New Chick Checklist – Tips for Getting Started

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.

 

How Much Heat Should Baby Chicks Have?

Baby chicks have the remarkable ability to find their ideal zone of warmth in the brooder and if you simply note your chicks’ positions, you’ll know whether the brooder temperature is too hot, not warm enough, or juuuuust right.

Temperature Correct

If the heat level is just right, chicks will be evenly spread throughout the brooder. With adequate food and fresh water, you’ll hear them making contented peeping sounds.

Temperature Too High

If your chicks are spread out around the perimeter of the brooder the temperature is likely too high. Raise the heat lamp another couple of inches and/or switch to lower wattage bulbs. The chicks will be silent and you may notice them panting and heads drooping.

Temperature Too Low

If the brooder is too cool, chicks will huddle together directly under the heat lamp. They will be noisy, a sign of distress. Lower the lamp closer to the floor of the brooder and/or put in higher watt bulbs.

Other Problems

Chicks huddled together in one spot on the perimeter of the brooder suggests they are uncomfortable and requires investigation. This distribution may be caused by a draft, external noises that are scaring them or uneven light distribution.

Warmth is critical to baby chicks, but their need for artificial heat diminishes as they age.

So how do you know if your brooder is the right temperature for your new chicks? In addition to noting your chicks’ positions in the brooder, a thermometer is a great tool. Brand new baby chicks prefer temperatures just under 100 degrees. However, their need for heat decreases about 5 degrees per week until they are about 10 weeks of age.

Approximate Heat Needs by Age
Week 1 90 – 95°
Week 2 85 – 90°
Week 3 80 – 85°
Week 4 75 – 80°
Week 5, 6, 7 70 – 75°
Week 8 65 – 70°
Week 9 65° minimum

Where to Place Lamps?

Suspend two lamps, each fitted with an incandescent 60-watt bulb, 12-18 inches above the floor of the brooder. Gooseneck lamps work, or infrared heat lamps can be purchased at your feed dealer. These can be fitted with special heat bulbs, but often an incandescent bulb will produce enough heat.

How Many Lamps?

Two lamps are important. If one burns out in the wee hours of the night, the other will keep the chicks warm until morning. Placing a sheet of cardboard over the brooder helps retain heat, but be very cautious about keeping anything flammable away from hot bulbs.