We have had our little chicks for less than a week, and there are already a few things that I feel I would do differently the next time around. This post will highlight 5 lessons I learned pretty quickly!
- Steady Heat Source
I chose to avoid using a heat lamp given my forgetful nature. I felt like would be too easy to just attach a heat lamp to the brood box, and since our brooder is in the garage for the time being it’s definitely out of sight. For a busy mom of a 2-year-old this can quickly mean out of mind as well. I decided to provide residual heat using hot water in jars and a heating pad. In an attempt to save a few bucks I picked up a heating pad I found on sale on OfferUp. What I didn’t know was that the heating pad had an auto shut-off feature after 2 hours. For the first few nights this meant getting up every 2 hours or so to turn the heating pad back on. While I’ve had success with this method of keeping the chicks warm, I would definitely make sure to get a heating pad without the auto off feature the nest time around.
2. One Size Fits All Brooder
I started the chicks out in a black 18 gallon Sterilite storage bin. While this was enough space initially for the chicks to go back and forth between their food and water, and the heated corner there wasn’t much space for anything in between. About 3 days after their arrival the chicks began to get little wing feathers. 6 days after their arrival I decided to move them to a larger transparent 55 gallon storage bin. This not only allowed for more room to roam, but it allowed the chicks to receive additional light coming in from the sides of the bin. As soon as I made the switch the chicks began to take short little flights around the container stretching their wings and getting an inch or so above the bedding. I think they were thrilled about the extra space! Next time around I would start with a larger tote to begin with to avoid as many “move overs” as possible. The swap didn’t take too long, but I’m sure the chicks would have enjoyed the additional space all along.
3. Crumble the Crumbles
Our chicks are currently on an organic, non medicated, chick starter crumble. Although this is formulated specifically for chicks the crumbles are still a bit large for such little beaks. It was suggested to me, that I crumble them a bit finer to make it easier for the chicks to eat. I poured the feed into a plastic bag and gave it a few good hits with a small 2×4 block I found in the garage. After watching the chicks feed on the smaller crumbles it was noticeably easier for them, and they sent fewer pieces flying across the brood box in an attempt to eat. While it’s not a must, I do believe the chicks found it helpful.
4. Feed and Water Containers
Before the chicks arrived I watched lots of videos and read many articles that mentioned how food and water would need to be available to the chicks at all times. There were a few that mentioned not needing to purchase standard feed and water equipment. While I also agree that it’s not a need, the chicks will eat and drink as they please if the food and water are available, it has been extremely nice having them. I look around the brood box at all the droppings everywhere, and can’t help but assume that if their food and water were located that low to the bedding they would be tossed about and covered in droppings as well. While the feeders haven’t prevented the occasional pieces of pine shavings from getting into the food and water we have had great results with keeping the droppings out.
As much as we are looking forward to the eggs that these sweet girls will provide us with we will also be sharing a common space, the backyard! A day or so ago I noticed the chicks getting a bit skittish when I went to check on them and make sure they had enough heat, food and water. This was probably due in part to the fact that I really hadn’t been interacting with them much outside of making sure all of their basic needs were met. I’m now trying to make it a point to interact with them as much as possible a few times a day. Right now this means holding each chick for a few minutes at a time, and offering a small treat like fresh greens from the garden.