After bringing your chicks home, focus on three core elements: warmth, water and feed.
Watch Dr. Mikelle Roeder, Purina poultry nutrition expert, walk new chicken owners through what to do with their chicks once they arrive home.
You can get your chicks from your local Purina retailer, directly order from a hatchery, or if you’re feeling extra ambitious you can try incubating fertile eggs at home. Before your chicks arrive, you should have a few things prepared. You’ll need a brooder, either homemade or store-bought. You can make a brooder out of anything, from a large cardboard box, large plastic tote or even an old empty stock tank works well.
Once you have your day-old chicks, introduce them to the brooder. As you place them into their new digs, dip their beaks in the water to teach them how to drink. Watch your chicks closely for the first couple of days to make sure they adjust to their new home.
If you don’t have a thermometer or a way to monitor brooder temperature, you can judge the temperature by the behavior of the chicks themselves. If they all converge beneath the light in a tight group, they’re too cold. If they form a ring around the light, it’s too hot. Raise or lower the lamp until the chicks are evenly dispersed.
Your chicks will undoubtedly make a mess and keeping the brooder clean is a top priority when it comes to the health of your growing flock. You’ll need to clean and refill waterers daily, as many parasites and diseases can spread quickly through contaminated water. Wash waterers and feeders with a mild dish detergent and sterilize with a mixture of one part bleach to nine parts water. To keep your chicks clean and dry, line the bottom of your brooder with dry pine shavings. Chicks are messy drinkers so they depend on the shavings to absorb excess moisture in the brooder. At least once per week you should temporarily remove your chicks from the brooder and give it a thorough cleaning, again using the bleach solution.
Since chicks can’t regulate their own body temperature until they’re fully feathered, it’s important that the brooder have a source of warmth. A heat lamp is the most common source of heat for the homesteader raising chicks, but there are many devices on the market such as infrared heaters that do a fine job of keeping the chicks warm. Whatever you choose, the starting temperature for new chicks should be between 90 and 95 degrees. As the chicks grow, you can raise the lamp to reduce the temperature by about 5 degrees each week until they are fully feathered.
Your new chicks will need a steady supply of feed and water. A chick-sized feeder and waterer help keep the chicks out of their feed and water and help prevent contamination. It also keeps them from wasting feed by scratching at it.
A complete feed is needed to support the fast growth of new chicks. Pick up a bag of chick starter, containing at least 18% protein such as Purina Start & Grow Poultry Feed or 20% diet like Purina Flock Raiser Poultry Feed for meat birds.
Its never too early to start preparing your coop, run, or outdoor space for your birds. By the time they’re four to six weeks old your chickens will be ready to start exploring, and will need a larger space.
Space requirements for chickens depend on the size of the breed. For the most flexibility going forward, you can implement what I call the four-ten rule, at least four square feet of floor area per bird inside the coop, and ten square feet of outdoor space per bird. Offering even more space, either indoors, outdoors, or both, will significantly decrease future problems with bullying, egg-eating, and health issues.
If you’re preparing to raise egg-layers, you’ll also need to make sure that your coop has nesting boxes for your hens. One nest for every four to five hens should be adequate. Boxes shouldn’t be too roomy. A good size is one cubic foot. You can construct your boxes from wood, metal, or plastic, and you’ll want to consider adding a landing board in front of the box to help the hens get in and out of it.
Finally, your chickens will need a place to roost. Roosts can be made from any natural material. 2×4’s or sturdy branches can be screwed into place to give each bird a place to perch. If you use lumber for roosts, round the corners with a router or plane. It’ll be much easier on your birds’ feet, and you’ll avoid health issues over the longterm. Each bird should get about nine inches of roost space, and each roost should be separated by about a foot.
I’m sure you’ll have more questions as your birds grow and prepare for their first eggs. Be sure to reach out to your local Purina retailer. Their poultry specialists can help address your questions along the way. Visit grit.com for even more great tips, and don’t forget to sign up for coupons and e-tips from Purina as your birds grow. Visit purinachickdays.com today.
Article and Video Attributed to Purina Animal Nutrition