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Raising baby chicks

How to.., Raising chicks

So, you have picked up some baby chicks. What next?

Like any baby, a chick sleeps a lot. Make sure they have clean food and water and don’t expect much action.

At this age, it is common for chicks to get a “pasty butt”. Basically, sticky faeces coat the backside of the chick, drying onto their feathers, and clog up their vent, which is where chickens urinate, defecate, and lay eggs. A clogged vent can kill a chick. Soak the chick’s bottom with a warm, wet paper towel to remove the plug.

It’s a good idea to get the chicks used to being picked up and handled from a very young age as it will make giving them health checks when they are adults much easier. They will also become very friendly, just like any other family pet.

If children handle the chicks, make sure that they are always sitting on the floor so that, if the chick wriggles out of their hands, they will be close to the ground and not hurt.

You will need:

1. Housing/Brooder

You will need some sort of container or small building or enclosure to house your brood.  You can use something as simple as a box or you can build a special brooding house for your chicks if you want to get fancy. You just need something that will keep drafts out and will keep the chicks protected and secure. Check out our post Setting up a brooder box for advice.

2. Bedding

Chicks need something on the floor beneath them. You can use just puppy pads for the first few days, but then I recommend adding some bedding. You can use pine shavings as these have low dust, and are most easily available and cost-effective. Otherwise, I recommend our premium bedding “chilled chick“. This nesting material combines our very own unique blend of nesting materials, with anti-parasitic nesting herbs & flowers to make the ultimate nesting experience for your chicks. Around 1cm deep is about right. The chicks love practicing being a chicken and playing in this. I also add some of our chick blend for them to forage for and peck at. Change bedding at least once a week.

3. Heat Lamp

If you don’t have a broody hen, you will need a heat lamp or heat plate. If using a heat lamp, situate it above the chicks, away from anything flammable. Soon after hatching, the temperature for the chicks should be around 35 degrees Celsius and should decrease by 5 degrees per week until the chicks are fully feathered. You may want to have the heat lamp off to the side or on one end of the chicks’ housing so that they can move closer or further away, depending on how warm they are. You don’t want the chicks to get cold, but you also don’t want to cook them! With a heat/brooder plate, chicks will position themselves underneath the plate whenever they need the warmth. This means a perfect temperature guarantee for all chicks thanks to the height-adjustable legs. They also have an extremely low power consumption – up to 5 times more energy efficient than a traditional heating bulb

4. Feeder

For the first week or two, plastic chick feeders will make life a lot easier for you. Chicks love to stomp in their feed, tip it over, and generally make a mess. They’re also not terribly smart and can eat quite a lot of shavings or bedding as they pick spilt feed off the floor. I love the long chick feeders. So much cleaner and much harder for chicks to kick bedding and poop into it! As the chicks get older and eat more, be sure to check the food level periodically and refill as needed.

5. Waterer

I recommend starting with our clean chick waterer. Or if you have a 1-litre waterer or galvanised waterer, these work well. If using the latter, place a few clean pebbles, marbles, or rocks in the waterer dish for the first week or so. Little chicks have a tendency to drown otherwise. After six weeks, you can start them on automatic waterers.

6. Food and Water

Obviously, you need to give your chicks food and water.  They should be given as much feed as they can eat. Chicks start out with food called “crumbles”, or “chick starter”. It is specially formulated for their dietary needs and it comes as medicated or unmedicated. Medicated feed is usually medicated with a small amount of Amprolium drugs, which helps prevent Coccidiosis. You can also purchase a preventative water additive for coccidiosis.

7. Cleaning

Food and water dishes should be cleaned daily to prevent disease. Check the baby chicks’ bedding for spilled water and buildup of feaces. Remove any wet bedding as soon as possible. It can chill the chicks and breed disease.

8. Playtime

Chicks are insatiably curious—after the first week or two, they can be put outside for short periods of time if the temperature is high enough. They MUST be watched at this age, however. Chicks can move fast, squeeze into small spaces, and are helpless against a variety of predators, including the family dog or cat. They are also amazing escape artists, so make sure they are in a secure enclosure

To set up your chicks easily, you can purchase a brooder cage, brooder cage kit, and ultimate chick starter kit.

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