Need advice on completely starting over with chickens

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by countrygalut, Feb 18, 2015.

  1. countrygalut

    countrygalut In the Brooder

    Feb 18, 2015
    Hi there, I'm a brand new member of this group, after reading lots of posts over the past couple weeks I have decided to join and ask for advice. We had a devastating fire on our property last August in which all our outbuildings were burned to the ground, our chicken coop included. All of my chickens perished in this fire. We have spent the past 6 months doing demolition and clean-up, and we've recently started rebuilding. Our new coop will be finished in a couple of weeks, and I have chicks scheduled to arrive in April. I've had chickens for a long time, but my concern is that I've never had so many chicks at once before. I've had up to 8 chicks at a time, because we've always had some adults around at the same time. Since I'm having to start completely over, I've ordered 30 chicks. It's been a few years since I had any chicks, and usually we have hens to tend them. I'm a bit stressed thinking I might lose a few because there will be so many to tend. Are there any risks with raising this many chicks together? For the first two weeks they will likely be kept in the house downstairs inside a wooden box 4 feet square and about 18 inches high. I planned to use pine shavings for the substrate while they are in the house for easy cleaning until they can be moved out into the coop. Is there anything special I should arrange for them aside from the basics of a heat lamp, food and water? I feel kind of silly being so stressed about keeping a bunch of baby chicks alive, but I am concerned that the disease and mortality rates go up when you have higher numbers of chicks together.
  2. cavemanrich

    cavemanrich Crossing the Road

    Apr 6, 2014
    Melrose Park Illinois

    Now I'll tackle your concerns.;; 30 chicks, no problem. don't stress.. You may loose some but to natural occurrence. Hatcheries tend to send disease free chicks and they are vaccinated. It is in their interest and your benefit that it is so. Now you don't say where you are at, but I see snow on the ground. The only way you could have fooled me is if you were on white sand beach in Pensacola Florida. So that means COLD. You will need to keep them warm until they can handle the ambient temperatures. When you decide to relocate them from brooder to coop, you will need to use your common sense knowledge as to when. I'm sure there will be peeps willing to coach you here as to the best way to do so.

    I AM VERY SADDENED of YOUR LOSSES DUE TO FIRE. I say this genuinely from the HEART.
  3. Hi and welcome to BYC forum.

    Sorry to hear about your fire -- what a loss. -- You will do fine with your chicks. You may loose some -- even in nature not all the birds that hatch make it to adulthood. There will be a lot for you to read between now and April - and people on the forum will reply.

    You are right about adequate heat and water and feed. Dangers with chicks can be that they would crowd each other, that they could get a disease -- and you already know all these things, I'm sure.

    • They say that if the corners are rounded they are less likely to crowd, maybe you could get a cardboard insert. -
    • Perhaps too, if you get Day Olds - you could put marbles or pebbles in the waterer so there is no chance of 'drowning' unless you have one of the new kind with a very small and narrow saucer.
    • When I raise (the most I have had in the brooder at one time was a dozen) them I always use medicated feed - so that they won't develop cocci.
    • Gro-gel is a product that helps the newly shipped chicks stay hydrated -- you can get some on eBay-- or PM me and I can give you a good source.
    • They grow so fast - that every passing day from their arrival will make them bigger and stronger.
    • For the first few days you may want to cover the wood shavings with paper towels that you can easily remove when they soil them....then go to just shavings

    Best of luck with it
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2015
  4. countrygalut

    countrygalut In the Brooder

    Feb 18, 2015
    Thank you for your replies. The fire was devastating, but we are blessed it wasn't more tragic. No other lives were lost, and the houses were saved, it really could have been so much worse. I ran through the flames to save one of my dogs, and I honestly tried to save the chickens too, but the fire was so huge and I couldn't get them out. They were pets to me just like any other, and they all had names and I loved them. It was so hard on me to know they suffered. And almost worse is the fact that for the last 6 months we have had to rely on store bought eggs, which in all honesty just taste terrible to me so I mostly just go without. I can't wait to have fresh eggs again, I'm going to be non-stop baking!
    Okay, so we have actually not had as much snow as usual here and have been experiencing unusually warm weather this winter. Our chicks are due the 27th of April, so it will be well into May before I put them outside. I think we'll be pretty good there, but obviously we will use common sense if there are any weather issues. My dad is an electrician and the new coop will have some power running to it for any heat lamps, heated water dishes, or lights we might need out there too. And we live in the desert of Southern Utah, by the way, in a tiny little farming community at the base of a mountain. So lovely here. :)
    Thanks for the suggestion on the cardboard corners, that should be easy to fix for them. Do you think a 4 foot box is big enough for that many chicks, and still have a warm side and cool side? We have baby chick waterers, but we usually have added something to it as was suggested. Marbles are a great idea, thanks. The chicks will be about 2-3 days old by the time they arrive, and there will be a few different breeds so they will likely grow at slightly different rates. I made sure to choose breeds that are docile and would get along well together, but I'm also aware that if some grow faster we may have need to separate the chicks to keep them from picking on each other too much. If that's the case, maybe I can just put a partition in the box. Or would that make it too difficult to keep temps at the right level? Also, is a thermometer a requirement inside the box? I've always had a mother hen so never worried too much.
    I will purchase some extra paper towels to have on hand for the first few days. As for gro-gel, is that something that is needed after they've arrived? I was under the impression it was just to get them through the shipping. We have a couple of local farming stores in the next town over, I'm sure I can get all the supplies I need easily as long as I know what they are.

