Tips for Brooding Chicks

Brooding

Suggestions for Home-made Brooder Boxes:

  • A 4' X 4' wooden box 2-4' tall with notch cut into the top center at two opposite ends to hang a dowel for suspending the feeder and waterer
  • A 54 gallon Rubbermaid tote from a Home Improvement store works great!  Replace the plastic lid with two flat pieces of cardboard.
    Or replace a majority of the inner part of the plastic lid with fabric wire so you can set the infrared lamp on it.
  • Get a RED (NOT a WHITE) 250-watt Infrared light bulb and a Silver Clamp-on deflector rated for such!
  • From a feed store like IFA or Cal Ranch, get a bag of pine shavings and medicated chick starter feed.
  • You can get a chick feeder and a waterer from SunnyBrooke Poultry Farm. 
    We now offer a special 2-Quart Nipple-Valve Chick Waterer for only $12 which includes a clamp to clamp it onto your tote.
  • If you use a 1-quart fount-type chick waterer, we suggest you set it on a small 2 X 4 block of wood or an upside down left-over dish to elevate it.  
    Then the chicks don't soil their water as easily, as poopy water is the quickest way to end up with sick chicks!
  • A thermometer is recommended for always knowing what temperature your chicks are, at 2" off their floor.  
    You need to adjust their temperature 5 degrees lower each week so a thermometer helps you set the right temperature.
    Cache Poultry  has thermometers for only $5 each.

Heat

Have the brooding area warm, clean and dry. In cold weather use a RED 250 watt Infrared light bulb.
During warmer weather, a 100-watt bulb the 1st two weeks, a 75 watt bulb the next two weeks, and a 60 watt bulb for weeks 5 & 6.  
Bottom of bulb should be 22–28 inches from the litter, depending on conditions. Have the heat source spread enough so all chicks can feel
the heat on their back. Yet have room for them to get away from the heat. The temperature, 2" off the floor should be 95-100 degrees
the first week and 5 degrees less per week.  Sometimes you have to pull the heat source back further each week to reduce the temperature
in the brooder box.  75 degree room temperature is ideal.

Water

The first hour after arrival only water should be given. Drinking is more important than eating at first.  
Supply a 1 or 2-quart waterer for your chicks. If you add vitamins to the water, you shouldn't have to add extra sugar, but you can.
At the rate of two tablespoons of sugar to a gallon. (Only for the first day.) Change water daily. Never run out of water!

Feed

A 20% protein medicated chick starter feed is given to the chicks for the first 8-10 weeks.  If raising Broilers, use a feed specifically prepared for Broiler meat birds.  The first day, be sure that the chick is not eating litter instead of feed. However, for broilers, you do not want to cover the litter with something slippery, or they can develop spraddle leg.  Having plenty of feeders is the best approach.  Egg cartons make an inexpensive feeder for a few days.  We also sell chick feeders.

Grit

Grit is already added in the prepared feeds from IFA and Cal Ranch.  But if you prefer, after one week sprinkle grit on the feed or give free choice.
This saves on feed cost. The gizzard needs grit to get the most out of the feed.

Ventilation

Very important, but not drafts. Keep the ammonia levels low.

Floor Space

First 3 weeks, 1/2 square feet per bird. After that, 1 square foot.

Draft Shield

Cardboard, straw of hay bales, something must prevent floor drafts and keep the birds from piling in the corners.

Litter

We suggest wood chips or shavings (only pine & not Cedar-which is toxic to chicks) or peat moss.
Should be 2–3 " deep and stirred often to prevent crusting. Change more often around water founts.

Stress

Often, when chicks are too crowded, hot ,or without proper diet, water, or ventilation, they will pick each other. Sometimes a distraction such as chunks of sod, a bale of hay, grass clippings, etc. will help. Cutting down light will help, such as covering windows. Though this helps, the birds won't eat or grow without light. So don't do it too long. Axle grease mixed with hot pepper rubbed on the areas will help give them a distaste for the picking.

Watch and Listen

If the chicks huddle and peep a loud chirp, they are cold. If too hot they will pant like a dog.  
Contented and warm chicks will sing and make quiet, peaceful chirping sounds!

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