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Bringing Home Baby Chicks? Prepare your chicken coop for new arrivals

Wow, time flies when you’re “talking turkey”…or chicken in this case.  We’re through the holidays and cold months of January and February.  So, now people are thinking Spring...and with Spring, comes baby chicks.

If you're getting ready to bring chicks home, you need to be prepared.

Just as you would in bringing a new baby home from the hospital, you need to plan ahead and prepare the space for the new baby chicks coming from the hatchery.  Our goal is to provide a warm, clean and safe area for the new birds to settle into.  Your success in getting your new chicks, turkeys and ducklings started will hinge on how you prepare their space.

The care you give your poultry early in their lives will determine how they cope with challenges later.  So, do what you can to give them a healthy start.

A clean facility is a good place to start.  Clean, disinfect and air-out your building.  Then let it sit empty for two weeks to dry out and help break any disease cycles.

If you will brood chicks on the floor, put down a three-inch base layer of clean, dry litter.  Avoid sawdust or other fine litter for the first few weeks to help chicks distinguish feed from litter.  If you have a small coop or brood box, one thing to try is putting down layers of newspaper (5-6 layers) over the litter.  Then cover the newspaper with a layer of paper towels to help with traction.  When the brooder gets dirty, you can just roll up the first 3 layers of newspaper and dispose.  This leaves more clean newspaper underneath that will get you through the next week or so and then you can remove it and then just go with the regular litter underneath.

Chicks will need to be kept warm and free from drafts.  Choose a building or area in the building that can be managed for draft and temperature.   Make sure you will have adequate electrical outlets to plug in electric heat lamps.  Plan on using one lamp per 75 birds, with a minimum of two lamps in case one burns out. 

It is a good practice to use a brooder guard that is 18 inches high to keep chicks enclosed in the area and close to their heat, feed and water for the first few days.  A brooder guard that is 6-10 feet across (from one side the other) will be sufficient for 100 chicks.  Place heat lamps 20 inches above the litter so the temperature is 90-95° F at chick level.  Turn on the lamps 24 hours before your chicks arrive to help warm up the environment.  Make sure the heat sources are secure so they do not drop and cause fire hazards. 

After a few days the birds will learn where to find the heat and you can expand the brooder guard to allow them to escape the heat if necessary and begin adjusting the temperature down.  You can drop the temperature 5° each week down to a minimum of 55° in the pen.  Watch the birds to determine if you are getting the heat right.  They will huddle together under the lamps if they are too cold and they will lie against the brooder guard if they are too hot.

Fill the waterers about 4 hours before the chicks arrive to allow it to warm to room temperature.  Some people like to add sugar to the water the first day to help the chicks (1/4 cup sugar per gallon of water).  Others use a vitamin/electrolyte packet to mix in the water.  Place the waterers away from the center of the brooder pen so they remain cleaner and cooler.  It will not go well to have the water right below the heat lamp.  Allow the new arrivals 3-4 hours of drinking before giving them access to feed.  You may want to individually dip the beaks in the waterer to give the chicks a little training lesson on finding their water.

Empty, clean (with a brush), and refill waterers daily.  If the litter gets wet near the waterer, remove it and add dry litter.  Remember, damp litter is an ideal breeding ground for disease and parasites.  These “visitors” are not welcome to come see your new chicks!  Good luck and enjoy the new little bundles.

Visit our website for more ideas.  And remember that Hubbard® Life Homestead® Poultry Feeds will provide the balanced, complete nutrition to get everyone off to a good start.

Posted on 3/5/2013 by Amy Brown  |  Category: Poultry
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