The Baby Chicks Arrive
By Crystal Miller
Your brooder is set up, you have the food and water ready to go and now you’re ready for chicks! Many times I have purchased chicks at my local feed store and that works quite well. Another option is to order them from a hatchery. If you mail order them you can expect and early morning phone call from your post office. They will call you and let you know your little fluff balls have arrived and you rush in and pick them up.
The first thing I do when I open the box is check to make sure they are all alive and well and count them. Usually a hatchery will send one or two extra chicks, to assure that you receive the number you ordered in case one does not survive the journey.
They have had a very exhausting and stressful trip. The chicks are cold and hungry. As I take the chicks, one by one, out of the box I dip their beaks in the water first and then the food. This helps them to know where these important items are located.
They usually huddle around the heat to warm up but soon will spread out if the temps in the brooder are correct. The temperature needs to be around 95 for that first week. One quick way to tell if your brooder temp is right is to look at your chicks. If you see that that all the chicks are huddled under the heat source then you can be sure it is too cool. If all your chicks are as far away as possible form the heat source, then things may be to hot. If all the chicks are evenly spaced around the brooder then things are just fine.
Some of the first problems you need to watch for is called “pasty butt”. The chicks will have loose droppings due to the stresses of travel and that gets mixed with the fluffy feathers and pasted to them. If you don’t deal with this right away it will kill them. We take the chicks and put their little back side under gently running warm water and with a cloth remove the dried on droppings and usually some of the little soft feathers as well. This is ok, as this will help prevent this from happening again.
After the first week is over you can begin to reduce the temperature in the brooder by 5 degrees each week. How long they stay in the brooder will usually depend on how cold it is in the chicken house. If the weather is warming up and/or I have a heat source in the chicken house then I move them as soon as all the soft feathers are replaced by regular chicken feathers.
On The Homestead
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