The needs of chicks are fairly simple. They need to stay warm. They need food and water. They need to be able to scratch their bedding. They need enough space so that they aren’t stressed. They need interesting things to do so that pecking each other doesn’t become a pastime.
I’m setting a brooder up in the storage area of my Little Barn. A hanging heat lamp will provide warmth, and cardboard walls will keep it draft-free. Because chicks have a crowd mentality, and because even those fluffy sweet-looking babies peck and chase, the corners are blocked off so that no one gets trapped and pounded on or smothered.
As you can see, this is inexpensive, temporary housing. These are old shipping boxes that we had stored away. We use gaffer’s tape, not duct tape, because it doesn’t leave a sticky residue. But, duct tape is fine. If you don’t have a concrete floor to tape it to, then use an appliance box (appliance stores are happy to give them away) as I did for the Gems. I’ll be putting pine shavings down for bedding.
I know that the Little Barn has some lingering coccidia (a protozoan parasite that can kill chicks.) I know this because periodically I have fecal samples looked at by a vet tech. Most yards that have housed chickens have coccidia in the soil. I’ve ordered vaccinated chicks, but it takes awhile for their immunity to kick in. So, I don’t want them on dirt. Clean concrete is a good floor, as is a cardboard box. You don’t want the place to be pristine. You want them to develop immunity to germs and bugs, but exposure to those things should be in small increments.
The heat lamp is on a cord that can be raised as the chicks get older. Notice that the brooder is big enough that the chicks can get away from the heat if they want to. Chicks can get overheated, and that can kill them. This is a basic heat lamp. One of these days I’ll try the new radiant brooder lamps. But this one works, and so I haven’t felt the need to spend the money.
I like hanging feeders, which deters the chicks from sitting in the feed and also keeps it clean of shavings. The waterers are made for tiny chicks. They’re inexpensive and worth getting for peace of mind. You can use chicken waterers, but put rocks in so that the water isn’t so wide and deep that the babies can drown. Because the waterers don’t hang, I put them up on blocks to keep them clean and out of the shavings.
Lastly, I’ve been reading about how essential it is for chicks to eat grit right away. Since mine won’t be able to get out for several weeks and have access to the bits of granite in this New England soil, I’m going to give them grit in this dispenser.
I’m off to buy chick feed. I tried last week but it was out of stock. Those chicks are going to be seriously hungry when they arrive and they’ll need to eat immediately. It’s essential that everything is set-up before they get here. I have a few other last minute preparations (which I’ll share in another post) and then you’ll see them on the ChickCam!