1st time chicks, advice?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Sarahal88, Dec 31, 2014.

  1. Sarahal88

    Sarahal88 Chillin' With My Peeps

    107
    61
    96
    Dec 31, 2014
    Hi there,

    I have finally moved somewhere with lots of room for chickens and couldn't wait to get started. I have ordered 16 chicks from Meyer Hatchery (I am aware of some negative reviews there, so we'll see how that goes) and I am making preparations for their arrival. I am sure many of these topics have been raised in older threads, and I have been reading those, but I'd sure appreciate some advice specific to my situation!

    1) We are interested in raising our chickens organically, but I am worried about whether organic starter feed would not have the necessary medications that would usually be in a medicated chick starter, and wondering if this would be unwise. Thoughts?

    2) Our current plan is to brood the chicks in our mudroom with a heat lamp, but the mudroom is not heated. In our area, winter lows are usually in the 20's but sometimes lower, but the mudroom is warmer than outside since it is next to the house and enclosed. We do pass through often to go outside. Does this sound too cold/ drafty? Other options would be in the unheated workshop (loud tools used there, sawdust in the air) or inside the house in a seldom-used room next to the kitchen. What do you think? (Also - there is an indoor cat - she can't go in the mudroom but would be able to get in the kitchen room)

    3) Plan is to make a brooder out of our many many excess cardboard boxes for moving, but I've seen advice not to have shavings in there when they are very young in case they eat them? What should the floor of the brooder be?

    4) I've read a lot of different things about when you can remove chicks from the heat. Ours will be 6 weeks old April 1stish, if all goes according to plan. Our last frost date around here is around the first or second week of May. When do you think our chicks should be able to be 100% outdoors with no heat?

    5) My partner in all this likes to make everything rather than buy it, including the feeders and waters for the chicks. I am hesitant to make chick feeders and waters, just worrying about possible toxic materials, drowning or wet chicks, etc. Advice on this matter?


    Thank you so much! I am sure I will have more later...
     
  2. AmyLynn2374

    AmyLynn2374 Humidity Queen

    15,015
    2,479
    416
    Oct 11, 2014
    Gouverneur, NY
    Congrats on the move and the new adventure. I'll answer with what I know:
    1) I have no clue about. Some non organic breeders don't even use the medicated starter.
    2) Many people brood right in their coops or closed porches. The key is to keep them out of any drafts and provide a heat light with efficient heat at the recommended temps. If one end of the brooder has the heat light they can move in and out of the warmth as needed.
    3) I, as many others do, use pine shavings from the beginning. Many put paper towels over it for the first couple days. I put mine directly on the shavings from the start. I don't buy into the eating and choking on shavings theory. Don't use cedar though. Cedar is not good for animals. (I also don't use the fine shavings.)
    4) Chicks should be fully feathered out. With it still be cool, I would give them until 8 weeks personally.
    5) Pintrest has lots of ideas for DIY feeders and wateres!!! I want to try the PVC feeders this spring. When it comes to chicks drowning, the solution there is to put marbles or sterile rocks in the waterer. (I use rocks.) Then even if they get in the water, they are on rocks and can drink from between them.
     
  3. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

    9,545
    2,482
    411
    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    The very first thing you can do to assure very friendly and tame chicks is to construct a brooder that you can place it on a table or other surface to bring it up off the floor. Accessing baby chicks from the top and thrusting your hands at them as you would need to do, resembles a predator to them and it's terrifying. People don't realize this and wonder why their chicks run screeching from their hands.

    The thing about keeping them warm is to make sure there aren't any cold drafts. As long as the brooder sides protect from that, a heat lamp will do the rest. Contrary to what you've probably heard, chicks do not necessarily need 100 degree heat. Sometimes a 100 watt incandescent bulb is plenty of heat. You'll be able to tell if they're warm enough by whether they're stationary under the lamp or running about all over the place, dropping in place for a quick nap. You will typically heat one end of the brooder so the temp is around 85-90F underneath, and allow the other end for them to cool off as needed.

    Don't worry about wood shavings. Yes, they'll eat a few but as long as they have plenty of fresh water, it won't hurt them.

    As for keeping the bedding dry and wood shavings out of the water, I hang my water bottle by cutting slots into the cardboard sides of the brooder and slipping a stick through, then hanging the bottle from this lateral device. As for how to make a hanger for the bottle, I slip it into a small clementine orange netting bag, secure it around the neck of the bottle with wire, and thread a hook through the top of the netting.

    You can get real creative with cardboard appliance boxes. I place two together sometimes and tape them together with a cut-out pass through, for a two-room condo. Cut windows in the sides and the chicks can watch the world go by, further taming them.

    You will want to cover the brooder with something so the chicks don't fly out. Yes, they will, starting around two-weeks. I use cheese cloth. You may want something more sturdy to keep the cat out.

