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Patience For Noob Interrogation Please

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by PineappleMama, Nov 25, 2009.

  1. I do NOT have chicks right now, so this is NO rush. Please don't feel obligated to dash off an immediate and detailed response!

    That said, I'm a research fiend, and this is one area I'm exploring...
    (In addition to breeds, feeds, local resources, coop design, our yards possibilities, etc. but I'll ask those later and in the right places!)

    I'm thinking that I'd be better off getting chicks, rather than eggs... rather than pullets...

    Eggs- You can only have 4 hens where I live. Most places require you order more than that (and there's ALWAYS the risk of roos) While hatch rate is rarely 100% if I did end up hatching more than 4 (IE if I ordered 10 and hit more than 40% -Murphy's Law does hit at the oddest times- then I'd be in a pickle. And I'd have the hurting of not hatching all, for me and my kiddos too.

    Pullets- Don't know you from the get go. With babies you can tame them, so to speak, and have them used to you and your family (including dogs) from the beginning. As opposed to pullets who would be used to other people, and perhaps no other animal smells/sounds but other chickies which could be very stressful for them. Transitions are hard enough no? Not to mention missing out on the cute chicky phase, which I think both (but esp. my girl age 7) would enjoy. And, since I've not been around chickens for many moons (no plans to say exactly how many) and my hubby/kids have never been around them I think that starting with chicks would make things easier, rather than just plunking down unknowledgeable humans with scared -thanks to a move- hens.

    Of course, with pullets, they are closer to laying and past some of the scary parts of babyhood. Less risk of losing one, which would hurt.

    Overall, I figure my best bet would be to get young chickies locally, so no 5 minimum, and I can pick healthy peepers?
    Feed store or Breeder or ??? geez I donno.

    Unless there's a local breeder that sells humanized and dog-hearty (no I don't know where these adjectives come from) hens I just don't know?

    So, first question... Does this make sense or am I a nut?

    After that the questions are sort of in aging order...

    2nd question... how much space is needed per chickie in a brooder?
    a) how high should a brooder roost be, minimum/maximum?
    b) organic chick feed, check... also grit?
    c) if I used a tote (I've got tons of clear ones!) that was 18" high and had the lamp clipped to the top, what wattage would you recommend?
    d) lamp clipped to the center of the brooder or to the side?

    3rd... how long in that space? AKA at what age do they need more space?
    At ___ weeks they need ___ space per chickie?
    (like they say that hens need 10sq ft per in run or 4 sq ft in coop per... is there a formula for chicks at __ age?)
    So for four chickies ____ x ____ x ____ is great!
    b) how high should a -second stage- roost be?

    4th DIET! Organic Chick Feed available 24/7 and of course fresh water... even if changing 12 times a day due to sneaky chickie contamination...
    a) At what point does their diet change from chick feed to layer feed? ___ weeks?
    b) At what age do you start adding calcium to the available nibbles?
    c) At what age are random nibbles (carrot peels for instance) safe?
    -Obviously not a question of teething, so much as a question of tummies and development-

    Fully feathered they can hit the coop?

    I'm sure you're already thinking I'm a nut, but I hate seeing hurting, much less being responsible for it. And to add hurting my kiddos on top of it... well I'd rather just try my level best and beyond to prevent it. Hence all the (probably asinine) questions. I do very much appreciate any and all words of wisdom and the patience required to answer my noobie questions. [​IMG] Oh, and I LOVE this website. It's brilliant! So much wisdom, and just... wow. Can say that ANY other site I found via google has come close to touching a drop in the bucket of the information I've found on here... so just thanks for that right there! And I love the smilies. [​IMG]

  2. ChickenEllis

    ChickenEllis In the Brooder

    Sep 21, 2009
    Welcome. I was in a similar situation. Had chickens as a kid MANY years ago and decided to try it again in a more urban environment.

    I think you are making the right decision about getting chicks. That phase is a lot of fun and it's good to start the bonding process early.

