The chicks arrived safely this morning about 7 am. There are 35 of them. Everyone looks lively and there were none DIB. Beaks dipped in sugar water, feed, parked under the heat lamp. As you can see, some stayed there and basked, while others scooted around the brooder scratching and pecking. There are cobwebs in there since it hasn’t been used for a while and the chicks thought those were the best toys of their lives (since it has been so very short so far!). Mica and I watched them for a while. The kids don’t even know they are here yet since everyone is sleeping in, and we didn’t tell them the chicks were coming. That will be a fun surprise for later.
For those of you wondering about chick-raising, we are using a brooder box for this first part of their lives. Made of plywood and hardware cloth, it gives us a way to keep the little guys warm (chicks need to be 95 degrees for the first week of their life, and the temp can be lowered by 5 degrees a week after that.) but to be honest, we have brooded chicks in cardboard boxes, rabbit cages, and kiddie pools. Whatever works.
Other than the container they are in, you will need a heat lamp, which is a special light bulb in an aluminum cone to further direct the heat onto the chicks. This can be hung or clamped onto the brooder. As the chicks grow, it can be moved further away or turned off at times to allow the chicks to become more cold-hardy. Watch the chicks. If they cluster really tightly underneath it and trample on each other they are cold and you will need to consider protecting them from drafts (a blanket draped over the brooder can work, just keep it away from the lamp) or adding a second lamp. If they scatter to the far walls of the brooder and avoid the lamp, it is too hot, raise it further away from the chicks.
We use a plastic chick feeder, which looks like a long rectangle with a triangular top that has holes in it. Using this kind of feeder prevents the little guys from hopping into it and scratching all their feed out into their bedding and wasting it. Chickens scratch instinctively. The day-old chicks I put into the brooder this morning started to scratch and peck their bedding immediately. It’s fun to give them a little feed to watch them do this, but their feeder will be better off if they can’t scratch and poop in it.
For a waterer, again, we use a chick or quail waterer. Both the feeder and the waterer are les than $5 each, and well worth that little investment to have safe, thrifty uses. We use the quail waterers to feed the bees, as well, so they are multi-use. A chick waterer is a shallow circular well atop which screws on a container that gravity-feeds water into the circle. It is too shallow to allow the chicks to fall in and drown, and as we use a gallon reservoir, we don’t worry about them running out of water.
That is really all you need to brood chicks. We feed chicks special chick feed, as they can’t manage layer pellets, and need a higher protein. We tend to feed unmedicated, partly because we often brood both ducks and chicks together. Ducklings will die if fed medicated feed. For the first watering this morning I put some sugar in with their water, but I have never done this before, so I’m not sure it’s necessary.