    Elevate the feeder on blocks of wood so shavings don't get into the food. Chicks love stuff to climb on, including little, low perches. I small tub of sand placed in the brooder around the second week will amuse them and you've never seen anything as cute as baby chicks dirt-bathing. It also provides grit when you start giving them treats like melon and lettuce leaves, or meal worms.

    With your brooder on a table, you can pull up a chair and play with your chicks through a drop-down door cut into the side. This makes for about as much fun as it gets raising baby chicks!
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    19,959
    3,125
    476
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    We are interested in raising our chickens organically, but I am worried about whether organic starter feed would not have the necessary medications that would usually be in a medicated chick starter, and wondering if this would be unwise. Thoughts?

    Here is an old write-up I did on medicated feed. It might help you make your decisions. The way I understand it, you cannot use Amprolium and be certified organic.


    First you need to know what the "medicated" is in the medicated feed. It should be on the label. Usually it is Amprolium, Amprol, some such product, but until you read the label, you really don't know. Every "medicated' feed I'm aware of from major brands for chicks that will be layers uses Amprolium, but people on this forum that I trust have posted hat some feeds for broilers have things other than Amprolium. I'll assume it is an Amprolium product, but if it is not, then realize everything I say about it may not apply. And it is possible that the "medicated" is Amprolium AND something else.

    Amprol is not an antibiotic. It does not kill anything. It inhibits the protozoa that cause coccidiosis (often called Cocci on this forum) from multiplying in the chicken's system. It does not prevent the protozoa from multiplying; it just slows that multiplication down. There are several different strains of protozoa that can cause Cocci, some more severe than others. Chickens can develop immunity to a specific strain of the protozoa, but that does not give them immunity to all protozoa that cause Cocci. Little bitty tiny baby chicks can develop that immunity easier than older chickens.

    It is not a big deal for the chicken’s intestines to contain some of the protozoa that cause Cocci. The problem comes in when the number of those protozoa gets huge. The protozoa can multiply in the chicken’s intestines but also in wet manure. Different protozoa strains have different strengths, but for almost all cases, if you keep the brooder dry, you will not have a problem.

    To develop immunity to a specific strain, that protozoa needs to be in the chicks intestines for two or three weeks. The normal sequence is that a chick has the protozoa. It poops and some of the cysts that develop the protozoa come out in the poop. If the poop is slightly damp, those cysts develop and will then develop in the chick's intestines when the chicks eat that poop. This cycle needs go on for a few weeks so all chicks are exposed and they are exposed long enough to develop immunity. A couple of important points here. You do need to watch them to see if they are getting sick. And the key is to keep the brooder dry yet allow some of the poop to stay damp. Not soaking wet, just barely damp. Wet poop can lead to serious problems.

    What sometimes happens is that people keep chicks in a brooder and feed them medicated feed while they are in the brooder. Those chicks are never exposed to the Cocci protozoa that lives in the dirt in their run, so they never develop the immunity to it. Then, they are switched to non-medicated feed and put on the ground where they are for the first time exposed to the protozoa. They do not have immunity, they do not have the protection of the medicated feed, so they get sick. Feeding medicated feed while in the brooder was a complete waste.

    I do not feed medicated feed. I keep the brooder dry to not allow the protozoa to breed uncontrollably. The third day that they are in the brooder, I take a scoop of dirt from the run and feed it to them so I can introduce the protozoa and they can develop the immunity they need to the strain they need to develop an immunity to. To provide a place for that slightly damp poop, I keep a square of plywood in the dry brooder and let the poop build up on that. I don't lose chicks to Cocci when they hit the ground.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeding medicated feed to chicks, whether the protozoa are present or not. It will not hurt them. They can still develop the immunity they need. But unless the protozoa are present, it also does no good.

    If you get your chicks vaccinated for Cocci, do not feed medicated feed. It can negate the vaccinations.


    Our current plan is to brood the chicks in our mudroom with a heat lamp, but the mudroom is not heated. In our area, winter lows are usually in the 20's but sometimes lower, but the mudroom is warmer than outside since it is next to the house and enclosed. We do pass through often to go outside. Does this sound too cold/ drafty? Other options would be in the unheated workshop (loud tools used there, sawdust in the air) or inside the house in a seldom-used room next to the kitchen. What do you think? (Also - there is an indoor cat - she can't go in the mudroom but would be able to get in the kitchen room)

    My brooder is in the coop. I keep chickens in there when the overnight lows are well below freezing. When it is that cold I kind of box it in and heat one end but let the other end cool off as it will. Occasionally there might be frost in the far end. But as long as one area is warm enough they will do fine. The water and feed should be in a fairly warm area. And there should absolutely be no wind blowing on them.


    Plan is to make a brooder out of our many many excess cardboard boxes for moving, but I've seen advice not to have shavings in there when they are very young in case they eat them? What should the floor of the brooder be?