    Good luck.
  3. Akane

    Akane Crowing

    Jun 15, 2008
    There is no gurantee chicks will tame any better than adult chickens and with time adult chickens will tame just as well as they would have as chicks. It's the personality of the chicken. I've had chicks I handled daily that wanted nothing to do with people as adults and chicks I never did anything but fill their food and water that became very friendly as adults. My friendliest hen was in a rather neglected batch of chicks that never got handled except to pull poo and feathers off their butts when they started getting pasty butt. They should have hated me but they were all very outgoing chickens as they grew up. Genetics in my experience have more impact than handling so in that regard it won't matter if you get chicks or started pullets. Just feed them lots of treats and if they would have tamed as chicks they'll soon be tame as adults.

    For your questions...

    Brooder roost? My chicks have never roosted before 2months and rarely before 3 months. I never bother with roosts in the brooders and I haven't seen any brooder pics that had one.

    Chickens only need grit if given something that needs ground up. Think about things you need your teeth to eat and it's about the same for chickens. Poultry feed is usually designed not to need ground up and if you put some water in with it you'll see it dissolves to an even goo like oatmeal that has soaked too long. Some organic feeds use grains that are not fully ground up and will either include grit or list it's need on the bag so read the bag to be sure. Otherwise you only need it if you give your chicks and eventually grown chickens treats that are not soft.

    If chicks are in the house you should not need more than a 100w bulb and usually not more than 60w. If they are not in a building that is kept warm they may need a full 250w heat lamp bulb and if it's summer they may not need any heat. Stick your thermometer under it the first time you set it up to be sure it's approximately between 95-100F. The chicks will adjust themselves to exactly what they need so long as it's close to that range.

    In a large brooder or with lots of chicks it works best to center the bulb so they can form a circle around it. It also keeps chicks from getting stuck along the edge. Sometimes they'll get up against the side of the brooder and not realize they need to cross the light where it is hotter to get to a cooler spot so they just keep cramming in the corners until someone overheats. However if your brooder is small or they start to get too hot with a 60w bulb you may need to slide the light far to one side so they have space to get away from it and cool down. In the summer I had to do that a few times.

    Space will depend on the breed of chicken and therefore size of chick and activity level. I usually hatch easy going bantams so I can sometimes keep them in something as small as a 10gallon aquarium for the first 5 days and generally I use aquariums of around 3-4sq ft for up to 2 dozen of them. Large standards or more active breeds can take 4 times the space of my bantams. I have a 3x6' guinea pig cage converted to chicken pen for when I hatch standards.

    Some feed chick starter until they start getting eggs, some switch when they see any signs of potential laying, and some just pick a specific time like 14 or 16 weeks. Chickens will start laying some time around 16 weeks or later depending on breed. Slower maturing breeds may not lay until 6-8months. If your starter is nonmedicated you can continue to feed it forever if you want. Just make sure you provide something like oyster shell for calcium. Since I can't get organic or nonmedicated chick starter all my chickens from chicks to adults eat gamebird starter.

    Oyster shell, grit, and other things should not be mixed into the feed. Chickens will not over eat these items and each chicken will need different amounts. If you try to pick how much to put in the feed you may end up with too little, too much, or they will just waste half of the feed or additives knocking it out so they can eat what they need. Put supplements in their own containers so chickens can eat what they need. You can put out oyster shell pretty much whenever. Again chicks have a tendency to over eat new things until they learn some things are food and some things aren't so you want to wait a little while but once everything is no longer new they will only eat it if they need it.

    When you want to start feeding treats is entirely your choice and based mostly on opinion. Chicks hatched by a hen would be foraging from day 1 so chicks can eat anything a grown chicken can from day 1 provided they have grit. Of course being smaller they need smaller bites and smaller grit. However for some reason chicks raised by people tend to develop pasty butt where chicks raised by hens rarely if ever do. Pasty butt can happen irregardless of diet but some hold off treats just in case it might make it more likely. Chicks also will over eat non food items like grit when they first see it so some prefer to avoid that risk by not offering anything but chick starter for a time determined by them.

    Move chicks to the coop when it's warm enough for them. If it's 100F out they could go in a pen in the coop with no heat the same day they hatch. If it's 20F out you could have trouble keeping them alive even at 8weeks old with a heat lamp. Also make sure that they don't experience too drastic of change. Chicks may be old enough to survive 20F but if they've been in the house at 70F they will die when you move them. Even so much as 20F different may kill some. Adjust them down slowly and provide heat outside until they are used to the temperatures. Large changes in day to night temp can also kill chickens that have previously been kept at a very narrow temp range in a brooder.
  4. Thanks so much for the welcome and the boost to my confidence Ellis, it is very much appreciated.

