidiosis. This is a good thing. We dealt with this in our last batch of chicks. You know what’s not fun? Wiping, yes I said wiping, 30 little chicken butts.
Chicks need plenty of fresh, clean water. Chicks can drowned easily. It’s important to either buy chick sized waterers or add marbles or rocks to a large water so they can only dip their beaks. Adding an electrolyte supplements is always a good idea to give your babies a little extra boost.
We’ve always used heat lamps in ours. Your temp can be adjusted by raising and lowering your lamps. This is where a thermometer is crucial if you have a homemade brooder. It’s also not a bad idea if you splurged on one from the hatchery. That way you can double check. Better to be safe than sorry.
So how do you know if your chicks are too hot or too cold? Happy chicks are chatty, but not frantic. Cold chicks will huddle under lamps and be noisy. Hot chicks will be loud, frantic and spaced out. Save yourself the worry and buy a thermometer.
At 5-6 weeks of age we evict our little ones from our garage. They move to the coop. It’s still outfitted with lights and we have it sectioned off to give them more space as they continue to grow. Chicks still need it to stay around 70 degrees to be happy and growing. By this point in time they have some feathers and need more space than the brooder can provide.
Next post we’ll cover “pullet-hood”, or the teenage years, until maturity. You know what happens with maturity? EGGS!
Here’s links to the first two blog posts in this series: