So the thought of those cute fluffy baby chicks has got you placing your order at the feed store. It’s not your fault, you’re not in control, they are! Those little chicks have a power beyond our understanding.
You’re going to pick them up at the feed store and as soon as you get in your vehicle, they’ll start. It’ll sound like cheep-cheep, cheep-cheep, but they’re shouting orders at you. Next, they’ll make you turn the heat on full blast with the windows up. I know this for a fact, they’ve done it to me, many times.
You’ll spend countless hours looking at them eating, drinking and sleeping. You know you should be getting dinner ready, but they won’t let you. Don’t worry, their powers start to fade at about 8 weeks and you’ll gradually get back to normal. So be strong, you can get through this ordeal, I know you can.
What is a Chick Brooder?
- A brooder is an enclosure used for raising chicks. It can be a cage or a section off part of the coop.
- It has a heat source.
- Bedding, usually pine shavings.
- Chicks have access to food and water.
- Must be draft free.
- Must be predator proof.
Basically, we want to replicate the mother hen. I don’t mean you have to dress up like one! Then again if that’s what you’re into, go for it, be happy. What we need to do is give the chicks warmth and safety.
Before The Baby Chicks Arrive
- Make sure everything in the brooder area has been cleaned and disinfected.
- Check that there are no drafts and no way rodents can get to the chicks.
- Cover the floor of the brood area with a minimum 10cm/4” of bedding (wood chips).
- Use brooder guard to keep the chicks in the heated area for the first week. Brooder guard is corrugated cardboard that creates an 18” wall around the heated area. It stops the chicks from straying and getting cold. Tip: put the brooder guard in place before you put the bedding down, it’ll sit better.
- Heat – whatever you use, whether its a heat lamp or electric hen try to use two. Without heat, the chicks will die, so if a bulb stops working they still have a source of heat. I haven’t heard of the more modern electric hens failing yet, but all electrical things break eventually.
- Set the brooder up 24 hours before the chicks arrive to make sure it’s all working. The initial temperature should be 32C (90F) at a point 5cm/2” above the bedding. I recommend using red heat lamps.
- Feed & Water – provide chick starter feed and a fount with room temperature water.
- Give the chicks continuous light for 3 days from a separate source if you are using a heat lamp.
Picking The Chicks Up
- Get them to your car as quickly as possible. Drive carefully.
- Once home, put them into the brooder. I put them in one at a time and dip their beak into the water. They usually start drinking right away.
- At this point, they are in control, enjoy the ride.
- Gradually expand the brooder guard out to give them more room every day. At the end of the 1st week remove it.
- After 3 days of continuous light, keep the light on during the day, off at night. Heat lamps must remain on all the time.
- Gradually reduce the heat by 3C (5F) to 29C (84F) by the end of the first week.
- Check the bedding, if an area of bedding becomes wet replace it.
After 1st Week
- Raise the feeder and waterer weekly so the feed/water is at the bird’s chest height. I have some plywood pieces I place under the waterer and feeder each week.
- Reduce the heat by 2-3C (4-5F) each week until you reach 21-22C (69-71F) by the end of the 6th week.
- Once the heat is gone, congratulations, you did it!
- At about 8 weeks their control over you is starting to fade. I know, you’ve done some weird things, I won’t tell anybody, promise.