Raising Baby Chicks in a Brooder
I have been receiving alot of questions about how we raised all our chicks, so I thought I would write up a blog about it. There are many, many different ways to raise chicks but this is how we do it here at the Farm! Enjoy!
*This is only if you are just starting out. Integrating chicks into your already established flock requires other tasks.
Researching Chicks: Before we even bought our house in March 2014 I was researching chickens. What breeds, how to house them and how to raise day old baby chicks! I researched breeds and chose different breeds to kin of get a feel for each of them. I did purchase through two hatcheries. One I was Cackle Hatchery and the other was Ideal Hatchery. I can say if I every bought hatchery chicks again I would only use Ideal because not one died an they were all sexed properly, meaning if I ordered girls I got girls. I got way too many boys that I didn't order from Cackle Hatchery and I had 10 die within the first couple of days of receiving them.
So a little definition education:
A "pullet" is a girl
A "cockerel" is a boy
A mix of the two is called a "straight run"
I am not going to go into breeds and what breeds are good versus not but feel free to ask me in the comments more if you want to know which breeds I am enjoying, personally they kind of all vary. So, I ordered a total of 70+ chicks. I receive them at the post office, which is weird when you do it for the first time. You pick up a box of "chirp chirps" going on and everyone that isn't use to this will stare at you!
Figure Out A Brooder Design: Before we got our chicks we got their "brooder" ready. You want their brooder to be in a safe place and warm, along with easy for you to check on them and clean their area up. We use our garage. I use plastic totes and then just cut the center of the lid out. I do this so I can easily unlock the lid to clean and access them along with giving them food and water. The ideal space will depend on how many you will be getting but you typically want about 2.5sq ft per chick especially if you want to house them for awhile as they grow fast!
(Our other brooder set of totes. I like the gray one better as it is longer)
Prepping the Brooder: You want a heat lamp close but not too close that it will melt or start a fire! I had to adjust a few times cause yep the lid started to melt. You will see in the pictures when you scroll down that I attached these tubs and I also added a longer tub that I found. (I had two brooders, which equal to four tubs, in my garage so don't let that confuse you) With these two I could hold 25 chicks. I did not order all my 70 at once they were a month apart. (40 first batch and the rest the month after) You want to make sure whatever brooding tub you use that it doesn't have "corners" as they will pile up and suffocate each other. So as you can see below in the image the tubs have nice rounded corners.
See the thermometer taped onto the tub in the image below? This is a must have as you always want to check the temps of the brooder. The temperature for when you receive the chicks needs to be rather high 90-95 is good typically, but if they are huddling you want more heat and if they are laying away from the heat you can cool it down some but the first few days keep them warm (90-95) because if their body temps drop they wont survive! You also want it where if the chicks are too hot they have a place to move where they can cool down. You reduce the temperature typically 5 degrees less each week til you reach about the same temp as it is outside. Once this happens we take them off the lights. Typically this occurs at about 4-6 weeks depending on the season of raising.
See them all cuddling...aren't they cute?
Receiving Your Chicks: First thing I do is, I turn the heat lamp on before I get my chicks whether it be from a breeder or the post office. You want the space nice and warm for them cause they might have had a rather long journey to get to you!We then line the bottom of ours with paper towels (two layers worth) for the first few days and sprinkle food around on the paper towels along with having their feeders and waterers very near. We change theses towels 1-2 times a days with the amount of chicks we had pooping.
When you first receive your lovely chirping package (or if you get day old chicks from a breeder), you want to dip all their beaks into the waterer so they realize where their water is and just kind of observe them and see how they are acting.
Do they all seem fairly active and running around pecking at the food? If so great! If not watch those ones as they might be a little disorientated from the trip to your homestead!
This is our second batch of chicks and the image below shows the hole I cut out and connected the two totes with just some gorilla tape.
Watch your chicks for these problems that are common:
Our dog, May, standing guard, however I dont dare let her near grown chickens as she will fetch them and bring them to me thinking she did a good job of "hunting."
Let me know if you have other questions. I posted a few of my recommended reading material to help with raising of chicks!
This is how we raise our baby chicks at Aisling Farms! Enjoy your new members of your family!
Other Helpful Links:
Brooding & Rearing Fact Sheet