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Getting Ready to Raise Chicks

Category Chickens
Prior to bringing home your new chicks you will want to get all of your supplies and set out their brooder box. Then the fun begins. This is a guide about getting ready to raise chicks.
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May 28, 2013

Raising chicks is easier than you think and can be very rewarding. Besides being a fun family activity, your family will also benefit from healthier eggs than you will find at the grocery store.

Supplies:

  • brooder box - a large (at least 18 in. deep) plastic tub, carboard or wooden box
  • reflector heat lamp with guard
  • 250 watt infrared bulb (red reflector)
  • chick starter food (organic, medicated, or non-medicated)
  • chick feeder base w/ bottle (some can use a mason jar)
  • chick water base w/ bottle (some can use a mason jar)
  • GEM white pine shavings (DO NOT use cedar shavings)
  • chicken wire (you will eventually need to cover the box)
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Steps:

  1. Chicks require food, water, warmth, and protection. It is best to get everything set up before you bring home your chicks.
  2. Setting Up the Brooder Box:

    When selecting a box consider that average size chicks needs 6 sq. in. each. Also, keep in mind how easy it will be to clean the container that you select. I chose a plastic tub so it would be easy to clean.

    Place 1-2 inches of bedding into the bottom of the box. Pine shavings will help absorb moisture, dry out droppings, and help keep odors under control. Never use paper (including newspaper), cardboard, plastic, or any other slippery surface. Being on a slippery surface can harm the development of the chicks' legs. Also do not use cat litter, leaves, straw, cedar shavings, or hay.

    If you set your brooder box on the floor, you should place something (cardboard, throw rug, etc.) under it to insulate it from the cold floor. This is especially good if you have the brooder box in the garage on a cement floor.



    By two weeks of age, the chicks can potentially escape the brooder box. Trimming down a piece of chicken wire to cover the box will help keep them inside and safe. I recommend putting the cover on early to avoid any mishaps.
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  4. Lighting and a Heat Lamp:

    It is important for the chicks to be able to move away from or towards the heat source as needed to keep them comfortable. Watching their behavior with the heat source is a good way to know whether the lamp it too low or too high. If the chicks are huddled under the lamp they are likely too cold. If they remaining along the perimeter a lot they are probably too hot. When they are comfortable, they will move around the brooder freely, in and out of the heat. Ideally, hang the heat lamp in the center so they have space on either end to move to.



    It is very important to secure the heat lamp from above with a chain to prevent it from falling into the brooder box and causing a fire. The clamp that it comes with is not enough to ensure safety. The chain will also make it easier to move the light up and down as needed.

    It might be easiest to start with the heat lamp suspended about 1 ft. from the bottom of the brooder box. If the chicks are content leave it there and move it up as needed. It may take a little trial and error to get it just right, so check on the chicks often.

    A good rule of thumb is:

    95 degrees F - week 1
    90 degrees F - week 2
    85 degrees F - week 3
    80 degrees F - week 4
    75 degrees F - week 5
    70 degrees F - week 6

    After the 6th week, a heat lamp is generally not required. If needed, use the heat lamp to keep them at about 60 degrees F, through 3 months of age, if the weather is colder.
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  6. Feeding and Watering:

    When you purchase feed you will need to decide if you want to use medicated or non-medicated feed. Additionally, now is the time to consider if you want to use organic feed.

    Medicated feed contains antibiotics and medications that will help prevent disease and can help control parasites. While a good option for some, other people may choose to avoid the use of this feed so that they do not consume any remnants of these antibiotics in eggs or meat. One step further is to feed them organic feed, which is also non-medicated.

    It is important to keep food available to them at all times and to make sure it remains dry and free of fecal matter. Change the feed often and keep the container clean. If you find that the chicks are frequently pooping in it or kicking shavings into it, you can place something under the feeder to keep it up off the bottom a little bit. A small piece of wood or a brick are good options for this.



    The chicks also need continued access to clean, cool water. It is best to not place the waterer underneath the heat lamp, this will help prevent algae and bacteria from developing. Again, if the water is getting really dirty, you can raise it up a bit to help keep it clean. For chicks, it is important to use a proper water base (that is shallow), as chicks can drown in just a few inches of water.

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  8. Once all of these items has been taken care of it is time to get your chicks. Once you purchase them it is essential to get them into the brooder box as soon as possible. They will quickly get cold without a heat source.
  9. Following these simple instructions will help you enjoy your chicks while keeping them and yourself safe and healthy.

    Handling the Chicks:

    Chicks are delicate and need to be handled with care. With children, it is important to help them handle the chicks. They can easily suffocate if held too tightly. They can also be injured if they are accidentally dropped or handled too roughly.



    Getting to know the chicks is important, especially for chickens that you intend to keep as pets. They don't need to be picked up every time you see them (as this can be stressful), but gently petting them and just being nearby watching them are great ways for them to become familiar with you. As adults, they will be less likely to see you as a predator. Chickens can be as friendly as dogs if raised closely with their human family. :)

    For Your Health:

    While avian flu is a risk with birds, Salmonella is a much more likely hazard. It is very important to wash your hands with hot water and soap after handling the chicks. This is also true after handling the waterer, feeder, brooder box, soiled bedding, or anything else that may have become contaminated. Be sure to strictly enforce this with children as they are more likely to put their hands in their mouths or eat without washing their hands.

    Additionally, do not allow children to hold the chicks to their face or put their mouths on the edges of the brooder box. These are other easy ways for children to get very sick.
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Comment Was this helpful? 6

Comments

May 28, 20130 found this helpful
Top Comment

I love chickens! I thought I would post how I make a brooder for my chicks:

I use a big tub, that is see through. I also use those grates, the plastic ones from the box fans that have broken in the past. I take the grates and attach them to the plastic storage tub's handles which has holes in them them under the snap on handle. I took off the snap on handle. Then I attached one side of the plastic grate and then the other grate I attached. They open in the middle.

I have it under a lamp, but our chicks were older and I didn't use a heat lamp but a regular lamp that was about the level it needed to be. It has worked out. I put a book on top of the grates to keep the cats out. Also to provide some shade. I have a heat lamp but I don't like it. We have raised lots of chicks with this set up.
Here is a pic or two. I normally use pine shavings, but since we only have two I have been using paper towels and changing them all the time. If I had the pine shavings I would use them but I don't like them really.

The box on top hides the glare when people are reading by the brooder.

We have a lot of fun with our chicks.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
May 29, 20130 found this helpful
Top Comment

I love the idea of using a clear tub. That way you can see them from all angles. :)

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
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