How to Care for your Mail Order Chicks

It’s easy! The hardest part is learning to keep it simple.

When your day old chicks arrive from the hatchery they will need food, water, heat, light, fresh air and space. They will arrive stressed from excess heat or cold, lack of food, and might be showing signs of dehydration.

Your chicks can survive several days on the stored yolk in their body, but heat, food and water should be the first priority upon their arrival.  It’s a good idea to have electrolytes on hand before you pick up your chicks. They might look a bit wilted from their travels, and this will help perk them up. I don’t usually use electrolytes more than two days. A popular brand of electrolytes is Sav-a-Chick, and is available online or at local feed stores.

Baby chick

On the day your chicks arrive you should have a draft free box (lined with paper towels) large enough to provide a heat lamp (red bulb) at one end. Be sure to allow enough room for a cooler area so that the hatchlings can get away from the heat source if needed.  A good rule of thumb is to provide a 1/2 square foot of floor space per chick.

The temperature in your brooder should be 90-95 degrees for the first week, then decrease the temperature by 5 degrees each week following.  You can raise or lower the lamp to help obtain that proper temperature. If you don’t need to use a heat lamp in the brooder, for the first few days, keep a light on so the chicks can find their food and water. After a few days, I suggest switching to a simple night light, just to help prevent piling or suffocation.

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Tip: Heat lamps are often hard to regulate temperatures, another choice is using a Brinsea Ecoglow Chick Brooder. They are safer, and you won’t be spending so much time adjusting the heat lamp.

On week two, you can start using shavings for bedding (not cedar) in the brooder. You can also raise the drinker a bit to help keep the water clean. Use a drinker made for chicks to avoid the possibility of drowning.  Chick starter feed is all your hatchlings will need all the way until they are at their point of lay… which is about 5-6 months.  You’ll have to decide if you want to use medicated started feed or not. I use medicated for the first 2 weeks, then switch to non-medicated.

Important!

Something to watch for that can put your chicks in danger is pasting up, this is simply a poopy butt. This is real common in baby chicks, and if not tended to, they won’t be able to poop and can die. So keep those fuzzy butts clean by using a baby wipe, or a wet paper towel. Learn more about Pasting Up.

My Favorite Hatcheries? My Pet Chicken | Ideal Hatchery | Murray McMurray

 

 

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EcoGlow Brinsea Brooder

Brinsea 2

Updated Review | The Pro’s and Con’s of Using the Brinsea EcoGlow for Chicks in Winter

We all know that cutting corners and penny pinching usually ends up costing more money in the long run. This is especially true when raising chickens, I know this, and write about it constantly, so I figure it’s about time I follow my own advice!

Below is the Brinsea Brooder, and I bought one today… finally.  It’s a far better way to keep your chicks warm than with a heat lamp. If you raise chickens, then you already know keeping chicks at a comfortable temp is near impossible. The weather changes from hour to hour, so unless you don’t mind being on call 24/7 to raise and lower the heat lamp, the Brinsea is a MUCH better way. No more worrying about baking your chicks alive under a  heat lamp, or wondering if they’re too cold. That’s worth about $80 bucks to me, how about you?

About the Brinsea Brooder

The EcoGlow Brinsea Brooder only uses 18 Watts (a tenth of the electricity of typical suspended infrared lamps) because the chicks are in contact with its warm underneath surface. The brooder runs at 12v for safety from a mains transformer (supplied) and with the convenience of a generous (about 10 feet) power lead.

Different sizes of chicks are accommodated by three adjustable height settings and an indicator light confirms the brooder is connected.

Dimensions: 12″ long x 8″ wide x 8″ high

Price: About $80 on Amazon Brinsea EcoGlow Brooder for Chicks or Ducklings

 

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October’s Hatch, Brooder to Coop in Phoenix, How and When

Update 2018 | I no longer use heat lamps & have switched to radiant heat. Brinsea Ecoglow

Once again, my informative article on what age chicks can leave the *brooder. A week by week guide to help you transition your October hatched chicks from inside to the outdoor chicken coop… in Phoenix.

