Spring is coming quickly and those of us at eFowl thought it might be nice to discuss setting up a brooding area for baby chicks. Whether you are incubating and hatching your own or planning to receive day-old chicks in the mail, you will need to figure out where and how you are going to brood them.
When brooding chicks, the goal is to provide a clean, dry area with adequate heat and space. On top of that, you will need to prepare a method for watering and feeding your feathery little friends. A quality brooding area is essential for the growth and health of your chickens until they are about 6 weeks of age.
Each chick should have around a 1/2 square foot of space until about 4 weeks of age and about double that space after 4 weeks. This will prevent pecking and bullying, especially in the feistier breeds. For example, a 5 by 5-foot brooding enclosure would host 25 chicks until they are 8 weeks of age.
Your brooding enclosure can consist of a tub, wooden box or even cardboard fencing. You will want to use some sort of bedding to line the bottom of your brooding enclosure; most people use wood shavings or straw. As long as your bedding absorbs moisture and doesn’t grow mold you should be okay (warning: hardwoods can develop mold hazardous to infant chicks). Make sure your bedding isn’t so small that your chicks may accidentally eat it; something like sawdust can cause serious digestive problems in your chicks. This means you should be checking for wet spots and caked bedding at least once a day, which will avoid the growing of hazardous mold. It is also important to note that chicks may slip and develop spraddled legs if brooded on a flat surface. The materials that we have recommended will help greatly in reducing that risk.
You will want to consider a heating element and thermometer so that your chicks can maintain their necessary temperature between 90-95 F. It is important to make sure there is space away from the heating element so you chicks can cool off when necessary. If you are brooding less than 200 chicks you will most likely want to use an infrared heat bulb around 250 watts. I recommend you use a specific heat lamp with porcelain socket to prevent fire hazards. You will want to place your heat lamp about 1-1.5′ above your chicks. If your chicks seem to be huddled under the lamp, move the lamp closer. On the other hand, if your chicks are grouping away from the heat lamp, pull it farther away. You want your chicks to be evenly spread.
Now for the food and water essentials. After chicks hatch, they have enough food and water in their system (from their egg) to last them for approximately 72 hours. When your chicks arrive and have begun settling into their brooding area, you will want to take each chick and dip their beaks into their water source as a way of showing them where to drink. I recommend a 1-Gallon waterer for every 25 chicks, however, it depends on how often you wish to fill it.
Last, but certainly not least, you will need some feed! There are many types and sources of poultry feed. Chick feed or starter feed is a specific blend of necessary nutrients and often medication to help your chicks develop into beautiful roosters and hens. Chickens, like many birds, will also require some form of grit in order to digest food in their gizzard, which comes mixed in most starter feeds. In order to keep your brooding area as tidy as possible (always nice to keep the poop and the food apart), its a good idea to get a chick feeder of some sort.
Remember, when you order chicks from eFowl, you will receive a basic care guide to direct you through the first couple of weeks of brooding, but it is always a great idea to do extra research and to plan ahead so that everything is ready to go when your new chicks arrive.
All said and done, brooding chicks is a rewarding and amazing process. I hope this short blog helps anyone in need. Please feel free to ask any questions.