Raise Baby Chicks In 4 Simple Steps!
Okay, so, you've found your perfect chicks, you've ordered them, and they're due to arrive tomorrow! Now what? How do you raise them properly?!?! This article should (hopefully) answer all your questions, while giving you a step-by-step tutorial on how to raise chicks like a pro!
Step One: Making/Preparing The Brooder
As you may know, the brooder is one of the most important keys to raising chicks, successfully. It houses them, protects them, and restrains them (and their poo). But, not just anything can be used as a brooder. A cardboard box is favored by many a chicken owner, but it is not recommended!
Cardboard boxes are very absorbent, and, therefore, they absorb everything from poop, to water. In no time at all, you have to find a new box. This is not a fun thing to do.
Good things to use as a brooder are Tupperware containers (without the lids!) and wooden shipping crates (these are actually excellent brooders, so if you can find one available, jump on the chance to get it! They can be used over and over again, as long as they are properly disinfected!).
Step Two: Setting Up The Brooder
Now, once you have the appropriate object to become the chicks' brooder, you must set it up. After all, you can't just toss the chicks in, and leave them with no food, water, bedding, or heat! That would be absurd!
To set up the perfect brooder, you will need:
- Pine chips, or shredded newspaper. Paper towels work well too, but pine chips are most common. (Never use cedar chips, these are toxic to chickens, and if swallowed, they can cause death!)
- A water-er, and a feeder. (Good water-er-s and feeders, meant specially for chicks like yours, can be found in your local feed store.)
- A thermometer
- A heat lamp
- Patience: You will need some patience, as putting together a brooder takes some work (as well as a little extra cash <wink>)
When you have gathered your supplies, you can begin preparing/setting up/putting together your brooder.
- First, get the container.
- Then, shake your bedding into the container. (I know, you are not a moron, but this is a step-by-step tutorial. )
- Next, take the water-er and and feeder and clean them thoroughly. New, or not, they must be cleaned before use!
- If your chicks are small, like bantams, or quail, you may want to put clean rocks, marbles, or whatever you have in that vicinity, in the bottom of the water-er. This will prevent drowning.
Step Three: Introducing Your Chicks To Their New Home
No doubt about it, once you are done preparing your brooder, you are going to want to put your chicks in. This can be done immediately after finishing the brooder, but it is not recommended. Chicks are very delicate little creatures, and it only takes a small mistake to make a big mess! It is advised that you prepare your brooder the day before your precious babies arrive. This will allow the bedding and the water to come to room temperature, and give the brooder some time to reach the proper temperature.
Which reminds me: the proper brooder temperature for day old chicks is 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or 33 degrees Celsius. This is actually very important! It is also very important to lower the temperature by 33.8 degrees, or 1 degrees Celsius, every 2-3 days.
When introducing your chicks to their brooder, well, this isn't some fancy-schmancy task, all you do is set them in it, but remember to dip their beaks in the water, and show them where the food is. Dipping their beaks in the water is not cruel, and it's not painful. Just hold the chick, and tip it downward, until it's beak reaches the water. Then, put it near (or in, as I find effective, place it in the food), and make sure to do this with all the chicks. Then, just sit back and watch.
Step Four: Recognizing When The Brooder Needs To Be Cleaned, And How To Clean It
Sniff-sniff... PU! The brooder smells awful! Chances are, after about 5 days (if that!) of having your chicks, you will begin to smell a smell. A smell that is horribly unpleasant! Your dear, sweet little angels, so innocent in their brooder, can sure make a horrible smell! It's time to clean the brooder!
Yes, this is a part of raising chickens: cleaning up after them. Unless of you have some amazing chicken, that somehow never poos. If you do, tell me your secret! But, alas, on to an unpleasant subject: brooder cleaning-how to!
Here is the how-to on brooder cleaning:
- Remember that shipping box your chicks came in? Put all your chicks back in it! No, of course you're not sending them back to the hatchery! But, this box will keep them contained while you work. (Note: if your chicks are a lot bigger than they were when they arrived, then they will need a different box. Any cardboard box with air-holes will do!)
- Next, find some kind of scoop. Be it a QT cup, a small shovel, a trowel, a dogfood scoop, anything that will scoop something will work.
- Once you've found your scoop, you can begin scooping the bedding out. Have a trashcan, or a plastic bag, or something available to toss the dirty bedding into.
- Replace the bedding with fresh (remember, never use cedar!)
- This is a good time to refresh the water and (maybe) the food. Again, thoroughly clean the water-er, and (maybe) get fresh food for your chicks.
- Re-ad your chicks, and voila! A clean brooder!
Tips and Warnings:
Tip/Warning: When using a small brooder, you may want to get a screen for the top of it, otherwise you run the risk of letting Fluffy the dog, or Whiskers the cat get one of your babies, Trust me, this has happened before, and it is a very painful experience.
Warning: Make sure you check for pasty butt and Coccdiosis. These ailments can harm your chicks.