Getting the Brooder Ready Before the Chicks Arrive

Chick days are upon us, and before you take home a colony of chicks by impulse, take a moment to verify that you are ready to receive them. Below you will find some critical key points that are essential for the survival of your new feathered friends.

Broiler chicks
Cornish Cross chicks. Picture credit: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension.

Regardless of their intended purpose, chicks need some essentials to properly develop into healthy productive members of our home flock. Day-old chicks we often find at the feed store are sold in small groups for a reason: they are fragile individuals. Take a moment to review if you are ready to get some from the feed store or receive them directly from the hatchery.


Brooder must-haves

An adequate brooder should have the following elements:

  • Proper and constant temperature usually provided by an incandescent light.
  • Solid sides
  • Absorbent litter to keep the chicks dry
  • Enough space for chicks to develop properly

Solid sides on a brooder are essential to block wind currents which can cause extreme fluctuations in temperature inside the brooder. Choose pine shavings, kitty litter or other absorbent material to use in the floor.


Day-old chicks need supplemental heat.
Day-old chicks need supplemental heat. Picture credit: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension.

Proper square footage per chick should be provided since they will grow fast and will spend at least 3 weeks of their lives inside the brooder. Each chick will need to have 6 to 7 square inches of space inside the brooder to develop without stress. Competition for space can increase bullying and encourage pecking.


Addressing the temperature issue

Adequate temperature is one of the most important factors that affect young chicks. Due to their small body size and lack of permanent feathers, day-old chicks are not able to properly regulate their body temperature. Placing a heat lamp at the proper height will help to keep them warm and healthy. The optimal temperature for day-old chicks should be 90 – 95°F at a height of 2.5 inches from the ground to stimulate adequate conditions for chicks to roam and eat inside the brooder. To provide them with the supplemental temperature our babies need to survive, use an incandescent bulb. The typical red color you often find in these brooder lights discourages chicks from pecking their peers, reducing the social stress in their new colony.

Check the distribution of chicks inside the brooder to determine if your chicks are too warm, too cold, or adequately heated. If the chicks are huddled together in a close group, this is indicative that they are cold. To address this issue, lower the lamp gradually until they spread out evenly throughout the enclosure.  Chicks that are too warm will generally stay away from the heat lamp and will be found in the corners of the brooder rather than evenly spaced. Adequate temperatures will promote an even distribution of chicks throughout the brooder.

As the chicks mature, they will need less temperature supplementation since they will grow and produce adult feathers, which are more efficient in trapping body heat. Raise the lamp so you are reducing the brooder temperature by 5 degrees per week until you can remove the lamp (when they are fully feathered). Make sure that the temperature is checked every day at least once to avoid accidental stress to these vulnerable young birds.


Meeting their nutritional needs

Verify that the feed you offer your chicks has the adequate nutrition for their metabolic needs. Picture Credit: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension.

Young chicks need significantly different feed than laying hens and older birds. Starter-grower feed is higher in protein and minerals than adult formulations. The nutritional requirements during the first growing phases of the chick’s lives require 20-22 percent protein during the first 6 weeks of their lives. From week 7 to 14 the protein requirement drops to 16-18, and from 14 to 20 weeks in age, it drops further to 14- 19 percent. Energy requirements stay relatively similar from day 0 to laying at 1290 to 1315 kilocalories per pound of feed, while calcium needs increase dramatically when the birds mature and start laying.

Check your feed tags and make sure that chicks get a high protein, low calcium diet until they start laying eggs. Feed storage is another critical aspect of raising healthy chicks, which often gets overlooked by backyard flock owners. Store feed in a rodent-proof container, since these pests can carry diseases that can affect our young birds.  Also, avoid moldy feed since mold can cause respiratory issues as well as toxins that will make our chicks sick.

For further information, please contact our office and we can provide further guidance.


Transitioning your young birds

After approximately three weeks of age your chicks should be fully feathered and can be transitioned into cages or runs. Young birds should never be mixed with their adult counterparts. Keep your youngsters separated, but with some contact with the rest of your colony for several weeks if this is an option.

A pair of chicks
Buff Orpington and Black Australorp chicks. Picture Credit: Jonael Bosques, UF/IFAS Extension.

There is a practice called “all in-all-out”, which applies to poultry production at all levels. This term refers to the action of avoiding mixing flocks for health reasons. Avoid comingling birds from neighboring properties to reduce the chance of contracting diseases. Also, avoid the contact with wild waterfowl since they carry many infectious diseases that can be harmful to your home flock and even to humans.

Finally, contain your birds in predator-proof environments where they can enjoy a healthy, productive life.


Contact us for more information!

