Anyone who breeds chickens will tell you that having chicks around the place is great fun and it’s wonderful to see them grow into healthy, happy birds. If you’re new to chicken breeding it can be daunting to know where to start and what you’ll need to make sure you’re prepared.
Having all of the right equipment in place before you even think about chicks is a good idea; after all you don’t want to find yourself in an emergency situation without the right tools for the job!
So, here’s a basic checklist of the things you’ll need to raise chicks:
All sorts of things can be used as a brooder box for your chicks, so if you fancy a spot of DIY you don’t need a shop bought option.
Large plastic boxes, cardboard boxes, agricultural sized water troughs, and wooden crates are all commonly used. Just make sure that there is a lid if you have other pets in the house!
Your chicks are going to need to be under a heat lamp to keep themselves warm until they’re a little bigger.
If you’re new to breeding then a thermometer can also be useful to make sure your chicks are kept at the right temperature. The temperature should be around 37 °C for the first week.
After this you can reduce the temperature by around 5 °C every week. Chicks that are huddled together under the lamp are too cold, and chicks that are spread out away from the lamp or panting are too hot.
The slippery surface of a plastic or cardboard brooding box can cause a condition known as “spraddle leg” in very young chicks so it’s important to find a way of making the floor non-slip.
A top tip from chicken breeders is to use shelf-liners as these can be easily replaced when you clean the brooder box.
Shavings/other poultry bedding
After a few days to a week the risk of spraddle leg is greatly reduced and you can put a thin layer of shavings or other poultry bedding such as Easichick in the brooder to absorb the mess chicks like to make.
Chicks will start to eat within 24 hours so if you’re expecting your eggs to hatch any time soon it’s best to have a bag of chick food ready. You don’t need to use a dedicated chick feeder – a shallow bowl or even small plastic plate will do.
Unfortunately chicks are quite top heavy and quite wobbly for the first week or so, making the risk of drowning in their water quite high.
You can buy chick drinkers to reduce the risk or use a shallow dish filled with small stones or marbles for their water.