Newbie needing some help please

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by odd socks, Mar 19, 2013.

  1. odd socks

    odd socks New Egg

    Mar 19, 2013
    Hi guys. I'm completely new to looking after chicks/chickens. My daughter nursery has hatched some and after chatting to her nursery worker about our plans to get some chickens for a back garden they offered us some of the chicks to now we are due to collect 3 little female chicks who will be just over a week old in a few days. What do I do with them?? How much can they be handled?

    I was planning to get a large plastic storage box (the kind with a lid that clips shut because we have cats) and drill air holes in the sides. We don't have a suitable outdoors space to keep them in so we were going to keep them in our spare room...which is small and warm so will I need a heat lamp? I'm quite concerned about having one in the house as its a fire hazard. Are there any alternative heat sources? Ideally non-electical ones...Can I use something like a not water bottle along with having the radiator on?

    And what should I put inside their little home? Would straw be ok? Or a towel? or shredded paper?

    We are in the process of setting up a coop outside. At what point should the chicks go out there? And when they will they be able to live with other fully grown chickens because we were originally going to get some rescue chickens (ex battery farm chickens) but we aren't sure if we can combine the two sets of chickens?

    And lastly, How likely is it that one or more of the chicks will die? I don't know how common it is for them to pass away once they've reached this age? I just want to prepare for how to deal with it if my children discover a dead chick.

    Sorry about the super long post..hopefully someone much more experience can help a newbie with the best intentions to take care of some little chicks! :p
  2. howfunkyisurchicken

    howfunkyisurchicken Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 11, 2011
    I use a 46 gallon rubbermaid tote as a brooder, it works great (for a few weeks), then my chicks go to an outside hutch until they're big enough to join the flock.
    They need a good heat source. I only use water bottle/microwaved rice filled socks in an emergency like power outrages and such. At a week old they'll need to be kept at around 90° or so. There's a little wiggle room in temps, but not much. Ideally, you want one spot in the brooder to be toasty warm and the rest of it cool so they can move away from the heat (overheating WILL kill chicklets). Brisnea makes a heat source called the Ecoglow chick brooder. Google it, its nifty. However, if you're using the top on your tote another problem you'll encounter will be lack of light, they need light. If they can't see, they wont eat and drink. I use a heat lamp in mine. I secure it to the brooder with the clamp and then secure it again with a metal chain to a shelf above it. Also, I'm not sure some holes drilled in the sides will provide enough ventilation or allow excess heat to escape. A large hole in the top covered with hardware clothe or some old window screen would be much better.
    Chicks can go outside when they're fully feathered, which is typically around 6 weeks depending on breed. You could introduce them to older birds when they're roughly the same size or separate them in the coop so they can see each other for a while if you have that option.
    Chicks are pretty hearty, I don't loose many after the first couple of days. Cocci is something you'll want to watch for if they have access to the ground.
    There's a thread somewhere in the section with lots if pics of brooders different folks have build. A search should turn it up easy enough. Read, read, read is the best advice I can give. Just about every question you can think to ask has probably been covered on this forum at some point or another. Good luck!
  3. BuffOrpington88

    BuffOrpington88 Non-Stop

    Mar 20, 2012
    1. You will definitely need a heat lamp. Chicks need a constant temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit the first week, decreasing by 5 degrees each week until they go outside. Since they're a week old, they can have a temperature of 90 degrees.

    2. Sorry, a heat lamp is the way to go. As long as it's properly secured, you shouldn't have a problem with it.

    3. I would suggest wood shavings, except cedar shavings, which can irritate their respiratory system. Towels need to be washed very often and get extremely messy. Paper would become very soggy and can get tangled around their feet. I would be concerned about them eating straw.

    4. They can go outside once the temperature in the brooder is similar to the temperature outside. This is usually around 4-5 weeks, when they have most of their adult feathers. You shouldn't put the two flocks together until they are about the same size, when the chicks are around 18 weeks old. Maybe in the meantime you could partition the coop and run so they could see each other and get used to each other.

    Here are some great books on keeping chickens.

    Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens and The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow

    Living with Chickens by Jay Rossier

    The Joy of Keeping Chickens by Jennifer Megyesi

    Poultry extension websites

    The Merck Veterinary Manual
  4. Birdragon

    Birdragon Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 2, 2012
    Yay! Congratulations on your chickens!
    The box might be better if you took off the lid altogether and replaced it with chicken wire so they have better airflow. Straw worked just fine for my chicks, who were raised in the outside coop by their mother. I've had chicks before and none of them have died yet. While the chicks are outside, it may be a good idea to cover the run so predatory birds can't reach them. Just keep an eye on them, and if one doesn't seem to be eating or it is losing weight, take it to the vet right away. Birds are excellent at hiding illness and injuries. Good luck with your chicken endeavours!
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2013

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