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Raising Chicks

Acquiring chicks can be exciting and nerve racking all at the same time. If this is your first time ever owning chicks it is important to be prepared BEFORE you purchase your new flock. It is also important to consider the extra time required to care for and monitor chicks. This is the most critical stage of growth and chicks are very vulnerable to environmental changes.

Supplies Needed
  • Brooder with shield guard
  • Heat Source – brooder lamp
  • 250 Watt Bulbs (two is better than one)
  • Thermometer
  • Bedding materials
  • Feeder
  • Waterer
  • Commercial Chicken Starter feed (medicated or non-medicated)
  • Electrolytes (1/4 c of sugar) – if lethargic
Setting up the Brooder

Contrary to popular belief, one does not need to purchase an expensive brooder from the store. You can use boxes, plastic containers, kiddie pools, etc. in order to create a safe and comfortable environment for your chicks. Whatever you decide to use, provide an adequate space for chicks to move around. A good rule of thumb is a half square foot for each chick for the first two weeks. Cardboard boxes can be used to create a guard/draft shield (12-18 inches high). This guard/shield provides protection from cold air drafts, chicks jumping out, and predators (pets and children) from getting in. Cover the bottom of the brooder with clean, dry litter. You can use pine bark or newspaper. Avoid saw dust and cedar as they can cause respiratory issues. You will need to clean the brooder daily.

Heat Source

Newly hatched chicks require a heat source for the first few weeks of life. Securely place heat lamp 12-18 inches above the chicks. Temperature for the first week of life is 95◦F and the temperature can be decreased 5 degrees per week until they are four weeks old. Decrease temperature by moving the lamp further away from the chicks. Make sure the heat lamb is not near any flammable materials.

Tips for knowing your chicks are comfortable:                                                                                                                                                  Too Hot: Chicks are spread out – no sounds                                                                                                                                                            Too Cold: Chicks are huddled together directly under the lamb – noisy/stressed                                                                                                  Just Right: Chicks will be evenly spread out – happy peeping sounds

Feed and Water

Chicks should be provided with free access to fresh, clean feed and water. When you first introduce feed to chicks, monitor carefully to make sure feed is consumed safely. Dip beaks in water teach chicks how to drink. Do not feed three-gran scratch or ground corn. These feeds do not provide the protein, vitamins and minerals growing chicks need. Feed commercial chick starter until 6 weeks of age. Pullet grower feed will be fed at week 6 until week 20. After week 20 layers will be fed Laying Feed. Do not feed to roosters! Follow the directions on the feed bag. Clean waterers and feeders regularly.

Feed Protein Level % Age (weeks) Feed Intake / 10 Birds (per age period)
Chick Starter 20-22 0-6 20-29 lbs.
Pullet Grower 14-16 6-20 120-130 lbs.
Layer 15-18 20 + 18-24 lbs./wk
All-Purpose* 16 All ages
Introducing Chicks to Your Established Flock

If this is your first time owning chickens you are in luck and do not have to worry about introducing chicks to your existing flock. If you already have an existing flock and you purchased new chicks introducing them to the new flock does not have to be a stressful event.

Do not add young poultry to your existing flock until all birds are large enough to protect themselves from the bigger birds, approximately the same size. You can introduce the new chicks using the “side by side” method. This may include putting the younger birds in a dog kennel and placing in the coop for a few days (make sure to include food and water) or by placing the two groups in side by side runs. You can also let the new flock free-range first and then introduce the existing flock to place the focus on the new surroundings. Whatever method you choose it is important to monitor both groups while they become acclimated to each other.

It is also important to offer proper care and management of your birds once they “leave the nest” and enter the coop. For additional resources please visit: https://www.volusia.org/services/community-services/extension/agriculture/# 

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