    Many, many people just use shavings and it works out fine. If you wish you can cover the shavings with paper towels the first couple of days until they get used to eating their regular feed. You will find a whole lot of warnings on this forum about things that can possibly happen. You are dealing with living animals so yes things can sometimes happen. You might have a fender bender next time you drive to the grocery store. It’s not likely to happen and should not stop you from driving to the grocery, but it can happen. The possibility of chicks getting in trouble from eating wood shavings is much less likely than your fender bender.

    I've read a lot of different things about when you can remove chicks from the heat. Ours will be 6 weeks old April 1stish, if all goes according to plan. Our last frost date around here is around the first or second week of May. When do you think our chicks should be able to be 100% outdoors with no heat?

    There are a lot of things that go into this. Part of it is how draft-proof your outdoor area is. Can they get out of a wind if they want to? How well acclimated are they? That can affect how fast they fully feather out. I’ve had chicks less than 6 weeks old go through nights with the lows in the mid-20’s Fahrenheit but those were chicks raised in my brooder where they can and do play in the cold end, just going back to the warm end when they need to warm up. It helps too if you have enough that they can snuggle and keep ach other warm when they sleep.

    My partner in all this likes to make everything rather than buy it, including the feeders and waters for the chicks. I am hesitant to make chick feeders and waters, just worrying about possible toxic materials, drowning or wet chicks, etc. Advice on this matter?

    You can get as simple or as complicated as you wish. The chicks don’t care but people often do. You can find all kinds of different homemade waterers and feeders by searching this forum. Others have mentioned a very basic trick, elevate feeders and waterers above the shavings so the chicks don’t scratch bedding into them. If you use a bowl for water, fill it with marbles of something so the chicks can walk on the water. I fill mine with rocks. They are cheaper than marbles and work just as well. It won’t hurt the chicks to walk on them and get their feet wet as long as they have a dry warm part of the brooder to go to so they can warm up if they get cold. They just need to be able to get out of the water bowl when they get in.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. Sarahal88

    Sarahal88 Chillin' With My Peeps

    107
    61
    96
    Dec 31, 2014
    Thanks for this really good information, and the rest in your post as well. We are not really strict about being organic, but just want to raise our animals as naturally as possible. I'll have to do a bunch more research on the feed issue. Do you have a particular chick starter you would recommend? I like the idea of throwing some dirt in with the chicks to get them acclimated to what is in it.
     
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    19,959
    3,125
    476
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    No recommendations. I just get Dumor's from Tractor Supply. It's handy, less expensive than any other options I have locally, it has animal protein, and it works for me. But my goals may be different from yours. You may prefer something different for your own reasons.
     
  7. Folly's place

    Folly's place Overrun With Chickens

    7,280
    1,590
    356
    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Welcome! I would add that a sturdy hardware cloth cover for the brooder will be the best, and that a really motivated cat might chew through cardboard, so plan for good security even if you think kitty can't get to the chicks. I feed Purina, which is fresh and available here all the time. I have had problems with some locally milled feeds, so gave up on them. Fast turnover at the feed store means that the feed should be fresher, which is very important. Cheapest isn't always best, and organic is a choice you need to think about. Official organic is complicated, but paying attention to feed quality is important. Mary
     
  8. AmyLynn2374

    AmyLynn2374 Humidity Queen

    15,015
    2,479
    416
    Oct 11, 2014
    Gouverneur, NY
    x2
     
  9. WhitneyG

    WhitneyG Out Of The Brooder

    34
    2
    34
    Dec 3, 2013
    My advice, concerning your cat: I also have an indoor cat, and raised the chicks inside for the first few weeks. What I did, was put chicken wire over the top of the container I was using, and then I had a lamp/heater pointing down into the container. As long as you keep the wire over it, the cat shouldn't be able to get them. (I also used some mini clamps to clamp the wire to the edge of the container.) However, if you let them out to play with them and hold them, you'll have to be careful not to let the cat around. Hope you enjoy your chicks as much as I do!! :)
     
  10. Purpletie3

    Purpletie3 Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,329
    197
    221
    Apr 30, 2014
    Upstate NY...
    [​IMG]

    This was my attempt to make my brooder puppy and rat proof. Made with a sheet of plywood, old cabinet door, hardware cloth and old metal screens. I had a divider in there between hatches. I felt fairly confident that they were safe! I was using the brinsea brooder ecoglow20...but, only bc I personally felt safer with that.

    Don't use cedar chips...my chick ate them and died.
    Pine shavings seem to be fine to use... I Think the next update to my brooder will be a mesh floor of hardware cloth.

    I prefer organic feed. I just feel more confident organically.

    They have some pretty cool pipe feeders...have your partner be creative! Just need to keep the lil guys from drowning!

    Good luck with them!!! Welcome to the chicken world!
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by