Wednesday, March 23, 2011
So you are about to get baby chicks. A few Tips.
My blue cochins as chicks. That is Peach.
If you are planning on getting chicks this spring here are a few tips:
1. Make sure you have extra time on the day you pick up or receive your chicks. You will want to be with them of course, but you will also want to check in on them every few hours to make sure they are ok.
2. You can certainly mix different breeds together, just be aware that different breeds have different personalities and each bird has a unique personality. Every flock has a Boss. In my flock it is Paprika a white Brahma, she is big, loud and always is the first to greet me at the barn.
3. Choose a location for the "brooder" (this is the hen nursery). It must be predator (including house pets) proof! And also must be draft free. Babies need to be warm.
4. For the brooder you could use a big box with holes in it, a big plastic tub, a cardboard box unfolded and rolled into a pen. You get the idea. Just make sure there is plenty of ventilation and that each chick has 2 square feet of space. This seems big, but watch how fast they grow!
4. HEAT! Babies need to be hot. For the first week of life they need the brooder to be above 90 degrees. Then the temperature can come down about 5 or 6 degrees each week after. I use a 250 watt infrared heat lamp. I hang it over my brooder (which has a thermometer in it) and am constantly checking to make sure it is the right temperature. Here is one thing to look for - if the chicks are all huddled together under the lamp, they are cold. If they are at the edges of the brooder they are trying to cool off. They should all be simply walking around and exploring with each other.
5. Line the brooder with newspaper under pine shavings (NOT CEDAR - too perfumey). Deep shavings though because just plain paper can make for a slippery surface and the chicks can hurt their legs with only newspaper. Change the bedding often.
6. Water. Use a specific chick waterer. A dish can be dangerous. You will also have to teach your chicks how to drink. When you first get them gently dip their beaks into the water.
7. Feed. Get a chick feeder. I actually used a little bowl once and they tipped it over and trapped one of their flock mates. Luckily I was right there. I would recommend an organic chick starter (Not Layer). Starter has more protein. Feed them as much as they want.
8. By about 6 weeks your chicks should be able to go out. It should be above 65 degrees.
9. "Pasting up". This can kill your chicks so look for it every time you are at the brooder. Inspect each little hen. It is when the poop cakes up on their booty, over the vent. Which means they then can poop anymore. You should try and pull it off immediately. Apply warm wet paper towel to soften it up then peel it away.
List of things you need:
Brooder pen (box, tub)
Heat lamp, 250 watt red lamp
Organic Chick "Grower" feed