Small Brooder with 20 2 day old chicks

It is a little different raising chicks in Arizona. October is the best time to raise chicks in Phoenix,  it’s much easier to keep chicks warm than it is trying to keep them cool.  High temps in the day are in the mid to high 80′s and nights in the high 50′s and low 60′s. My brooder area is an addition off the house without controlled temps. Therefore, 80′s outdoors means 90+ in the enclosed off the house structure. I use a red low wattage brooder lamp at night about 20 inches above brooder and only natural lighting during the day.

At 3.5 weeks I move them to the outside coop. They will be confined there with a 250 watt red brooder lamp 3-4ft above ground which is left on day and night. Half of the coop is unheated. Temps in late Oct. are usually in the 80′s and at night upper 50′s.

At 4 weeks I open the coop doors to the chicken yard offering them the choice to fly the coop so to speak. They will venture out briefly then run back to the coop. After about 4 days they brave the outside world. Brooder lamp is still left on. Every night the coop doors close and all chicks are huddled together under the lamp.  It is now the first part of November and temps. are in the mid to upper 70′s, lows around 55.

At 5-6 weeks the birds are fully feathered, heat lamp off around 10AM, and turned on around 3PM. I find this important because the brooder lamp lures them in the coop as dusk approaches – exactly where I want them to go every night… always.

At 7 weeks the temps are high in the mid 60′s and lows in the 40′s. No heat lamp. However, it is now that I introduce an LED light where I want them to sleep at night, and eventually lay their eggs. The birds go the the light, even though it provides no heat. I choose an LED source of light because the batteries last a really long time, up to a month. My nesting area requires a ladder ( I use a sturdy tree branch) and as long as there is a light up there they all adapted quite easily to the change.

At 8 weeks it is unlikely that your birds will require a heat source at night, especially if you have six or more birds. Pack the nest area with plenty of bedding (I use bermuda grass hay) to help insulate the chicks from the cold.

*A brooder is a heated container that has a temperature controlled area. It’s used to confine chicks until they are old enough to go outside.

Raising Winter Chicks in Phoenix

When Can Chicks Be Moved Outside?

It’s a good guess you have your new chicks in a box in the house or garage and are watching them quickly outgrow their safe haven of comfort and warmth.

At about 6-7 weeks old they are becoming a handful, looking a bit crowded in their quarters, and you’ve had enough of keeping up with the mess. I understand your dilemma and have good news for you. We live in Phoenix! With mild winter temperatures, even at 6-7 weeks your chicks will be fine outside with the right housing accommodations. However, first you’ll want to lower the temperature in their brooder over the next few days to get them used to cooler temperatures.

A suitable coop for 6-7 weeks old chicks is something that will protect them from wind and rain. If your coop is drafty, a large tarp will do wonders. Buy the highest grade tarp you can find, or use two.

If there’s a cold snap, say below 40 degrees, simply cover the coop with a heavy blanket. Moving blankets from Harbor Freight work great and they’re only $8. The chicks will huddle together at night and keep each other warm.

Give them lots of shavings or hay in the coop, provide low-sided brooder box filled with shavings in the corner for them to sleep in. If they don’t use it, that’s okay too.

Prepare for the Phoenix Heat Now

While watching your chicks grow in the confinements of their coop, this is a good time to think about summer’s arrival and prepare their outdoor environment. Keeping chickens in Phoenix is tough, keeping them in small confinement quite honestly… can be a death sentence.

Think I’m Kidding? I’m not, this could be your coop temperature in July.

June and July will no doubt reach 110 to 115 degrees. This means, your coop could easily exceed 120 degrees, even if it’s in the shade. It’s imperative to provide a play area where they can dig holes in the dirt to stay cool.
A play area can simply be a fenced area off the coop. Look for or create a shady spot preferably near a water source so it’s easy for you to access. This is important because there will be days when you’ll want to use a mister, or maybe flood them a spot to help them cool off.