Taking Care of your Day Old Chicks
Getting Started Checklist:
- A brooder box - this needs to be set up and ready to bring your new pets home
- Poultry Heat pad (we stock two brands in various sizes) or brooder lamp
- A chick suitable drinker (this is most important as young chicks often drown in the smallest lids of water or containers that they can fall into)
- A chick feeder
- Chick Starter Crumble - please see more about feeding overleaf
- Litter for the base of your brooder box (we recommend oaten chaff as it does not absorb water like shavings and is soft on little feet)
Your brooder box needs to be set up in a draught free area with everything ready for your new arrivals to be placed in when arriving home. Chicks can loose body heat very quickly and die easily - so minimise the time they are without a heat source and the journey home with your new chicks should be made as quickly as possible.
Place feeders and drinkers near the heat source and, for the first 2 days, sprinkle food liberally to encourage the chickens to eat. Keep fresh food and water in front of the chickens at all times, and clean and refill the feeders and drinkers regularly.
CLEANING OF THE BROODER IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ENSURE YOU PREVENT DISEASE: Cleaning will have to be carried out at least twice daily until the chicks have grown sufficiently and the feeders and drinkers can be raised above the litter.
Make sure that the brooder room is well ventilated but that the chickens are free from draughts
The period from hatching until the chickens no longer require supplementary heat is called the ‘brooding period’ and usually lasts for 6-8 weeks, depending on seasonal temperatures and the type of housing.
Chickens need supplementary heat when they hatch because they are unable to maintain their body temperatures. The heat can be supplied by a broody hen or, more usually, by brooders using electricity.
As the chicken grows, its downy coat is replaced by feathers, and the brooding temperature can be gradually reduced until supplementary heat is discontinued at about 6-8 weeks.
During the brooding period the chickens need warmth, shelter, fresh air, proper food and clean water.
The brooder must be capable of providing a temperature of 33°C, even in the coldest conditions. It must be adjustable so that a steady temperature can be maintained.
The brooding temperature for day-old chicks should be 33°C at the level of the chickens’ backs, that is, about 50 mm above the litter. As the chickens grow, the temperature can be adjusted as given in Table 1. To alter the temperature in accordance with Table 1, it should be reduced gradually by 1°C every 2–3 days.
Correct brooding temperatures (at chick height) for chicks of various ages
Age (days) Temperature at chick height (°C)
1 day - 33’ degrees C 7 days - 30 degrees C
2 days - 33 degrees C 14 days - 26 degrees C
3 days - 33 degrees C 21 days - 22 degrees C
4 days - 32 degrees C 28 days - 20 degrees C
Generally, supplementary heat can be discontinued at the end of the fourth - eighth week, but in winter, it may be necessary to provide heat on very cold nights up to twelve weeks. Temperatures are to be used only as a guide because the best way to adjust the temperature for the comfort of the chicks is to observe their behaviour.
« If they crowd near the heat source and chirp loudly, the temperature is too low. *
« If they move well away from the heat source and start panting, they are too hot. ***
Ideally chicks should be fairly quiet and spaced evenly under and around the heat source. A simple and effective means of brooding small numbers of chickens is to use a chick warmer.
These warmers have become very popular and replace the traditional brooder lamp. They are lower wattage and safer to use than a typical brooder lamp that hangs above the box. The Brinsea warmers we stock are pictured below (left) We also stock the Comfort Chick Warming Plates (pictured below right) - have a chat to us about options
If using a brooder lamp please ensure they have a ceramic light socket (and not plastic) as these lamps become very hot and can start house fires. The ceramic socket will not melt whereas a plastic socket can get very hot and melt in time causing house fires.
Chickens that are to be grown for egg production need chicken starter crumbles or mash from 1 day old to about 6 weeks.
The diet should contain 18–20% crude protein and a coccidiostat (to prevent the disease coccidiosis) if the chickens are to be reared on the floor.
For small flocks from the age of 6 until 16 weeks, growers’ pellets or crumbles (15–16% protein) are generally used. Birds should have unrestricted access to food and water.
At 16 weeks the pullets should be fed a laying diet, which should be available at all times. It can be supplemented with scratch grain and kitchen scraps.
We stock a number of suitable feeds for your chicks to ensure they stay happy and healthy.
From 1 day old until it is 16 weeks old, a pullet will eat about 1.5 kg of starter diet and 5.5 kg of grower diet. During the laying period each hen will eat up to 1 kg of feed a week.
The brooding and feeding systems described in this leaflet are generally suitable for small numbers of chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese.
Diets containing anti-coccidial compounds are recommended only for chicks and should not be fed to laying hens.
A WORD OF WARNING:
Please understand your new chicks are very fragile. If you have children caring for your chicks please explain how fragile they are and all care must be taken with handling. We strongly recommend handling by children is done only under supervision as little legs are broken very easily and little fingers can tend to hold baby chicks a little too hard sometimes.
Please also remember to keep domestic animals under control near your brooder. Cats and dogs can snatch a young chick very quickly.