Raising Chickens

Feb 21, 2022

If you’ve visited a farm store lately to look for garden seeds or other spring supplies, you likely noticed the presence of young chicks.  Whether or not you’re a poultry lover, you can’t help but stop to look at the busy little birds. 
Raising young chicks is certainly an educational experience.  Because of the small space requirement as opposed to other farm animals, chicks are an ideal family project. Planning for the arrival of new chicks is extremely important. As with any young animal, proper care and nutrition are important.  Start a few weeks before the chicks arrive so there is plenty of time to get things ready. 
Begin by preparing a clean, dry area that is well ventilated, but free from drafts. If you plan on using an older building, spend some time clearing dust and cobwebs and disinfecting the area with a standard household cleaner.  Allow the area to dry, then bed with dry pine shavings.  
You will also need to prepare the brooder area, which consists of a heat lamp with a 250-Watt infrared bulb and a ‘brooder ring.’  The brooder ring is used to keep the chicks near the heat source – anything from corrugated cardboard to a kiddy pool has been successfully used. The heat lamp should be positioned such that the temperature at chick level (2-3 inches above litter) is 95°F. Over time, adjust the height of the heat lamp to reduce the brooder temperature by 5°F per week until 70°F is reached. Monitor the chicks’ behavior, as they will tell you whether they’re comfortable. If conditions are too chilly, chicks will pile up on each other to keep warm; if it’s too hot, they will move far from the heat source. After 7-10 days, the brooder ring can be removed, but the heat lamp should remain.
While you’re in the cleaning mode, clean and disinfect feeders and waterers. A solution of 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach per gallon of water works well as a disinfectant. If you do not have feeding equipment, consider purchasing it rather than utilizing old bowls or tubs. Young chicks can easily drown in shallow water and chick feeders are designed to reduce fecal contamination as much as possible.  As a rule, use two quart-sized waterers and 48 inches of double-sided feeder space per 100 chicks. As the chicks grow, their space requirements will increase, so replace the small waterers with gallon-sized ones and plan for three linear inches of feed space per bird. 
Nutrition plays a vital role in the health and growth of young birds. Always provide access to clean, fresh water.  This often means changing the soiled water multiple times per day. Chicks should be started on a crumble or mash feed that has been formulated specifically to meet their nutritional needs. A chick starter feed should contain 18 to 22 percent protein, be relatively high in energy, and include an appropriate balance of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.  Co-op’s All-Natural Chick Starter (#104) is a suitable product for the first several weeks of a chick’s life.  Do not supplement the diet with additional corn, wheat, or other grains as it can create dietary imbalance and retard growth during the early development live stage. New baby chicks often need to be coaxed into eating, so place some crumbles on paper so that the chicks can easily see the feed.  Once they begin eating out of the feeder, the plates can be removed.  At approximately 20 weeks of age, pullets should be introduced to an appropriate layer feed.
The daily management of keeping chicks clean, dry, and well fed takes a lot of work and attention. If you decide to raise chicks this spring, visit your local Co-op with all your supply needs and advice to help with getting off to a good start! 

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