Preparing for Baby Chicks
Spring is almost here!
If you’re like me, you’re excited to add some chicks to your flock! (Personally, I am hoping to add some Welsummers and Cochins!) Whether adding new breeds, or re-stocking on your old favorites, preparation is key!
Go ahead and have all your set-up complete and ready before your chicks arrive. That way, you won’t be scrambling last minute to go buy something they need. Instead, you’ll have everything in order and you can just enjoy spending time with your new babies.
Whether an old stock trough, large Rubbermaid box, or self built enclosure, your chicks will need a home. It needs to have enough space to accommodate your chicks, and remember they will grow! Chicks generally stay in the brooder up to 2 months, or until fully feathered. The brooder needs to be large enough for them to get away from the heat if they need to. We have used a large, plastic square water tank as a brooder for years. My husband sawed off the top, leaving it like a 3 foot tall box. It is easy to clean and can easily house up to 20 chicks comfortably.
(You’ll need to think about a grow-out pen or chicken tractor for their next stage if you already have adult birds.)
2. Brooder Location
As cute and fluffy as young chicks are, the will quickly start to grow. It is not recommended to have your brooder indoors where you are living. This can quickly become unsanitary. Try instead, to have your brooder in the garage or a shed with power.
3. Heat Source
Your chicks will need a heat source immediately upon arrival. Chicks need an environment of 95° F for their first week of life. That requirement drops 5° F every week, until they are about a month old. A red heat lamp will work great (it needs to be red so the chicks do not start pecking on each other). The lamp can be lowered or raised depending on the temperature you need. Chick heater plates are also becoming very popular. The chicks can get under it to warm up and run out of they get too hot. Keep a thermometer in the brooder to keep control of its temperature.
4. Proper Bedding
Pine shavings work best for a brooder box. They are hygienic and easy to clean. Cedar shavings contain toxins dangerous to chickens, and hay will get too nasty too quickly.
5. Chick Starter and Grit
Go ahead and have your chick starter bought and set out when the chicks arrive. Medicated or unmedicated is your choice. You also will need some fine grit for the chicks. Grit can be put in its own small dish and the chicks will eat it as needed.
Along with food and grit, go ahead and have your water set up for the chicks. Most farm stores sell small waterers for chicks. If all you have is a dish, be sure to add some pebbles to the bottom to keep your littles from drowning! The chicks will strongly benefit from some electrolytes being added to their water upon arrival.
7. Call the Post Office
After all the chicks I have ordered over the years, I think our post office knows me by voice. When you order your chicks, you select a ship date. The ship date is when the chicks leave Hoover’s. You can expect them about 2 days after your ship date. It is a good idea to call your post office when you get the shipment confirmation to let them know chicks are coming. Leave your name and phone number, and hopefully the post office will call you as soon as they arrive so your can pick them up early in the morning.
One last tip, is to go ahead and have your heat source on about 12 hours before you expect your babies. They will be quite tired and in need of warmth when they get home. That way, the brooder will already be cozy and warm for them!
Good luck and enjoy your new chicks!