It’s that time of year. You walk into the farm store and it is the first thing you hear. You follow the sound, and you are lead to little chirping bundles of joy. Baby chicks, all fluffy and cute. You can’t resist. You give in to the cuteness and buy some. Or, maybe you look on-line or in a hatchery catalog and you order some. Either way, you now have a flock of chickens to raise. Now what?
Let’s go over some supplies you will need BEFORE you bring your chicks home.
A brooder is a structure used for raising young poultry. This is a DIY project that you can easily make with some items you may already have on hand, such as a plastic or metal container, cardboard box, or a plastic pet carrier. The size needed will depend on how many chicks you have. The chicks will need enough room to move around.
You will also need to cover the top with something that will allow circulation for the chicks, but also provides protection from predators (cats, dogs, etc). On the brooder pictured above, we used hardware cloth, folded down onto the plastic tub. Chicks grow quickly and will soon start flapping their wings and begin to fly. You don’t want them to escape their secure habitat.
BROODER LIGHT AND RED LIGHT BULB
You can purchase a brooder light and bulbs at your local farm store. The red light bulb is more suitable because the white light bulbs can be very bright and distracting to a young chick that is trying to sleep.
The lamp has a clamp attached to it. You can attach it directly to the brooder that you construct, some type of pole beside the brooder, or like we have done, to a scrap board that is laid between two chairs.
Your local farm store should carry thermometers that are brooder specific. Using one will help to monitor and regulate the correct temperature in the brooder.
FOOD CONTAINER AND FOOD
You can use the base of an egg carton as a feeder, but keep in mind that the chicks will be moving around and jumping on this, possibly knocking it over and making a mess. For a couple of dollars, I prefer the commercially made feeders for my baby chicks. The top and bottom twist together securely, making less of a mess if knocked over.
Starter feed is recommended for baby chicks, as they start life. Commercially made chicken feed is fortified with vitamins and minerals to support healthy growth and development. Always have food available for your chicks. Follow directions on the bag for length of feeding time. Continually check food and container, keeping it clean.
WATER CONTAINER AND WATER
It is best to use a container similar to the one pictured, verses an open container, such as a plastic bowl. As mentioned with the food container, the chicks will be moving around and could possibly knock it over, making a mess in the brooder. As with food, always have water available for your chicks. Keep it as clean as possible.
Keep the food and water containers at opposite ends of the brooder, away from each other and away from the heat lamp.
There are many different things that people use for bedding – newspapers, paper towels, and pine shavings (our preference) are common ones. The chicks are going to eat, drink, poo, and sleep here, so it is important to keep it clean. If you use pine shavings, don’t create a thickness that the chicks will get ‘lost’ in. Enough to cover the floor of the brooder is sufficient for tiny chicks.
A PLACE TO KEEP THE BROODER AND CHICKS
You will need to keep the chicks in the brooder, under the heat lamp for 5 – 6 weeks, before they will be ready to outside and start living in a coop.
It is important to set the brooder up in a location that is free of drafts and safe from predators (inside cats, dogs, etc). A basement or spare room in your home are common locations. They will need constant care while in the brooder stage. Make sure you (or someone reliable) is available during this important time.
They will grow fast, but during this time they can be messy. Baby chicks, like grown chickens, like to scratch the bedding material. This creates a fine dust that can be in the air and get on things. Keep this in mind when selecting a location.
Here at LL Farm, we have our brooder and supplies set up and are anxiously waiting for our chicks to arrive next week!
In my next post, we will devise a week by week guideline for raising day old chickens through egg laying age.