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Caring For Your New Chicks

 

When you get home with your new chicks your brooder box should be warm and ready to go.Chicks need a warm, draft free environment.  The common rule for temperature requirements are as follows:

 

1st week – 95 degrees

2nd week – 90 degrees

3rd week – 85 degrees

4th week – 80 degrees

5th week – 75 degrees

6th week – 70 degrees

 

Heat is generally not required after the 6th week but if raising chicks in the fall or winter I take my time putting them out and will put a light in the coop with them for awhile if it is cold.

 

We do not use the temperature chart above.  I included it so that you have an idea of the kind of temps that they need. Putting them in a warm room is not enough.  I find it is much easier to let the chicks tell us when they are at a comfortable temperature.  The brooder we use is a box with a 250 watt heat lamp suspended over it.  We prefer the red heat lamp bulbs.  The heat is adjusted by raising or lowering the heat lamp.  The chicks let us know when the temperature is right by the position they take in the box.  If they are too warm they will move away from the light.  If they are too cold they will stay in a tight huddle directly under the light.  If the temperature is right they will move in and out of the light as needed and their sleeping pattern will be in a ring right along the outside edge of the light.  We position the light over one end of the box so they can move under or away from the heat as needed.

 

The brooder box itself can be cardboard, plastic or wood.  When the chicks get to be 2 weeks old you will need some kind of wire screen to put over the top of your box to prevent he chicks from jumping out.  When hanging the heat lamp over the box, do not rely on the clamp or electric cord alone to hold the lamp in place.  Always use a safety chain to prevent the lamp from falling into the box or against any surface that could catch on fire.  Heat lamps coming into contact with combustible materials are a fairly common cause of fires.  Place your brooder box in a draft free spot.  You may want to brood your chicks in the house so you can enjoy them and watch their progress in comfort.  Others would probably prefer to raise them in a garage or outbuilding as the chicks generate a lot of dust.

 

I like to put about a 1 inch layer of white shavings into the brooder box covered with a layer of paper towels.  Do not use newspaper or any slick material for bedding because it can cause irreversible leg problems in the chicks.  Also, do not use shavings that have any cedar in them.  Cedar is toxic to the chicks.  We use the paper towels, putting a fresh layer in when needed, until the chicks are at least 3 days old so they learn to eat their food and not the shavings.  Then the paper towels can be removed and the shavings alone can be used as bedding.

 

Depending on the feed that you use, the chicks can “paste up”.  Watch for dried poop covering their vent area.  This must be removed so it does not prevent elimination.

 

Your chicks will require a “chick starter” feed until they are 6 weeks old.  This can be purchased with or without added medication for coccidiosis.  We use un-medicated, organic feed for all of our own chicks here at Raincreek.  After 6 weeks of age the chicks should be switched to a “grower” feed.  At about 6 months old or when they start laying they should be changed over to a “layer feed”.  Grit should also be made available to your chicks.  Grit is available in chick size (fine) and hen size (medium).  In addition to feed and grit your chicks will need a constant supply of clean, fresh water.  Keeping your feeder and waterer clean can be challenging.  A good method is to raise them up on blocks as the chicks grow.  The higher they are the less likely that litter will get kicked into them.  Just make sure that the chicks can still easily access the food and water and raise them up as the chicks grow.

 

Watching the chicks in the brooder box is still a great pleasure for Andy and me.  We hope that you will enjoy your chicks as much as we do.  Please contact us if you have any further questions about caring for your chicks.

 

Pam Buck (253) 973-8068