A Guide to the Care of Baby Chicks
Caring for baby chicks
Initially chicks do not need much room because they spend most their time sleeping. This allows you to start with a smaller area, keeping the baby chicks close to the heat, food and water and gradually increase the amount of room they have. This will avoid conflicts, stress amongst the group.
Always wash your hands when caring for baby chicks, using soap and water after handling birds, their equipment and poultry manure. Do not kiss or nuzzle any of your birds. Keep birds outside, away from human habitation and food preparation areas. Always supervise young children around birds, making sure they wash their hands with soap and water after handling chicks, or birds.
Chickens are endlessly fascinating. The more time you spend with them, the more you imprint on them and discover how intensely complex chickens are.
A chick’s body has little temperature control, a group of chicks can stay warm by huddling together in a small space. In their efforts to stay warm, baby chicks are known to huddle so tightly they will smother each other.
BE PREPARED: Have your brooder set up, and operating at the optimal temperature for baby chicks. The floor of your brooder, should be covered with several layers of papertowels. Newspapers can be slippery causing splay legged chicks, papertowels are recommended. The feeder filled and set up with feed sprinkled all over the floor and up to the feeders edge. Use plenty of feed sprinkled around, better to waste some then not have enough for all the chicks to get enough. The chicks will learn to eat easiest this way.
Change papertowels twice a day.
The waterer should be clean and sanitized, waiting until you get home with the new chicks.
As soon as you are home, add lukewarm water and Sav-A-Chick Pack of Electrolyte and Vitamin Supplement for Poultry to the chick waterer. After two days, you will switch to plain fresh water. Having chicks eat and drink right away is very important.
Dip the beak of the chick in the water as you put them into your brooder setup. Your chicks may not be thirsty but a taste of water right away helps them to find it sooner.
Chicks are very small and can squeeze through very small openings. If you are using a metal brooder that has side adjustments. The crack at the bottom is often enough for a chick to get out of. We have had to tape these openings shut many times over the years. They will start to feather within days and be trying their wings out at about 3 weeks of age. Open brooder tops are not recommended past 2 weeks of age, or you could be greeted by chicks out every morning.
This is TWO Affordable brooder options if you do not plan to have chicks year round.
OR This is a FULL SET UP with everything you need to start!
BABY CHICKS NEED: Heat, Feed, Water, Space, and Light.
HEAT: The temperature where the chicks are, should be 90 to 95 degrees for the first week. Reduce the temperature five degrees per week until you get to 70 degrees. It will take you 5 weeks to get to 70 degrees. I wait until the end of that week and they shouldn’t need any heat after 70 degrees. Use a thermometer to measure temperature and most important do not guess.
We have found these to work very well when using a heat lamp bulb.
A good source of heat is a Brinsea Eco-Glow Brooder for Chicks or Ducklings OR a 12″ X 12″ Brooder Hen/Electric Mama Hen Low 20w Chick Heat Plate.
Each type brooder heater below, will have a variety of sizes with the number to chicks it can warm.
FIGHTING OR PICKING (cannibalism); Red colored Bulbs, heat lamp or regular red light bulbs will prevent cannibalism.
FEED: Use a commercial chick starter feed for the first 8-10 weeks of life from your local farm store or feed store. If the food crumble size is to large for the chicks to eat, using a blender or coffee grinder to break it down is helpful. Use a 24″ feeder for each 50 chicks and they will quickly outgrow it. Never let your chicks run out of food.
WATER: The average is one gallon chick waterer for each 50 chicks. Personally I like to keep my chicks in groups of no more than 25. Having smaller groups is easier for me to keep a close eye on each chick. Never let your chicks run out of water.
Most baby chick loss is caused because the chick doesn’t start to eat or drink.
SPACE: The first week, I keep them in a smaller space then is recommended. Once they are a week old, I provide 1/2 square foot per chick. 50 chicks would require a circle approximately 5 to 8 feet across.
LIGHT: If you are using a heat lamp this should be enough light. If you are using a warming plate, you will want to give your chicks light. A 75 watt lightbulb should work during the day and a 15-15 watt at night. Remember when you use the warming plates, lights are necessary to prevent piling. For the first 48 hours, the young chicks are getting oriented to their brooder, food and water and should have continuous lighting. Chicks, like other baby animals, need their rest and should be allowed at least 8 hours of darkness every 24 hours. Red heat lamp bulbs reduce stress and defuse the light enough to stay on 24/7. If your heat source is also the source of light, use a red bulb to reduce stress and discourage the chicks from picking at each other.
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