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Crazy and erratic chick behavior in brooder -- normal at this point?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by concernedaboutchick, Aug 5, 2010.

  1. concernedaboutchick

    concernedaboutchick In the Brooder

    Jul 21, 2010
    I have a batch of 2 and 1/2 week old chicks (fourteen of them) in a makeshift brooder in my spare bedroom and lately over the past few days they've been going more and more berserk in there, although I'm not sure if it's just because of my presence in the room at the times when i'm observing this behavior. I'm also not sure if the brooder might be the cause of their craziness...it's 16 square feet and I don't know if that's too cramped for birds of their size or if something else is the problem. I just posted pics as well as a detailed description of it in the brooder thread, here: https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=4628486#p4628486

    When I go in the room and do things like change their water or food they'll run crazily the other way and sometimes half-fly over to the other side. I'll also see pairs of them sort of "fly at" each other occasionally, as if they're fighting but they don't seem to be pecking or scratching, just flying up at each other in short bursts, making sort of screeching noises as they do. None of them appear injured or harmed, but they all seem pretty tightly wound and I was wondering what I could do about it. I've noticed that when I physically get in the brooder with them and kneel/sit down on their level, they're far less worried about me and will even come over to inspect me, albeit briefly and cautiously.

    The other thing I'm wondering about is if the heat lamp/temperature could be the problem. They started out with the heat lamp right over the brooder and the thermometer read about 92 or 93, then I tried moving it further away after the first week had gone by but that only made it go down to 89 or 90. I moved it into all different corners of the room, wherever I could find a place to clamp it, but the temp has remained between 88 - 90 since then. I moved it to one corner so that part of the brooder was in shadow so they could go there to escape the heat if they wanted and later on I found them all sleeping in the shadowed side, which made me think it was too hot. So then I moved the heat lamp even further away on the opposite side of the room so there was more shadow and less lit area and I checked on them later to find them all sleeping in the lit part. In both cases the temp was still right around 90. I'm not sure what else to do since the room isn't very big and there aren't many other places I could put the heat lamp...any suggestions?

    Any help or advice with calming them down or making them tamer would be great [​IMG]
  2. midd2005

    midd2005 Chirping

    May 22, 2010
    not sure about the crazy problem really. i will say that mine get more wound up when i approach. maybe they are expecting a treat or something.

    but as to the heat, why not try a lower wattage bulb? also what is the ambient temp without a light at all?
  3. beachchickie

    beachchickie Songster

    Dec 6, 2009
    I am certainly not a chicken mind reader but mine have always acted like that when they were chicks. I always thought they were a little skiddish or a little bored. I have been very quiet and sneaked in the room and watched them for fun- they ate, slept, poohed, and acted the same way you described. They did act a little more erratic when they were aware of my presence. Who really know. One thing I do know is be careful with cardboard boxes they radiate heat very well and you could cook them before there is enough meat on them to eat.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2010
  4. PunkinPeep

    PunkinPeep Songster

    Mar 31, 2009
    SouthEast Texas
    I second the suggestion to change the bulb to a lower watt - or depending on how they are acting, you might be able to remove the heat altogether. Too much heat can make chicks more aggressive, but if no one is drawing blood, i would say they're acting pretty normal. Especially at that age, they tend to kind of spaz out when the giant who feeds them peeks over the edge of the box.
    Al Capon likes this.
  5. BackToMyRoots

    BackToMyRoots Chirping

    Jun 29, 2010
    Matthews, NC
    Yep, mine were pretty spastic at that age, too. I recall seeing them fly across the brooder, jump over each other, repeatedly fly up and bounce off of the top of the brooder, etc. One time I started to take off the wire mesh lid to clean the brooder and one of them flew up and perched on the edge in front of my face. We were both shocked! [​IMG]

    I think they're just full of pent-up energy at that age and needing to exercise a lot. Have you tried putting in some cat toys (anything they can't eat), a perch, and/or some paper towel and toilet paper rolls for them to interact with? I felt less worried about mine when they were spazzing out about toys rather than spazzing out about nothing, and making the environment more challenging might be closer to what they'd experience following mama in the real world.
  6. Hillsvale

    Hillsvale Songster

    Oct 20, 2009
    Hillsvale, Nova Scotia
    Quote:I agree... babies are insane and hungry! They are fine
  7. I would highly suggest creating a play area outside. Fence in an area a little bigger than their brooder with rabbit wire and cover with bird netting. Secure netting with clothes pins and use tomato stakes to hold the fence in place. This set up can be moved every day or other day as needed. Take the chicks outside for less than an hour at first. I prefer the cool of the evening when the bugs are starting to become active. Bring a chair and a cold drink and watch them. When you see them starting to calm down and doze off, it's time to bring them back inside.

    If you have a helper, the outside play time is a great time to clean the brooder. I would not leave this age group (less than a month olds) unattended for any length of time if it could be helped. Expect them to be so exhausted that they zonk as soon as they are back in the brooder.

    When you watch shows like Dog Whisperer or It's Me or the Dog, they talk about enriching the environment of the animal to prevent boredom and bad behaviors. I'd call chasing crickets and grasshoppers chicken enrichment. [​IMG]
  8. concernedaboutchick

    concernedaboutchick In the Brooder

    Jul 21, 2010
    Quote:Not sure about the ambient temp; it's been between 70 and 80 here recently, dipping into the 40s and 50s at night and 60s in the late evening but there will still be days where it gets up into the high 80s. As for inside, there's usually air conditioning but the room they're in is the hottest in the house without the heat lamp so I'm not sure. I'll try turning it off for a while and see what happens. The place that I got the heat lamp only sells one size and wattage of red heat bulb but I can try looking around at other stores too.

    Quote:I'll try putting a cat toy in there for them; thanks for the advice! Any suggestions for how to put a perch in?
  9. Arcane Araucana

    Arcane Araucana In the Brooder

    Jun 14, 2010
    Fort Mohave
    I read on another post that someone's chicks would go crazy whenever they came up to the brooder. S/he was able to put the brooder up more at eye level so the chicks didn't think they were being attacked by a predator swooping down on them from above. Since your brooder in on the floor and you come and go out of the room, maybe they are just following their natural instinct to run and hide. Maybe you could try approaching the brooder lower (like crawling over) until they get to recognize its you. I know it sounds weird, but it can't hurt to try.
  10. ODchickens

    ODchickens Chirping

    Oct 7, 2014
    Great post!
    My wife and I just got our first bunch of chicks and this is happening to us when we approach the brooder. They seem to be very happy all the time. I have a brooder camera so I can watch them anytime. Their behavior seems fine and when we get close they huddle up and/or move around erratically. Fun to watch but concerned. Once picked up they seem ok but they are fast and tricky to catch.
    Now I know it's not just our hens.

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