    Oh, and thank you for the warm welcomes, I can't wait to be an official part of the chicken community again! :)
  5. ChicKat gives some excellent advice. Let me add, especially since you have had the experience of a fire already, chickens (grown, fully feathered, mature) do not need supplemental heat so long as they have a coop that is dry, draft free and well ventilated. I have 23 chickens, 18 ducks, 8 Bantams, and 3 geese all in their nice comfy coops and we have have several days of low teens temps with chill factors in the sub-zero. They have all done very well, no losses, no frost bite and they want to come out and range about during the day even on the coldest day with snow on the ground. They are remarkably hardy birds and using supplemental heating will slow or impede their ability to acclimate to the ambient temperatures in addition to being a fire hazard. So, as indicated in a previous reply, use your common sense in making that decision.

    Having electricity in the coop is (in my opinion) essential. Not only for lighting when the days grow short but also for fans to circulate air and increase ventilation during the hotter months of the year.

    Best of luck to you with your new chicken efforts.
  6. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    I wish you the best with your chicks. They should be ok in the 4 x 4 for a bit, but they will most likely need more space before you're done brooding them. I raised some meat birds in the same brooder with DP birds last year. Because of the size disparity, I provided 2 heat lamps so there was decreased risk of them pig piling with the smallest ones ending up buried at the bottom of the pile! I start my chicks out on fermented feed, and give them a nice clump of sod during the first week to build their natural immunity to coccidiosis and other pathogens they will be encountering when they move out doors.
  7. song of joy

    song of joy Crowing

    Apr 22, 2012
    Central Pennsylvania
    I'm so sorry to hear about the fire and your loss of animals and property. How terribly sad!

    Enjoy your new chicks. I'm sure they will be a blessing of new life. I think the biggest challenge will be the rapidly increasing space requirements of the flock. Within a week or two, the brooder should provide 1 square foot of space per bird. It sounds like you may be able to brood them in your new coop, so that's a plus as they will need the room!

    To reduce the risk of fire, you may want to consider using a thermal panel for brooding rather than a heat lamp. So many brooders, coops and chickens have burned due to heat lamps! I've always used a heat lamp for brooding chicks, but just decided to purchase an 11x16" Infratherm Sweeter Heater panel to brood the dozen meat bird chicks I'm getting in April.

    When the chicks come, be sure to dip the beak of each chick into the waterer and make sure you see it shallowing. Give them 1-2 hours in the brooder with just water to make sure they are well hydrated before introducing food, as this will reduce the risk of pasty butt.

    Wishing you the best with your new adventure!
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2015
  8. countrygalut

    countrygalut In the Brooder

    Feb 18, 2015
    Oh, we don't normally need a heat lamp, just when I've had baby chicks to isolate and such (because I have purchased a few extra chicks before that weren't accepted by my mother hens and had to be integrated later on). We do usually have a light in there on a timer to keep the hens on a regular laying schedule, and heated water dishes for the winter. I guess once they are too big for the box in the house I can just put them straight into the coop. It has been insulated, so depending on the weather here come May, I might not need anything extra to keep the babies warm. And I will definitely look into the thermal panels as an alternative option, thank you! And I will also make sure they all are hydrated when they arrive. I'm sure I'll be taking pictures and posting many questions once they're here, as I'll probably need help distinguishing the breeds apart, lol.

    Oh, and just for info for those you might be curious, the fire started in the chicken coop in the middle of the night. It was an electrical short in a power box that had nothing plugged into it at the time because it was summer. It was faulty, and with our chicken coop attached to three other buildings that were over 100 years old, everything went up very quickly. My dad is an electrician and he was working out of state at the time. When I called to tell him what happened he was extremely upset and he decided he was going to do all the new wiring to make sure everything was up to code and safe. He definitely doesn't want any other tragedies to happen, we were especially lucky! The fire was enormous and the flames could be seen from a neighboring town 15 miles away. Burned right through the power lines, which snapped in half and left our whole neighborhood without power until everything could be rewired late the next evening. We are very fortunate to live in a small community that all jumped to help in the middle of the night, saving our homes. The only lives lost were my 23 chickens, and it hurt me so deeply to see them suffer. We are absolutely taking extra precautions to prevent anything like this happening again. The new coop stands alone, and although I miss the beautiful old barns and the sentimentality of them, it's kind of nice to start fresh and be able to take all the extra steps to make everything perfect. Thank you all for your concern and well wishes, it was a very tough time for us. The healing has begun now that all the demolition is finished and new life is being brought in. :)
  9. countrygalut

    countrygalut In the Brooder

    Feb 18, 2015
    Can anyone tell me if it's okay to use wood shavings from the fruit trees in our yard? I know that Cedar shavings are bad for the chicks, and that Pine is okay. But are there other types that can harm the babies? We constantly have fresh piles of wood shavings from putting pruned limbs through the chipper, we'd love to use them if they are safe for the chicks. :)
  10. countrygalut

    countrygalut In the Brooder

    Feb 18, 2015
    We have several varieties of apple, plum, peach, pear, apricot and cherry if that helps. Also, we do chip our lilacs and currents, if that affects anything. Last year we had a huge snow storm that knocked lots of trees down, so there may also be some poplar in the mix of the older piles, but I have plenty of fresh fruit tree limbs ready to go through the chipper this weekend, so we can make sure to keep them separate if any of these types are dangerous.

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