Buying Day Old Chicks – Prep & Care (including a Chicklist)

 

Chicks Prep and Care

We are on our 3rd set of chicks now. We get them as chicks, because we have a dog that the chicks need to get used to, it’s way too much stress on them if we get them any older. It’s also a lot of fun to see how fast they grow up and how they develop, either for kids or adults it’s a fun process to watch. In this article I will go over the basics of what you need for welcoming home a small flock of day old chicks. Including a “chicklist” to print out and take with you to the store to buy things, and an information sheet you can fill out on your chicks so you know how and when to change things (that includes a weekly temperature, space, food requirements guides). There is a “the first two weeks” printable that will help you keep track of your chicks and keep them happy, healthy, and to give them the best start possible in life.

Growing Chicks:

After not being able to keep track of how old they were or when to do what for our chicks, I decided it was time to make a little guide book and care list to help us remember what to change when. They grow FAST, the cute little fluffy chicks you see in Easter ads are usually less than 2 weeks old, because they start to lose that fluff when they enter their second week. By the time they are less than 2 months old they are ready to be outside in their coop. As they grow from 2 to 3 weeks you’ll need to make sure to enrich their environment with twigs, rocks, dust bath (see part 2 of this post), mealworms and greens (make sure to give them grit). If you don’t do this they will make more and more noise and start to dig up and pick at anything in their box. Remember you wouldn’t want to lock any young animal in a box with nothing to do but eat and drink, it’s sensory deprivation, especially for chicks. If you’re having good weather make a safe place for them outside to spend their days after they are 2 to 3 weeks old (at around 14 day’s they gain the ability to regulate their body temperature). To help them adjust to where they will be living expose them to as much stuff as you can.

Training for friendly chickens:

If you want a friendly chicken, ones that are familiar with you and your animals, you need to handle them and give them contact with your animals. If you touch them and pick them up once or twice a day or you will have chicks and chicken who aren’t scared each time you put your hand in the box to change their food or water. In addition, you need to be able to pick them up and examine them to check and see if they are okay. If you’re planning on being able to be hand fed them or have kids do so, you need to do this while they are young chicks or it will hurt when they take food from you. They are very aggressive and need to be taught to pick up food from your hand and not pinch hands. My husband’s method, which has worked well so far, is he takes each chick out on his hand and when they are calm he offers them a live mealworm, then puts them back. Each one gets a chance and they LOVE it, they are starting to go crazy over who gets to get on his hand first. [Just a side note on this, they have started to want to be picked up whenever a hand is in there, so we are thinking about training them with a command or sounds so they know the difference.]

What not to wear around chicks or chickens:

Beware of wearing any jewelry or anything that shines (eye’s and glasses included) or looks anything like a worm…basically any stringy things (including your hand strap for your camera!) Also, as obvious and this seems, don’t wear nice clothes, if it can’t be pooped on don’t wear it around them. An apron works wonders for your relationship with them.

Supply’s to Buy Before You Get Your Chicks:

Let me say this before we begin: Yes, it’s easier to just get the supplies ready or buy them when you are getting the chicks, but this is not what’s best for the chicks. You need these things BEFORE you buy your chicks. This is extremely important because from the point you pick out your chicks and they go into that box, to the time you get home and put them inside their brooder, safe and warm, is the most dangerous time for them. Not only will they be under a LOT of stress by the time you get them home, they will also be thirsty, hungry, scared, and cold.

Chicks

Chicks inside the box at the feed store. All ready to close up and take home.

 

Just imagine you are a few days old, in a warm place (90-95 F), with food and water and a flock. Then your plucked up (pun intended) and put in a dark box. This new place is way colder than your last “home” so you have a huddle up to stay warm. As your “home” at last stops moving, your put under some light, which is not warm enough, while you hear some scary noises near by (unbeknownst to you, it’s humans setting up your new home). Your now cold, hungry and thirsty. At this point you are stressed and your immune system is low, which leaves you tired, weak, and vulnerable to illness.

