Last week we looked at the equipment you’ll need to raise chicks so this week we’re looking at some of the basic chick care needs you’ll have to fulfil for a healthy brood.
Quick checklist for chick breeders
- Make sure your brooder box is somewhere dry, draught free, and with a steady temperature – a well-insulated shed will do if there’s no room indoors
- If your brooder box is in the open, make sure it has some kind of lid – cats, dogs, and other predators think chicks are a tasty snack!
- On day one your brooder temperature should be 37 °C
- Invest in a non-slip covering for your brooder box floor – this reduces the risk of the condition called spraddle leg
- Make sure you have a good quality heat lamp – your chicks will need heat for the first 4-6 weeks of their lives
- Your chicks should be fed chick crumbs for the first 6 weeks, after that you can move them on to grower’s pellets
- Your chicks might also enjoy a little bit of mixed corn after 2 weeks and some green vegetables
- Don’t forget small stones or pebbles in your chick’s water bowl to prevent them drowning
What else do you need to know about chick care?
When shopping for a heat lamp there are a few things to consider. You might find that a lamp with a read bulb has a calming effect on your brood. It’s also a good idea to buy a spare bulb or two – just in case!
Cleanliness is essential when you’re raising chicks. Tiny, newly hatched chicks are especially prone to infection so it’s important to make sure you keep their brooder box as clean as possible.
Wash the brooder box with pet safe disinfectant before using it, even if it’s brand new, and change the bedding every two or three days. Damp conditions are especially risky as chicks can catch a number of diseases including Coccidiosis, which thrives in damp environments.
Sometimes you’ll get a few chicks that just aren’t as strong as the rest of the clutch. Giving them electrolytes or sugar water can help to give them extra energy but sometimes nature will just take its course.
The big wide world
As the chicks get older, around 2-3 weeks depending on the weather, they can go outside for short periods of time.
Some people put their chicks in a greenhouse during the day, this works especially well during the spring or autumn when the weather is temperate, and bring them back in at night.
Remember, your chicks will be particularly vulnerable to predators so they’ll need to be in a covered run or enclosure if they’re out and about.