Spring is around the corner and that means one thing, CHICK DAYS at D&B Supply. Your favorite store receives several breeds of chickens and other poultry every week, during this time. Each store gets its own, unique collection of chicks. So, if you are looking for specific breeds, check the lists from other D&B stores, to find what you want. Remember to always buy chicks in pairs, to lessen a chance of a pecking order disaster.
The following is a list and suggestions to help you feel confident in brooding (raising) chicks to adult hens. I want you to be able to say, “I got this,” as you walk out the doors of your local D&B Supply.
What you’ll need:
- Brooder box
- Litter (pressed wood pellets, chopped straw or pine shavings are the most popular).
- Chick starter feed
- Water fount
- Block, brick or flowerpot to elevate feed & water
- Heat lamp
Keep them warm. In my book, “The Backyard Chicken Fight,” available at D&B stores, you’ll find this chart and other helpful, money and time-saving tips. You must keep your chicks quite warm in the first few weeks. Short of placing a thermometer at chick height in the brooder, you can simply let the chicks communicate in their little bird way. If the chicks are all huddled underneath your heat source, it’s not warm enough. If they are plastered to the walls, it’s too hot.
If you use a heat lamp, which is the most common way of keeping chicks warm, make certain it’s secured. If it falls into a brooder, there is a great fire source in that bedding/litter.
Speaking of litter, I like non-toxic pressed wood pellets for my chick litter. I actually clean it regularly with a cat scoop. What is left, after the weeks of brooding, I add to my compost pile.
Chicks and chickens are “scratchers of the earth.” If allowed, they will scratch their litter into their food and water; wasting food and making more work for you. Make certain to elevate food and water to the height of the smallest chick’s back. This can be easily accomplished by using wooden blocks, bricks or an inverted flowerpot. You may also need to secure the feeder and fount. Zip ties work great.
At about week two, if they haven’t already discovered it, help them onto the roost. Some chicks are smarter than others and you might need to help the stragglers.
Keep the girls on a chick starter feed until they lose their downy fluff and feather out. This usually occurs at six-to-eight weeks of age. Put them on pullet developer like a “feather fixer” product until they are ready to lay. At about 18-20 weeks the girls should be switched to lay pellets or crumbles. D&B carries the Purina Start & Grow. It is a Life Stage food that will take your girls from day one, to layer (at about 18-20 weeks).
Don’t let the brooder box get crowded. Give the girls some space. An old, kiddie pool with a dog exercise pen placed around the outside, provides plenty of space for the little peepers. I usually introduce my new girls to the yard during the day, when temperatures reach the 70’s. I return them to their brooder at night. I do this for about a week and then, permanently move them in the coop.
Two other tips: acclimate the other pets in the household to your new flock. Hopefully, this will lead to cordial relationships. Also, practice sound hygiene. Wash, wash, wash your hands after handling your birds and don’t ever (even though you might be tempted), kiss your chicken. Yes, kissing one’s chicken is a thing. Don’t do it. Happy chickening!