Preparing for your new chicks

Bringing home baby chicks or hatching them within your own flock is a lot of fun. If you have everything set up for their arrival, you’ll get them off to a good start.

David Frame is an Extension poultry specialist at Utah State University. He says the brooding pen should have at least an inch-and-a-half of pine shavings for bedding, and set up either a red or white heat lamp in the center of the brooder so there’s a temperature gradient. Chicks that like the heat can settle under the lamp, and those that prefer cooler conditions can move away from it. Frame says the same holds true when placing the feed and waterer. 

"You don’t want all the feed and water directly under the light because if chicks don’t feel comfortable at that heat at the particular time, they’ll be on the perimeter and they won’t have access to water and feed. My recommendation for feeder sources are linear feeders where you can kind of spoke them out away from the heat source, so that along the line of that feeder the chicks can find their range of comfort in order to eat," recommends Frame. "The same thing with the waterers, you don’t want them all in the same areas."

Frame says it’s important that you have the right chick feed available on day one. 

"One of the biggest mistakes that I’ve seen is folks go to the feed store and they’ve bought layer chicks, and then they say ok, that’s layer feed up there, that’s what they need to eat," he says. "That layer mash is extremely high in calcium and will damage your baby birds, and so make sure that you start with a good chick starter feed. And the reason for that is because they need the protein and those extra vitamins in there."

After the first 24-hours and the chicks have found their food and water, Frame recommends raising the waterer about breast-high up off the floor. The birds can still reach the water but not slop it all over the place. This also helps prevent contamination. 
 

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