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.
It is important for the right blend of nutrients to be age specific, as this feed lays the groundwork for the birds entire future.
Phase II: The Coop
Within a few weeks, your chicks will soon be big enough to move into their coop.
As they grow it will become obvious that your brooder won’t hold them forever and forming a plan around how and when to introduce them to the coop or outdoors is a great idea.
Here are some important things to remember when moving from baby brooder to adult coop.
Chicks should be mostly feathered – 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.
Chicks should be acclimated – 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 close to what daytime temps will be.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.
Chicks should be integrated – Nobody wants hen-house drama, and taking a few simple steps to introduce new birds to old will save a great deal of time and potential injuries.
These steps include having a “get acquainted” phase when the new and old birds are in separate, but attached areas so they can interact without aggressiveness.
You also want to do the coop consolidation at night so that the old and new flock wake up together to help minimize bullying.
At this point it is also important to remember if you have youngsters joining your existing flock to only feed chick starter to all birds until the youngest bird is 16 weeks. The extra calcium in regular layer feed can harm young chicks.
Chicks should be eating treats and grit – 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.