Three questions - can't find answers!

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Pequena Bandada, Oct 1, 2010.

  1. Pequena Bandada

    Pequena Bandada Small Flock

    Jun 13, 2010
    Hi everyone, I think I’ve read all the resources I can find on raising baby chicks, but I still have a few questions. Apologies in advance if these are obvious. I've put the questions in bold in case you don't want to read my entire post.

    We’re getting 8 day old chicks on 10/20ish. I’m planning to keep the chicks in the guest bedroom for 4-5 weeks. I’ll use a large cardboard box as a brooder. The walls will be about 24 inches high. Will I still need a cover for the top of the brooder, or is 24 inches high enough that they can’t jump out? I’ve read that I need 4 sq feet per chick, which would mean I need 16 sq feet. In looking at all of pictures of homemade brooders here, it doesn’t appear that people really provide 4 sq feet per chick. Given that I’m only keeping them inside for 4-5 weeks, is 4 sq feet per chick necessary? Or could I do about 2 sq ft per chick?

    I’ll be moving the chicks out to the coop as soon as they’re feathered. I have a heat lamp set up out there so they’ll get supplemental heat at night as needed to ease the transition, and they’ll have a separate space from my older laying hens.

    My last question… how much is too much handling? I have two very eager three year olds who can’t wait to love these little chickies. My daughters are fairly gentle, but given the choice, they would move into the brooder with the chicks and/or hug them 24 hours a day. I recognize that’s too much, but wondering what’s a good amount. Can a week old chick be carried around the house for 10 minutes at a time? How about being picked up five or six times a day for a few minutes at a time?

    Thanks in advance for your replies!
  2. wegotchickens

    wegotchickens DownSouth D'Uccles & Silkies

    Jul 5, 2007
    Sevier County, TN
    By the time you get to 5 weeks you'll need a bigger, much taller, box.

    Best to give them extra room, or they will pick on each other. Then again, if they get a little 'free-range' time with you watching over them, they can stretch their legs.

    Quality of handling is as important as quantity. Little kids tend to squeeze.
    Got a bathroom you can mop up fairly easily, that isn't too slippery? Let the chicks freeplay around the kids. The kids can hold out food in their hands for the chicks to come eat.

    For holding, cupped hands and being low to the ground in case the chick jumps are important issues.
  3. Olive Hill

    Olive Hill Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 19, 2009
    Yes, you will need a top. It won't take long at all for them to be able to jump/fly 24 inches.

    No, I don't provide 4 sq ft per chick. Just watch for any problems to arise -- pecking, chicks getting pushed back from food or water, etc. -- and keep the brooder clean and you shouldn't have any problems. With a group that small I've never had a problem with space. [​IMG]

    Too much handling? Never! [​IMG] 10 minutes at a time is no problem. 5-6 times per day isn't either. My kids have played with the chicks for upwards of 30 minutes at a time, without any issue. As long as the kids are gentle, I wouldn't worry about them handling them too much.
  4. SassyKat6181

    SassyKat6181 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 30, 2010
    Western Mass
    I am new to this too, but here's what I've found:

    It's best to use at least half a square foot of floor space per chick for the first two weeks and one square foot after that. Try one square foot of floor space with your first batch of chicks to avert disaster while you're still learning the ropes.

    I handle the chicks multiple times during the day, and also let my 3yr old pet them. He knows to be gentle but gets easily excited, I am afraid he would squeeze one.
    I let him have special time by feeding them treats. He had them taking meal worms from his fingers yesterday. I spend a fair amount of time each night looking them over after the kids have gone to bed.

    My chicks are 2 weeks old and can already jump/flap up about 12". My brooder is actually my old play yard, it's about 30" tall. I put netting over it just in case. I have one little girl that likes to roost on the top of the waterer and she could probably get out if she wanted too. I had just the 12" high cardboard and they were out of that after the first week.
  5. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    You will need a cover, 2 sq ft is plenty for these chicks, and there is no such thing as too much handling. I used bird netting for a brooder cover.
  6. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    Yes, they can get out of a brooder with 24" tall sides within a few weeks, long before you are ready to put them outside.

    However, I have raised several sets of chicks and I have never put a lid or wire cover on the brooder. But I live alone, and the bathroom is my chick Nursery. I actually cheer the chicks on when they start to jump to the top of the brooder sides. It's adorable to find them perched on the edge. The bathroom is tiled, so it's easy to clean. The bath mat is washable.

