Caring For Your New Chicks

ONCE AT HOME: Set up a brooding area. When raising just a few chicks (30 or less) use a large box with walls at least 18-inches high and place the box in a safe area away from drafts and household pets. Use a screen or a towel to cover the box. For larger numbers, a metal stock tank can used in an enclosed, draft free outbuilding. Chicks need one-half square foot of space for the first two weeks. They grow fast and after two weeks, increase to one square foot per bird.

KEEP THEM WARM: Chicks need to be kept in a warm place until they are fully feathered. The temperature at the bottom of the brooding area should be 95-100 degrees for the first two weeks and then reduced 5 degrees each week until chicks are a month old. Use a brooder lamp (we recommend a red bulb) clipped over one side of the brooding area so the chicks can choose whether to be under the light or not. If chicks are crowded together directly under the heat source, then they are cold. If they are around the edges of the brooding area, then they are too hot. Adjust the height of the lamp accordingly and give them enough room to move in and out of the light to regulate their body temperatures.

BEDDING: Provide bedding to catch and absorb chick droppings and change this daily. Line the floor of the box with sheets of newspaper and then cover it with pine shavings. Once soiled, then just roll up the paper, pine shavings and all, and throw it away. If using newspaper, make sure to cover with bedding such as 2-3" of pine shavings, chopped straw, oat hulls or ground cobs (not finely ground), so the surface won't be too slippery for the chicks. Without firm footing their legs will not develop correctly, making them spraddle-legged.

FOOD AND WATER: Set out water and chick starter feed in separate containers. Keep food and water clean and free of droppings. If chicks are not drinking, dip the chicks' beaks in the water to get them started. A chick fountain is by far the best way to give chicks water. Saucers or other make-shift containers spill easily making the brooder area wet and unsanitary. Never let the chicks go without water. For feed, start chicks on a 20% protein (24% protein for broilers) starter ration.

PICKING PROBLEMS: Birds between the ages of one and three weeks old may start picking around the tail stub, wing bow or neck areas. If this happens, make sure there is good ventilation in the building. Consult your veterinarian if the picking persists.

ODDS AND ENDS: Chicks love to roost when they're resting. Provide roosting poles or stacks of bricks so chicks have a place toperch a few inches off the ground to keep them from roosting on the waterer and feeder. As the chicks start to feather, on warm days put them in a wire pen outside for short periods of timein a draft free area. Keep an eye on them and provide a tray of sand so they can dust. As you work with the chicks, remember that slow movements are less apt to frighten them. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after handling or working around the chicks. Salmonella, a common cause of food borne illness, can be spread by direct contact with animals that carry the bacteria. Hygiene is very important to keep your birds, you and your family healthy.

Safe Handling Instructions

It is important to care for and love your chicks, but you must also protect yourself. Salmonella, a common cause of food borne illness, can also be spread by direct contact with animals, like chicks, that carry the bacteria. Here are some tips to keep you safe:

  • * Avoid contact with poultry manure. Adults should clean out cages frequently.
  • * Carefully and thoroughly wash hands with soap and water after handling chicks or anything in the chicks' environment.
  • * Do not nuzzle or kiss chicks, ducklings, turkeys, etc.
  • * Keep chicks outside of main living space, and especially out of areas where food is prepared. Choose a draft free, predator-proof location such as a garage, shed or basement.
  • * Supervise children when handling chicks and ensure they wash their hands after contact. Children under 5 years old, people with weakened immune systems and women who are pregnant or may be pregnant, should not handle chicks.