The less time a chick spends getting from one heat lamp to the next the better for its health. A cold chick is a dead chick and they will pile on top of one another (to the point of smothering the unlucky ones on the bottom) to try and keep warm. Losing young chicks is not uncommon, it’s a loss we try and minimize.

Now lets get to that Chicklist!

Here’s the PDF Chicklist to take with you to the store:

Can be bought elsewhere or check to see if you already own it:

Big box (moving boxes are great starting brooder boxes) – approximately 24” X 24”

Puppy pads (for the very bottom of your box)

Baby wipes (for you, NOT the chicks)

Thermometer (for the bottom of the brooder)

Paper towels (put on top of puppy pads)

Wire for the top of the box – best is galvanized ½ inch (MUST have if you have other animals, otherwise it can wait until they are 2 weeks old)

Things usually only found at feed/pet stores:

Standard clip on heat light (can be found at big box stores too)

Red heating bulb (250 Watt)

Chick feed Feeder

Chick feed (more on this below)

Chick Waterer

Chick Probiotics (to add to their water) – may need to buy this online, do not buy small packets as it’s not cost effective. (Store it in a cool dry place and it will last a year or two.)

Chick Grit – this is NOT chicken grit, it’s a lot smaller, you could also use canary grit.

Buy these items no longer than 2 weeks after you bring the chicks home:

Pine Chips – larger is better because it’s harder for them to eat -use after they are 3 weeks old after they know what food looks like, don’t want them filling up on pine chips!

Dust bath (½ :1:1 ratio)

½ Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

1 Soil Mix (sterilize it if it’s not store bought)

1 Coarse Sand

Perch (small dowel and medium sized one)

Print out Chart for tracking temperature weekly (see PDF below)

 

Setting up Their New Home:

Now it’s time to set up your Brooder (Heated home for chicks). This is all of course done before you bring them home. I’m assuming your chicks are day’s old and no older (modification will have to be made if they are older than a few day’s, see temperature chart.)

NOTE: to those of you who will be putting this in a living space. There are a lot of people who are allergic to chicks because they produce a ton of “dust” (When new feathers come out they are covered in a flaky whitish sheath that come off, in the form of a white dust, as the feather is formed.) This will coat everything in the room in a fine white layer of dust. If you have to have them in the house, I suggest to have an air filter right next to them, as I did, and move them outdoors as soon as feasible.

  1. Large sized Box, either make or buy one, with either an open top or a screen. We just use a large moving box. You want this to be fairly large, as those little chicks will grow fast, something they fit when they are a week old will be inadequate for them in a month.
  2. For the heat lamp, the first thing to do is test the outlet you’ll be putting your heat lamp on. Plug it in and make sure that it can handle the 250 watt load (most newer houses can handle this without a problem). If you don’t trip your breaker (i.e. your lights goes out) your set. Put the lamp aside for the time being.
  3. Place your box on the ground close enough for the heat lamp to easily reach. Also take note of anything hanging or stored near by that may be affected by the heat, remove those items. Also make sure it doesn’t touch the cardboard box, as it’s flammable. Put some aluminum foil around the area in case it moves and touches the area.
  4. For a cardboard box brooder keep the flaps on the top of the box open, tape up the bottom corners then set it on top of a rug or mat to keep it off the ground and give some added insulation for the chicks.
  5. Lay as many puppy pee pads on the bottom as needed (at least one under the water). I wish I would have done this the first time I had chicks! It’s amazing how well the can spill over their water no matter what the amount of support you put under it.
  6. Then add a layer of paper towels on top of that. We kept paper towels on hand during the first two weeks and just put them over the chicks poop when we did our chick checks. It’s a lot less hassle than trying to pick up after growing chicks and surprisingly cost effective.
  7. Next put the food and water in the opposite area the heat lamp will be in, you don’t want them directly under the heat lamp, if possible. Day old chicks are so small that the little plastic “mason jar” type feeder and watered are almost too high up to reach. So for the time being just leave them on the paper towels.
  8. Now it’s time to get the heat lamp installed. I used a standing lamp to attach my heat lamp to and it had a heavy enough base to keep it upright, but you could use some rope to hang it from the metal loop that’s attached to the metal frame of the heat lamp. (You will need supplementary light of some kind to simulate daytime.) I have seen some designs for using cardboard that you notch to attach to the box. What ever design you choose make sure that it’s got room to move, you’ll start close to the chicks and move upward as they grow and become less dependent on it.
  9. After getting your heat lamp installed you are going to put a thermometer at the bottom part of the box where the chicks will be and make sure the temperature stays around 95 F or 34 C, not hotter or colder (refer to chick worksheet below).
  10. What NOT to use with chicks: newspaper, cedar chips, redwood chips, saw dust, salt.
  11. Now you are ready to go get your chicks!

