Preparing for your chicks

PREPARE THE COOP:

Your chicken coop must be thoroughly cleaned and washed. The entire area must be disinfected from floor to ceiling. Leave yourself enough time for the area to dry before putting down fresh bedding.

A thin layer of hydrated lime is advisable on dirt floors at this time to maintain dryness. Ensure that all feeders, drinkers, and brooders have been washed and disinfected; and are all in proper working order. Check for, and seal off all draughts, windows, doors, and do general building repairs, etc. Sealing off draughts does not mean cutting off all ventilation. A dry hen house greatly reduces the risk of coccidiosis. You may achieve this by good ventilation and stirring of litter. Do not use creosote - based products for disinfecting!

LITTER:

Cover the area with about 3-4 inches of bedding. Straw or shavings make the most effective bedding. Never use unshredded newspaper. This may cause severe leg problems for turkey poults and broiler chicks. Do not use sawdust, the particles are so small that the birds may eat it instead of their food. Unless for some reason your litter gets extremely wet, avoid changing litter during the growing period. It is better to add litter than to change it to avoid disturbing mold that may have formed underneath.

HEAT:

Warm the area for AT LEAST 24 Hours before the arrival of your chicks. This will ensure that your bedding is warm and dry and allows you to accurately MEASURE THE TEMPERATURE FURTHEST FROM THE HEAT SOURCE DURING THE COLDEST PART OF THE NIGHT as well as during the day. Your brooder area should be 85ºF for chickens or 95ºF-100ºF for turkeys, bantams and pheasants, measured at the outer edge of the area. This temperature may be reduced by 5ºF per week to a low of 70ºF at night! An additional room heater may be necessary to maintain the entire room temperature at 75ºF or better. This will allow the red lights to do their work over the chicks. For larger areas hang more than one thermometer. DO NOT GUESS THE TEMPERATURE. What is comfortable for you, almost certainly is not warm enough for your chicks! BE PRECISE! You may find it helpful to use a 'Hi-Low' thermometer in your brooding area, which will record the highest and lowest temperatures reached, this will allow you to see how cold it is getting around 2 to 6 am. Chilled birds (especially broilers and turkeys) will not do well if chilling, most commonly affects their hearts, legs, and rate of growth.

WHEN YOUR BIRDS ARRIVE:

Your birds could have been in transit up to 48 hours depending on where you live. They will be thirsty. We recommend that the drinking water is cooler than the air temp., for the following reasons: If the water is very warm the birds do not realize that they will get wet and cold so they stand in it and get soaked this can lead to a disastrous pile-up. Monitor the birds closely. It takes 2-3 hours for the birds to adjust to the brooder house temperature. How they appear when you first set them out may change drastically in this time period. Again monitor closely. If your birds appear chilled don't put them directly in the brooder house warm them in their box in your home under a heat lamp until they appear comfortable. Ensure that they have antibiotics or an electrolyte/multi-vitamin in their water for the first 5 days. Meat birds will particularly benefit, from this. In addition, you may choose to use clean 2.5 dozen fibre egg flats for the chicks to drink from for the first 12-24 hours. These small cups provide the chicks a large water area without getting soaked.

FEED AND WATER:

Chicks should always have food and water in front of them and should not have to fight for food. Do not move the position of the feeders and waterers for the first few days. A chick that cannot reach food will pick at the litter, resulting in starve-outs and impacted crops. Set your drinkers out a few hours in advance of your chicks arrival. Have your medication in the water. For the FIRST DRINK ONLY add 1 cup of sugar per gallon of water to give them a good start. It is a good idea to dip each bird's beak before releasing the birds. Waterers should be cleaned daily. Raising your water onto a platform of wire or slats after will prevent the chicks from coming in contact with the damp floor around the waterer. Upon arrival, after the birds have had a chance to drink, (1-2 hours) you can put out the feed in feeder trays or 2 1/2 dozen egg flats. Your birds should receive commercial starter as recommended later. Use one, 24" feeder for every 25 birds; and one, 1-gallon fount for every 50 birds.

BROODING BANTAMS, PHEASANTS, and TURKEYS: These birds are all hardy when they reach the age of 2-4 weeks. However, the temperature in the first few weeks is so critical that we recommend starting them in a warm thermostatically controlled room like a kitchen or a heated basement, with a heat lamp thus avoiding the fluctuations often caused by low outside night time temperatures. Place a heat lamp to one corner of the box used for brooding. If these chicks are chilled early on they may huddle together for warmth. They may also be prone to 'starve-out' because they will not move around to find feed and water, further reducing their chances of survival. We recommend that their space is restricted to a small area about 3 feet square, raised off the floor 3 feet, with an infrared heat lamp. The main room temperature should be maintained at 70ºF-75ºF (use an auxiliary thermostatically controlled electric heater if necessary). The temperature furthest from the heat in the brooder area should be at 95ºF to start. Shavings or smoothed out straw may be used for bedding: provide an 18" feeder & a gallon waterer or 2 -3 1 litre waterers. Put marbles or rocks in the water troughs so that the chicks do not get wet and chilled by standing in the water. Great care should be taken with the heat lamp; too low and the birds will over heat. Start at 18" and monitor closely. If they are too hot they will lay flat and possibly gurgle. Adjust the lamp for comfort; the first few hours are critical. We recommend 25% protein turkey starter for all these birds. They should be kept on a starter for 8 weeks.

Note TURKEYS: Turkeys are extremely sensitive to chilling and it is most noticeable in their leg and toe joints Turkeys survive best when initially placed with chicks. The chicks 'teach' the turkeys to eat and drink and help them to keep warm. At 3-4 weeks of age, the turkeys should be separated due to possible disease transmission.

BROILERS/CORNISH ROCK GIANTS: These fast-growing birds tend to be susceptible to leg problems, heart attacks and ascetics (enlarged heart; fluid filled chest cavity). Following our suggestions will minimize these problems.

  1. Keep chicks warm and in a small area to start; early chilling, overheating, or huddling will cause continued problems later. Start your chicks at 80-85ºF measured furthest from the heat source in the brooder area.
  2. Feed 20% chick starter for 3 weeks; then switch to a 16% pullet grower during the fourth week. A well-balanced chop may be used from the 6th week on (see page 6 “Making Your Own Feed”).
  3. Ventilation is important from the first day. Add heat lamps if necessary but do not seal up your brooder so that air supply is completely cut off. Increase ventilation as chicks get older.
  4. eep the bedding (2"- 4"deep) dry. Do not replace all the bedding at one time. Only replace wet patches and add to the rest of the floor.
  5. Restrict feed intake from the 3rd or 4th day onwards by providing continuous dim light (you should just be able to read a newspaper) while a heat lamp is needed. When a heat lamp is not needed change to 4-8 hours of total darkness. Do not remove the feed!
  6. Once the birds are a week old, you should move the feed and water apart from each other a bit at a time until they are at least 4-5 feet apart.