If you have further questions on raising backyard poultry, please contact us at the UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County office by calling 863-773-2164 or stopping by at 507 Civic Center Drive, Wauchula FL 33873. We are here to provide you with educational resources that can improve your agricultural venture or operation.


Further Reading:


Avatar photo
Posted: February 17, 2022

Category: Agriculture, Livestock, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: 4-H, Ag, Agriculture, Brooder, Chicken, Chicks, Extension, Farming, Feed, Florida, Heat, Hens, Lamp, Livestock, Nutrition, Protect, Protecting, Rooster, Temperature, UF/IFAS


Avatar photo

March 8, 2022

During the time they require the brooder they do not need a run. Constant temperature and protection from drafts is the most critical part for their development at this point.

Donna Castro
February 18, 2022

Thank you for this! I am in the process of obtaining my first little backyard flock and am feeling a bit intimidated by this whole brooder issue. This really helped me feel more confident! I have a coop set up and ready, but also wanted to provide a run. Do these have to be connected? Can I train the birds to go into it and then back to the coop at night? Thank you for your help.

Avatar photo

December 14, 2020

Not that I am aware. Maybe watch weather pattern differences because these can affect the germination time.

December 13, 2020

any special requirements or things to be extra aware of in zone 9B-10, im right on the cusp?

November 10, 2020

Corto y conciso, francamente maravilloso el post. Mas que nada porque para mi, familiarizarse con los requerimientos particulares de cada animal es sin dudas lo mas esencial en la cría.

Avatar photo
Jose Zayas

March 29, 2019

Saludos: espero estar traduciendo todos mis "blogs" para el beneficio de todos! Gracias

Edson Silva
March 29, 2019

Me da gusto que este post este en espanol espero que sigan poniendo mas

Avatar photo

August 9, 2018

UF has also released flies to manage fire ants. Bottom line: there is nothing more effective right now than chemical control right now.

July 25, 2018

University of Texas are studying agricultural control of fire ants with a species of phorid flies. Is this something we are trying in Florida as well? Fire ant mounds are very difficult to control and they can easily take over a yard. I have tried several different product without any good results. I am trying some products by Amdro, Siege, and Extinguish next. If there were any better natural products available I would much rather use than spreading chemicals.

Braden Bills
March 9, 2018

I was thinking it would be fun to have a food plot for the local wildlife. It makes sense that a good location would be important! I'll be sure to find a place that deer have access to.

Carolyn Wyatt
August 10, 2017

Well done, Marissa.

Carolyn Wyatt
August 10, 2017

Great article, Marissa.

August 3, 2017

Hello, the whole thing is going sound here and ofcourse every one is sharing information, that's genuinely good, keep up writing.

Lelio Vieira Carneiro Junior
August 1, 2017

Greetings from California! I'm bored at work so I decided to check out your site on my iphone during lunch break. I love the info you provide here and can't wait to take a look when I get home. I'm surprised at how quick your blog loaded on my phone .. I'm not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, excellent site!

Ida Mary Spears
July 21, 2017

This is a terrific program. These students are so fortunate to get this information in such a fun way. Thanks to all the adults who shared their time and knowledge.

Jonael Bosques
July 21, 2017

What a great article!

cours de theatre
July 20, 2017

I really enjoy the blog article. Really Great.

July 15, 2017

Thanks foor ones marvelous posting! I certainly eenjoyed reading it, you may be a great author.I will make certain to bookmark your blog and will come back very soon. I wannt too encourage you to definitely continue your great work, have a nice evening!

click here
July 15, 2017

Howdy! I could have sworn I've been to your blog before but after going through many of the articles I realized it's new to me. Nonetheless, I'm certainly pleased I came across it and I'll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!

home page
July 15, 2017

Just desire to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity in your submit is simply great and that i could think you're a professional in this subject. Well along with your permission allow me to take hold of your feed to stay up to date with forthcoming post. Thank you 1,000,000 and please carry on the enjoyable work.

suba me
July 10, 2017

fKXhHg Major thanks for the blog.Thanks Again. Much obliged.

dftba feminist shirt
July 6, 2017

It's actually a great and helpful piece of information. I'm satisfied that you just shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

July 4, 2017

Thanks, it is quite informative

makanan untuk anak 1 tahun
May 12, 2017

My brother recommended I might like this web site. He was entirely right. This post truly made my day. You cann't believe simply how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!
April 28, 2017

I'm not sure where you're getting your info, but good topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for fantastic information I was looking for this information for my mission.

Avatar photo

April 28, 2017

Please do share it with others. You can post it on social media too. This is public information.

April 28, 2017

Hey! Would you mind if I share your blog with my zynga group? There's a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Thanks

Comments are closed.

Subscribe For More Great Content

IFAS Blogs Categories