Many people will start out thinking there is nothing to
raising chicks until they get some and find themselves with a very depressing
experience in just a few days.
So make sure your experience is a positive one and you have
the knowledge it takes to raise healthy chicks.
The chick's first home will be the brooder. The size
of the brooder will depend on the number of chicks you have. Aim for at least
2.5 sq feet per chick, if possible, more is better. The bottom of the brooder
should have a layer of clean litter (pine shavings or similar). For very small
chicks paper towels over wood shavings is recommended. Newspaper is slippery
underfoot and can cause foot or leg problems in chicks. Therefor it is not
suitable for a brooder floor cover. The litter should be changed out every
couple of days, and never allowed to remain damp - cleanliness is VERY
important at this stage. Baby chicks are prone to a number of diseases, such as
Coccidiosis, which thrives in a damp environment. This and other chick health
problems can be avoided with proper sanitation. When the chicks are around a
month old, add a low roost about 4" off the floor of the brooder to
encourage the chicks to start roosting. Don't put it directly under the heat
lamp, it will be too warm there.
The brooder can be heated by using a light bulb with a
reflector, available at any hardware store. A 100-watt bulb is usually fine,
though some people use an actual heat lamp. The temperature should be 90-95
degrees for the first week in the warmest part of the brooder and should be
reduced by around 5 degrees each week thereafter, until the chicks have their
feathers (5-8 weeks old). A thermometer in the brooder is helpful, but you can
tell if the temperature is right by how the chicks behave. If they are panting
and/or huddling in corners farthest from the light, they are too hot. If they
huddle together in a ball under the light, they are too cold. You can adjust
the distance of the light (or change the wattage of the bulb) until it's right.
Make sure you always have cooler spots in the brooder where the chicks
can cool down if they feel the need to.
Food and water
Make sure you always have fresh, clean water available for
your chicks. Place the waterer as far as possible away from the heat lamp and
if you are using a bowl, fill it with marbles or clean pebbles to help prevent
the chicks from drowning or getting soaked if they accidentally fall in.
For starters, upon removal from the box, dip the animal’s beak into the
water mixture to familiarize them where their feedings come from. Do the
transferring one chick at a time.
Even baby chicks will naturally scratch at their food, so a
feeder that (more or less) keeps the food in one place is good.
A popular design is made of galvanized steel; the top slides off to clean
and fill it. Again, cleanliness is important; the chicks will poop right into
their own food, so you must clean and refill it often. Chicks start out with
food called "crumbles". It is specially formulated for their
dietary needs; it comes both medicated or not. Medicated feed is usually
medicated with a small amount of Amprolium drugs, which helps prevent
Coccidiosis. If you choose non-medicated feed, pay more attention to
cleanliness. Chick crumbles is a complete food - no other food is necessary.
However, feeding your chicks treats can be fun. After the first week or two,
you can give them small amounts of treats every day. Remember when feeding
treats to offer the chicks grit to help them break down the new food. If you
cannot find chick size grit, coarse sand works just as well.
Chicks are insatiably curious - after the first week or two,
they can be put outside for short periods of time if the temperature is warm.
They MUST be watched at this age, however. Chicks can move fast, squeeze
into small spaces, and are helpless against a variety of predators, including
the family dog or cat. If they have bonded to you (the first large thing
a baby chicks sees is forever it's 'mama', this is called "imprinting"),
they will follow you around. Chickens become fond of their owners; some will
come when you call them (and some won't!).
Keeping chicks healthy
Chicks are prone to a condition called "pasty
butt" where dropings stick to their vents and clog it up, making it
impossible for them to relieve themselves. If left untreated this can kill
them. Check your chicks' bottoms every few hours, especially during the first 2
weeks. If you find a pasty bottom carefully soak and remove the plug, pat the
area and dry and apply a little vaseline or vegetable oil to the area. Organic
ACV (apple cider vinegar) in their drink water is found to really help prevent
this condition. A ratio of 3-4 tablespoons to a gallon water is recommended.
In addition to this article, here are a few suggestions
that our members has suggested.
Moisten their food, they digest it easier
Molasses in the water helps prevent pasty butt
Feed baby chicks scrambled eggs to give them a boost
Add sugar to waterers to give a boost