    It was my Grands and Great Grands that had chickens. I only saw them for 1-4 weeks in the summer, but that part of my childhood is firmly etched as happy. I did have some rather less than fabulous memories as well so I truly treasure those nice memories. Helping gather the eggs was a small, small part. That depended so much on when my dad was able to take me to their house during my short visits with him in the summer. But I remember being fascinated by the green eggs. And I remember, rather childish but then I was a child, bragging that I'd actually eaten green eggs to my siblings. I asked my gran on our last visit why there were no green eggs and she said that that hen had died. Not too surprising considering I remember it from my early childhood, but still, it was a sad note.

    It's always remained in the back of my mind. And I've told my children, if nothing else while reading Green Eggs & Ham, about my adventures with green eggs. BTW there is a Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook. I just ordered it for my SIL for Christmas. It has all sorts of odd things from Suess World. Donno if I'll be able to let it go now that I've seen it!

    Anywhoozle, thanks again for the info. I'm a cautious person by nature, and a worrier par excellence, so added to the research nut it will be some time, but all info is filed and used to make the best decision possible for my family and for the animals concern... so thanks for your help!
  5. MaggieRae

    MaggieRae Songster

    Apr 12, 2009
    North Texas
    For your first question-
    You can indeed buy them locally. When spring comes around, I'm not allowed to go to feed stores anymore because of the cute little chicks. The problem with this, is that I can't think of a single place that sells them sexed (all pullets), because that's more expensive. Even so, most of these places require you buy a minimum amount (tractor Supply where I'm at asks that you buy 6). Mypetchicken.com will ship as few as 3, sexed. The shipping can be expensive, though. This is the route I went for my 8 chicks. All 8 arrived healthy and happy. I didn't lose one. If in case you receive a roo (as I did), they return you the fee of the bird, and will send you a free chick with your next purchase.
    I'm also sure there are plenty of breeders in my area. Just go out to the country a little ways and I'm sure you'll find someone.

    2nd question... how much space is needed per chickie in a brooder?
    I do not know the space requirement, I gave them enough room to run around and flap their wings. They got a large dog kennel for many weeks, and then the coop for two more weeks, then they were allowed into the run.
    I would make it high enough they can flap, but keep a top because they DO fly out. I found this out the hard way when I woke up with chickens crawling all over me (I was in a sleeping bag camped out next to the brooder).
    Grit shouldn't be necessary with crumbles.
    For an 18" high box, you would probably need 150. I used a 250 over a 2 foot box, and I still had to keep it hanging from a ladder. Remember the chicks moving around can provide a little bit of air movement that will reduce the heat compared to when you set it up beforehand. If you see them panting, it's too hot. If they're cuddled under the lamp, it's too cold. If they're running around like silly little things without a care in the world, bingo.
    I would clip the light to the side. That way they can get away from it and find the spot that suits their needs perfectly.

    You can take them out of the brooder when they're fully feathered which is about 6 weeks. I kept mine in a brooder until about 8 or 9 weeks. Then I moved them into the coop for 2 weeks, and then I allowed them free access to the run. This way, they learn to go to coop for the night.
    When your chicks are old enough to go into the coop, I wouldn't provide a roost until they're a little older. I provided it at 12 weeks. Mine has two levels. I haven't measured them though.

    At 18 weeks, most brands recommend you change to Layer food. I didn't want to shock their system too much, so I mixed them, slowly adding more and more layer food. They're now entirely on layer.
    Most people allow calcium to be free choice. They just keep a bowl of it available. I wouldn't start providing this until after they start laying, as it can mess with their development.
    There's no real rules for when to provide treats, or at least, I don't know of any. After my chicks were about a week old I started giving them chopped up hard boiled eggs. This gave them more energy for when I let them play in the back yard. I offered yogurt, but they didn't want it. They really didn't get any other treats until they were 16 weeks and in the coop.
    Grit- you provide it once they start eating something other than crumbles.