Click on this to download the PDF Chicklist

Chicks

# of Chicks to start with:__________

Type of Chickens:______________________________________________

Date the chicks were born:_____________________________

Date you brought them home:___________________________

Chick Age

Your Chicks Dates

Temperature (F/C)

Space Per Chick (Min)

Notes

Week 1

90-95 / 34

0.5 sq ft

Check them often

Week 2

85-90 / 30

0.5

Start to move the heat lamp up.

Week 3

80-85 / 28

0.5

Can regulate body temperature.

Week 4

75-80 / 26

0.5

Start taking them outside

Week 5

70-75 /

0.5

Have them visit their coop

Week 6

65-70 /

.75 sq ft

Coop Time!

Week 7

60-65 /

0.75

Check food and water daily

Week 8

60 /

0.75

Heat lamp at night only

Week 9

Room Temp

0.75

Clean up add or change bedding

Week 10

Room Temp

1 sq ft

Need to have more room, expand

Type of Feeds and when they are fed to Chicks

1-12 weeks

Starter Chick Feed

12-18 weeks

Finisher or Grower Feed

18 weeks or Egg laid

Layer Feed (At 18 weeks or when the 1st egg is laid, which ever one comes 1st)

Note: you can use the starter chick feed until they start laying but the finisher or grower feed will help them mature faster.

After they lay eggs: Give them calcium in form of crushed oyster shells.

Number of Chicks that live and grow up to be hens:______________

Daily Chicklist (for the first 2 weeks)

Morning – Turn the overhead light on, if you don’t have it on a timer. Check the temp. Check to see all the chicks are okay and that they have enough food and water and put down a new layer of paper towels

Noon – Check the temp. Pick up each chick and make sure they don’t have a pasty bum or an overly large crop (hard or too soft, massage it and look up treatment) replace paper towels as needed.

Evening – Check the temp. Take each one out check it (same as above) and socialize it, in other words holding it and keeping it calm and warm in your hands for about 5 min’s to get them used to you. You can take turns doing this if you have more than one family member. Its kind of a pain, after the first week, but you’ll thank yourself later.

Bedtime – Check the temp, make sure there’s enough food and water. Turn off overhead light if you don’t have it on a timer.

Day

Morning

Noon

Evening

Bedtime

Notes

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Notes on dogs and Chicks: This is not recommended for all types of dogs as some dogs just have too high of a prey drive and will hurt/kill the chicks if given the opportunity. Terriers and some hunting breeds tend to have more problems understanding that they are not food to be hunted down and killed. This is not to say that they can’t or won’t learn or bought otherwise. Our dog, who is a Standard Poodle, from a hunting line, now understands what they are all about, we have raised all of our chicks right across from her bed. So she can see us interact with them as well as getting to know them by their scent and sounds. When she was younger she couldn’t keep her eye’s off of them, always looking in on them when they would make any noise. She now only gets that way when they are making distressing sounds. She’s also very polite around them, when presented with a chick she will look away, which in dog is saying “I’m not a threat” and “I don’t want to hurt you.” Now that the chicks are a little older she tries to play with them, giving an exaggerated play bow to them, so far she has had no luck on getting them to play with her 😉

 

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