Bringing Home Your Chicks: What You Need to Make Their Transition to Their New Home Smooth & Happy!
There's a lot of advice out there about what you need to have in place when you first bring home your chicks! Whether you planned on having them or whether (like me), you are an impulse buyer at the feed stores...because you know---CUTENESS, you need to have certain items ready for them in order to make their transition to your home go smoothly and safely.
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Things Your Chicks Will Need
1) A Container of Some Type to Keep Them in Safely--Either Inside Your House or in a Warm Garage
Newly hatched chicks need about 6 square inches of space each in their container. Of course, they grow very quickly, so you should plan for about a square foot per chick (at least) until they are old enough to move into the coop outside.
Some people use cardboard boxes lined with newspaper and some pine chips. We usually get about 8 to 12 chicks at a time, so we actually pull one of our horse troughs into our guest room. The walls are high enough that the chicks can't escape and if our other pets happen into the room, it's not easy for them to get inside either. The trough is large enough to provide enough room for the chicks, room for their water, and room for their feed. The side of the trough is perfect for hanging a heat lamp from as well! The rough dimensions are about 4 feet x 2 feet x 2 feet high. It fits right at the end of the bed!
2) A Heat Lamp Set Up or a Brooder
We use a heat lamp with a protective wire grill and a clamp that allows us to move it up or down, depending on how warm it is in the chicks' container. You will also need a bulb. We've recently gone to using an infrared bulb. These are not expensive and it's something you must invest in, because chicks need a temperature of about 95 degrees during their first week of life. After this, the temperature they require gradually drops to a greater range, when they can stay warm once their feathers come in.
You can tell if the heat is too hot because they chicks will stay away from it. If they are cold, then they will huddle under it. Just raise/lower the lamp accordingly. You can use a thermometer if you like. We just keep a close eye on the chicks' behavior.
3) A Waterer
For the smaller chick container you'll keep inside, the waterer shouldn't take up all the space. We use a small one while they are inside, then just move it into the nursery coop with them when they go outside. You can get these from quarts to gallons--so depending on how much space you have for the chicks, just go from there. They can get their water pretty dirty, so we like to buy the kind with a handle that can be suspended about an inch off the ground--especially when they are a couple weeks old.
4) A Feeder
You'll need a decently sturdy chick feeder too. I like the kind that are upside down containers with a round bowl area for the chicks to peck. These are cleaner and seem to be not as wasteful as the long strip feeders.
You'll want to use medicated chick starter until you run out of the first bag of feed. After that, you can switch over to an all flock laying crumble. Be sure you are using the crumbles to start out, and that they are medicated. This just ensures your chicks get the best start possible. They are not yet old enough to take on pellets!
Also, I don't feed our chicks any type of special snacks until they are feathered out simply because I want to be sure they're digestive systems are fully developed. There are many opinions about this (and everything else, actually), so I'm just sharing my own opinion here. Better safe than sorry, I say!
6) A Transition Coop Outside
As their feathers come in, and if it is warm enough outside and you have an insulated enclosed area away from your older chickens, they can go outside at that point. The reason you don't want to just turn your little ones loose with your older chickens is that the older girls have an established pecking order, and any time you add new ones, this may disrupt it and cause pecking issues. We've always waited until the chicks are fully feathered and at least 3/4 the size of the mature hens before introducing them into the main run and coop.
We have two chicken coops. The large coop is used all the time by the chickens and turkeys. The smaller one, we close up for most of the year and only use it in the Spring and early Summer as the Nursery Coop. That way, any baby poultry we have can head outside of the house as soon as their feathers start coming in. We bring out the waterer, feeder, and lamp they were using inside, and get these set up outside in the nursery coop too. They still need the heat--especially if you are in a cool area like we are, and they are used to being inside.
Believe me----once you've had your chicks in the house for a few weeks, you will be HAPPY when they can go outside! And so are they! :-)
Right now, we have our ducklings and our chicks out there---yesterday was the big day!
Raising poultry is so fun and interesting! They all have their unique personalities---both between and within breeds! I highly recommend everyone give it a try if you have the room and the time! The rewards are endless!
Hugs & Self-Reliance!
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Disclaimer: I am not a chicken or poultry expert. The statements in this article are simply my opinions based on years of experience and trying different ways to make things work.