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What You’ll Need When You Bring Your New Chicks Home

So you’ve decided to start raising chickens and are getting ready to bring your new chicks home…what now? First let me say, congratulations on your new additions and I hope that you enjoy having them as much a we do. You are starting on a fun new adventure and some simple preparation can help you get ready for your new additions.

FEEDERS AND WATERERS

If you are starting with baby or young chicks, you will most likely want to start with chick waterers and feeders. Their smaller size makes them more suitable for young birds and protects clumsy young chicks from drowning in larger water containers. For young chicks and smaller breeds, we typically put marbles or glass breeds in waterers for the first few days to a week to prevent small chicks from drowning.

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FEED

You can use any suitable feed formulated for chicks. We typically start our chicks on medicated chick feed then later switch them to unmedicated chick feed. We use Southern States feeds for all of our birds now but have used Purina and Nutrena brands in the past. Be sure to always have plenty of fresh water available for your chicks as well.

HEAT SOURCES

Heat Lamps

Traditional red light heat lamps are the most common choice for a heat source for chicks. Always be careful to have your lamps mounted securely to reduce risk of fire or injury to your chicks.

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Brooder Warmers/Heat Plates

Brooder warmers can be another option. They are more expensive but are a good option for anyone concerned about using heat lamps. Below are two examples of different size brooder warmers available.  The space available in your brooder and number of chicks you are raising are the two main factors that determine what size may be the best fit for your brooder.

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DIMMER SWITCHES FOR HEAT LAMPS

One thing that we have found to be particularly helpful for controlling our heat lamps is using a dimmer switch with our heat lamps. This allows us to easily adjust the temperature to keep our chicks comfortable and happy, without having to move the heat lamps themselves.  You can mount your heat lamp securely in one spot then adjust the heat using the dimmer switch instead of moving the lamp.  We find this to be a safer and more secure option in our brooders.

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THERMOMETER FOR BROODERS

If you prefer, you can also monitor the temperature in the brooder using a simple digital thermometer. Some people find this more helpful than others. We do use thermometers sometimes, but typically find it more helpful to observe the behavior of the chicks to see if any temperature adjustments are needed in the brooder. These thermometers can also be used as a backup thermometer for incubators and hatchers.

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Brooder Set Up

There are a number of good options that can be used as a brooder to safely raise younger chicks.  Some people prefer commercial brooders for some of their advantages for cleaning and access, especially if they plan to raise a larger number of chicks. You can also build your own brooder to fit your specific needs. Plywood and hardware cloth are materials commonly used to build brooders. Another easy and economical option is large plastic totes. Any of these options can work well depending on your needs.

We use commercial battery brooders for our younger chicks and we use larger wooden brooders for our older chicks that aren’t quite ready for our grow out coops. We use pine shavings as the litter material in our wooden brooders. You can get these at farm supply stores like Tractor Supply Company or Southern States, and even some pet stores.

We purchased our battery brooders from GQF.  We built our larger wooden brooders but you can purchase wooden brooders as well. Below is an example.

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Our Favorites – Cold Weather Edition

Winter can be a challenge for any farm, and the same is definitely true for our chickens. Below are a number of items that we have found useful in the cold weather and that make things a little bit easier for us (and our chickens!)

  • WATER TUBS

We have found totes to be our best winter water option when the temperatures are just around freezing. Their larger size means that they take significantly longer to freeze and when they do freeze, it’s often just a layer of ice on top that’s easily broken to give the birds access to fresh water. We use 10 to 12.5 gallon tubs with lower sides. For some of our shorter breeds (like Silkies or Olandsk Dwarfs), we put pavers around the tubs to give them a boost.

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When temperatures are staying below freezing, we use smaller rubber tubs and 2.5 gallon buckets for water. We switch out frozen containers for fresh containers in the morning and as needed. The smaller size of these tubs make it easier to switch out water containers.

 

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  • LARGER HANGING FEEDERS

Like many people, we use hanging feeders for our chickens. Our favorite feeders are these Harris Farms 25lb Feeders. Their large size allows you to keep plenty of food available for your birds and cuts down on how often you have to refill feed. They also sell 10lb feeders if you are looking for a smaller feeder.

25lb Hanging Feeder

 

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  • WARM GEAR FOR CHICKEN CHORES

Whether you spend a lot of time outside with your birds or a little, it helps to have clothes that will keep you warm and dry while you do your chicken chores. We have found some of these items to make a huge difference on frigid days.

Insulated bib overalls are our go to item for winter chores. I can’t say enough about how easy and comfortable they are to work in, no matter what the weather conditions. Plus, they keep whatever you are wearing underneath clean and dry.

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We have rubber, waterproof boots that are dedicated to working in our chicken pens. Not only are they easy to throw on but having boots specifically dedicated to chicken chores allows you to maintain biosecurity for your birds and not expose them to anything harmful that you might track into their pens.

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Gloves that give you enough dexterity to work in but still keep your hands warm and protected from the wind are a must on bitterly cold days. There are several kinds of gloves that we use but I think the most versatile and sturdy work gloves that we’ve found are Mechanix Brand gloves. These are an example.

 

 

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Cold Weather Treats for Chickens

When the temperatures drop and cold sets in, supplementing the normal feed routine for your chickens with healthy and nutritious treats can help provide them with the additional energy to stay warm. We have included a list of some of our favorites below. What are your favorite treats?

 

Some of our favorites:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Dried Mealworms
  • Scratch Grains
  • Scrambled Eggs (Made from Older or Unused Eggs)
  • Veggie Scraps
  • Fodder/Sprouted Seeds
  • Warm Water in waterers