    Good Luck. Feel free to PM me if you have any additional questions. There are loads of knowledgeable people on this site, and I'm sure someone will correct or fill in on some of the info above. [​IMG]
  6. WOW! Thanks so much Maggie! [​IMG]

    This may seem picky, I hope you don't mind, but can you guesstimate on the size of your kennel?
    Or even, cat size vs dog size... small, medium or large breed... from there I could figure it, as I said I'm a research fiend.

    If I could summarize...

    Best bet would be a 150 bulb over a 18" high (width?xlength?) brooder for 4 chickies until they are 8(ish) weeks then transfer to coop for a few more weeks (assuming I'm planning to do this in the spring when temps are warmer?!). So they register that the coop is 'home' and will return automatically in the evening from the run.. which they've had the run of since 10(ish) weeks... once they're accustomed to the run/coop add 1-2 perches .... perhaps 12" ??? up.... just like with changing dog food brands you mix until completely used to the new formula to avoid shock, starting the mixing at 18 weeks... or should you start the mixing... maybe 25%layer to 75%chick at 16 weeks so it is DONE by 18 weeks?... at about this time is typical to add grit, calcium, and/or treats to their diet.... or should I offer random treats (and what? Eggs~would that lead to egg eating?~, Yogurt, Veggies, etc) from the get go... perhaps when I, and/or kids, hope to handle them?

    Thanks again to Maggie and anyone else willing to help educate a Noob.
  7. highcountrychickens

    highcountrychickens Head Rooster Jouster

    Aug 28, 2008
    Jackson Hole

    If you need to have a small order of pullets only, I really recommend Mypetchicken.com - they do small orders, and everything I have seen from them is wonderful... and the breeds they carry are really well established - I think they're careful with their breeders.

    Next - research away - but you have the basics and so so much more... A draft free box, Water, a safe heat light low (or high) enough where they can snuggle or get away from around 90 degrees (use a simple thermometer) and crumbles ... and they will be just great. Honestly when they have the true basics, they amazingly take care of themselves.

    I have found that ours did well when we made a little 1"-3" perch for them... even at a couple of days old, they loved this, but it's not necessary - some pine (NOT cedar - the oils are bad for them) shavings, and they were fine.

    I do handle mine a lot when they're little, as long as they don't get too cold, and at a very young age I crumble up dried bread crumbs, to give them as a treat, always calling "chickchickchick" - this becomes hardwired in their minds, making it really easy to get them back in when they're free-ranging, or if there is any kind of imminent danger at hand. I reinforce this all the time by sitting on the grass in the summer with bread or treats, always calling chickchick -

    Now, some folks will argue this - but I'm speaking from experience, and the experience of a number of friends... I have started to steer away from Wyandottes entirely... I thought it was just an individual thing, but found more stories than not about them. (I have a neighbor with a fresh batch of 5 - so we'll see how they do) I have Jersey Giants, and have NEVER been happier - they're friendly, hardy, incredible layers, stand confinement well in a cold climate, I just can't say enough about them, honestly. I'd have a HUGE flock of them if it was at all practical.

    Good luck and above all... have fun with this!!!

  8. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

    Jul 9, 2009
    Northern CA
    My Coop
    I brooded my first batch of chicks in an extra large dog crate in the garage. (7 chicks) I attached the brooder lamp to my husbands dolley, (zippy ties work great) and wheeled it right to the opening of the crate. We did not get the coop done fast enough so they were in there a bit longer than they should have been. (they grow faster than you think) We moved them to the coop at about 10 weeks. It was spring, so they didn't need a heat lamp.

    You can move them to the coop sooner, if you can provide them the heat they need for their age. My chicks that I'm brooding now were too hot at 95, so I started them at 90 and decreased 5 degrees each week. They are now 5 weeks old and almost fully feathered. I am turning off their heat lamp during the day this week, then next week I'll turn it off completely, then if the weather outside cooperates, I'll be moving them to my small coop. (not in with the older ones, but where they can see each other)

    They do fly at a very young age, so be prepared for that with a cover of some sort.

    In my larger coop (where my older ones are) the roost is a bit higher than 24 inches. I haven't measured it, but when I get in the coop, it comes to my lower part of my thigh. (I'm 5'8") I'm planning on adding another roost behind it and about 12-18 inches higher.

    I agree on leaving them in the coop for a couple weeks so they know it's home.

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