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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.