    What I think is really adorable is when they have been on excursions outside of the brooder and I catch 'em at it when I open the bathroom door. I've found chicks in the shower, on the back of the toilet, and even admiring reflections in the chrome sink faucets.

    That's when I was brooding during late Fall and Winter. They stayed in the house (except for short "day trips" outside) until they were 8 to 12 weeks old, depending on the outside night time temperatures. I could go into the bathroom and tell the chicks, "Bedtime!" and they'd hop into the brooder, I'd turn out the bathroom light, and they'd settle down for the night. Just like the Big Chickens outside in their coops. (There's a roost bar made out of a 1 x 3 board in the brooder.)

    The Spring and Summer chicks went out into an interim brooder on the back porch at about 5 weeks old, before they were ready to go out to the coops full time. Closer to the house, a bit more sheltered. That brooder, I keep covered! It's been quite warm here at night this Summer...

    Everybody else has addressed the handling and space requirements. [​IMG]
  7. mboreham1

    mboreham1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 14, 2009
    Carmichael, CA
    i live in N California i havent had my chicks inside at all, i have a broody momma and she does all that, no such thing as too much handling. Even without a broody, please let your girls out before 5 weeks, they need to be outside scratching, pecking, exploring, remember (and its easy to forget especially around here.....!) chicks are very tough, if they are born in the wild, they would be out from day one. So, please let them be in their natural environment asap!
  8. Rozzie

    Rozzie Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 14, 2010
    For 8 chicks, you could get one of those really big Rubbermaid tubs and use that for a brooder inside. I'm talking about the ones that are so big I (semi-jokingly) refer to them as Rubbermaid coffins. These are only a little taller than other Rubbermaids but are about 3 times longer. This would give 8 chicks ample space for quite a while. Then, you can always bleach it and use it to store their feed, later.

    You could use netting for the lid OR you could cut a hole in the lid & ducttape or glue window screening in. I would vote for the netting so you can reuse the Rubbermaid.
  9. Happy Chooks

    Happy Chooks Moderator Staff Member

    Jul 9, 2009
    Northern CA
    My Coop
    Yes, in a few weeks they will be "escaping". My 1 week olds are already jumping/flying 12 inches to the nest box with their momma hen.

    You do know you are going to have TONS of dust in your guest bedroom, right? As they feather in the dust/dander they create is really thick. It will be everywhere.

    Make sure you cover the cardboard bottom with something absorbent. Paper towels for the first several days, then you can switch to pine shavings. Never use newspaper. Newspaper and cardboard (concrete too) are slippery and can cause leg problems in chicks.

    There is no such thing as too much handling, the more you handle (several times a day) the friendlier they will be. They will still go through an unfriendly "don't kill me" stage but will calm down again once they start laying. I make my kids sit down to hold the chicks. You'd be surprised how fast they can slip through their little fingers and fall to the ground.
    When they reach for the chicks, teach them to come at them at the chicks level, not from above. Predators come from above so it's a natural fear for them. I usually put my palm in, then slide it over to the chicks, and most times they'll step on to your hand.
  10. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Cheese cloth stretches beautifully over any brooder to keep adventurous chicks confined. But this won't be adequate to protect them from household pets. I clamp a window screen onto the top if I think a pet might be a danger to the chicks. (Cut a small slot in the top of the cardboard to accommodate the clamp)

    You can't handle them too much, but approach them from the side and not from above, or their instincts to fear predators attacking from the sky will make them more afraid of you each day until you can no longer pick them up.

    By three or four weeks, they need outdoor facilities to stretch their wings and enjoy low-level flight. To deprive them of this is a disservice to them and to you since it's so wonderful to watch.

    If you can take them outside every day on warm days, you can make do with a smaller brooder. If you're using cardboard boxes, you can easily place two or even three together, cutting pass-throughs in between, thus expanding one brooder into a two or three room condo. I cut windows into the sides, taping transparent plastic over the holes to let in lots of light and they can also see out, which expands their experience, being able to observe goings on with the humans in their life.

    If you have room and can place the boxes on a table, you can create access panels in the sides so you don't have to reach in from the top. This saves your back and makes for very people-friendly chicks. I love using cardboard boxes for brooders for the reason they're so versatile and easy to fashion into anything your imagination comes up with. I spread a thick (6 mil) sheet of plastic on the bottom of the box with the wood shavings over it. That way the bottom won't become soggy.

    I just collapsed by brooder boxes from this year and stored them in the tool shed for next year's batch of chicks.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by