Basic chick care – our top tips

Poultry in motion

 

 

 

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?

Heat lamps

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!

Keeping clean

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.

Poorly chicks

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.

Raising chickens: thinking ahead to the breeding season

Spring is just around the corner so we thought we’d do a few posts to help you get to grips with breeding your birds!

Whether you’re a first time chicken breeder or a more experienced “parent” to your flock you’ll no doubt be thinking ahead to the pitter patter of tiny feet this spring.

Breeding your own birds is a fantastic way to expand your flock and if you’re interested in rare breed poultry you could be helping to save almost extinct bloodlines.

But what do you need to think about before you start your breeding programme?

Are you ready for cockerels?

cockerel_genericBreeding chickens may result in around 50% of those eggs hatching cockerels so you need to decide how you’re going to deal with this.

Keeping multiple cock birds isn’t always a problem if you have enough room and enough hens to go around but as poultry breeders will tell you – unfortunately you can’t keep them all.

If you intend to breed pure bred birds, particularly rare breeds, you might find it easier to pass on surplus cockerels to others looking to expand their flock.

However, be prepared that you might need to find another “solution” to your cockerel problem if you can’t find them all loving homes.

Choose the right time of year

The spring is generally considered the best time to breed chickens as the weather gets better, fresh food is of a higher quality, and your chicks will be almost a year old by the time the winter comes around.

However, we all know the great British weather can sometimes play tricks on us so you’ll need to ensure your hens and chicks can shelter from the elements.

Speaking of housing…

Housing

You’ll need to consider the housing that you already have and whether this is suitable both for mating and for raising chicks once they hatch.

If you’re letting your cockerel mate with all of your flock then simply let him go about his business. However, if you want to mate specific birds, usually in a pair or trio, you might want to consider a purpose built breeding house and run like the one shown below.

BreedingHouse_Run4

You’ll need to ensure that the wire used on the run is small enough to contain the chicks – you don’t want them escaping and becoming lost! Many chicken breeders also like to use a run with draught boards to offer chicks extra protection from the wind.

IMG_1325

Feeding time

If you’re looking to start breeding within the next few months start feeding your hens and cockerel a high quality feed. They’ll need to be in peak condition to breed strong, healthy chicks

You’ll also need to source a supplier of good quality chick crumb and grower’s feed for after the chicks have hatched. They’ll start eating within 24 hours so it’s best to be prepared.

Chicken feed bucket

Stay tuned next week when we’ll be giving you a step by step guide to breeding your first chicks!