Because of the Coronavirus outbreak, this has been a strange year for hatcheries. For new enthusiasts raising baby chicks, this interest lies in supplying eggs in a time when availability is sometimes uncertain and giving people something to do when they are otherwise stuck at home.
Raising chickens to lay eggs or for meat keeps people from feeling, well… cooped up. These first-time chick owners are bringing a much-needed boost to the industry, as larger farmers who would normally supply restaurants are backing out of larger chick orders.
So, the hen coop is ready, you’ve decided on your breed of chickens–now what? You’ll need a few supplies, like feeders, waterers, bedding, a brooder with a heat lamp, and (of course) chicken feed.
A brooder is another word for a container or pen for your baby chicks. Plywood is simple and cost-effective, but the container can be almost anything you have available. Other examples might be a kiddie pool, feeding trough, plastic tote, or even an aquarium. Just remember that your container should be easy to clean and that each chick needs about 2 square feet of space to be comfy. Also, as long as the container is 12 inches deep or more, the chicks won’t be able to fly out, so you will not need a lid.
After your brooder is set up, your chicks will need a heat source. A 250-watt infrared heat lamp with a red bulb will do the trick. Closely monitor the temperature of your chicks using a thermometer–preferably one with a wire and a sensor to read the temperature directly under the heat lamp. The lamp should heat the area to 95 degrees F.
Remember to turn on the heat source well before the chicks come home. Baby chicks are transported in large numbers and huddle together in hatcheries, so they chill fast once separated. It might also take a few hours for your brooder temperature to stabilize, so keep checking and adjusting as needed.
Pine shavings are a popular bedding for chickens. It’s absorbent and relatively cheap. Fill the floor with one to two inches of bedding and clean it when droppings begin to gather or when the smell gets to be too much for you. Remember that cedar shavings are toxic to chicks and will kill your brood. Chicks can also develop spraddle legs from slippery newspaper shavings, so stay away from using these alternatives.
Lastly, add feeders and waterers to your brooder. Young chicks are attracted to the color red and like to peck – often tipping over unstable feeders. As they peck food off the ground, they will eat their bedding or shavings which might cause them to get sick or die. To prevent this, be sure to get a feeder that is not easily tipped over. You should place the waterers and feeders around the edges of the heat lamp’s heat—not too far away from the center but not directly under it.
To get started on your first dozen eggs, find everything you need–including the baby chicks–at Mimbach Fleet and Supply.