When preparing the brooder, use whatever bedding you choose or is available to you. Some use Cedar shavings, pine shavings, RV liner, straw etc. But make sure the surface is non-slip. Avoid newspaper or magazine paper unless those are shredded. There's no right or wrong to the natural bedding used, just avoid anything that creates a dust, to prevent respiratory issues. Puppy training pads make clean up a little easier for the first few days.
Have clean waterers and feeders, and make sure they are accessible to the chicks. Also make sure the waterer is not too deep or chicks could drown in them. Chicks fall asleep often, and it is not uncommon for them to fall asleep even when eating or drinking. If the waterer is deep, add clean, sterilized pebbles or marbles to that water dish to prevent any chance of drowning. The best feeders are ones that chicks cannot walk in or be easily tipped over. This is necessary to keep bacteria down and to prevent waste. Change the water daily if not more often depending on how much of the feed or droppings may be getting into it. If water spills into the bedding it must be changed. When the bedding is wet it creates an environment for pathogens. Chicks need to be exposed to some bacteria to build a strong immune system, but never any excess waste or wet environment, that harbors an abundance of bacteria.
We give our chicks the best "starter" food available. Do not scrimp on their feed. They need a good healthy start. If chicks have not been vaccinated we would suggest giving them medicated feed to help prevent coccidiosis. If you purchase from a hatchery you have the option of vaccinating for an additional charge. If they've been vaccinated a non-medicated chick starter feed can be used. As of 2017, you may need a Vet Directive (prescription) to purchase medicated feed, so check with your feed supplier. In addition we use vinegar water; 1 T. Pure Apple Cider vinegar in a gallon of water for the first few days. This helps with their delicate digestive systems and helps prevent coccidiosis. NOTE: If your chicks are shipped (including those from a farm store), use an electrolyte formula to help balance their system; stress and trauma causes an imbalance and electroloytes need to be restored to every cell in their body. Refer to the link for our easy electrolyte formula, that you can have on hand and requires only ingredients that you have in your pantry. http://justfowlingaround.weebly.com/chicken-coop-chatter-blog/1 For more information on how to treat for Coccidiosis, refer to the link: justfowlingaround.weebly.com/chicken-coop-chatter-blog/coccidiosis-in-chicks
Make certain if you are using heat lamps, that it is completely secure and has a mesh screen, so it is not apt to fall into the brooder. This is not only unsafe for the chicks but unsafe for you as a fire hazard. Make sure the lamp is far enough above the brooder so it is not too hot on the babies. Heat lamps get very hot and can ignite any flammable material. Every year there are reports of fires caused by heat lamps and space heaters. Use a hardware cloth (wire mesh) over the top of the brooder as an additional safety feature and do not place anything flammable around that unit. Check all cords and outlets and make sure the cord is secure so it is not creating a tripping hazard. The Sweeter Heater or Brinsea Eco-glow are safer options. You will notice if the babies move away from the heat that it is too warm. If chicks are peeping loudly, huddle or are on top of each other they are too cold. Place a thermometer in the brooder so you can keep track of the temperature. The temperature should be no lower than 90 degrees in the brooder for the first few days.
Anything can work for a brooder. From a large plastic container, crate, box or commercial brooder. The important thing is that it be easy access, easy to clean and easy to be kept clean. It should be large enough that the chicks are not over crowded. We have used a variety of containers as brooders, including what I listed. Some people use portable tubs, child swimming pools and even bathtubs. Pet playpens work well, but may not be the easiest to keep clean. There are also commercial brooders available as individual units or stackable, that are suitable for holding 100 chicks for the first couple of weeks and 50 chicks as they begin growing. Those are equipped with removable litter trays, feeding trays, and heat unit. If you raise a number of chicks through the year, the commercial brooder may be the better option.
You can build your own wooden brooder, but if you do so, make sure it has a removable litter tray for ease of cleaning. The brooder should have easy access through the top and access to the bottom. Do NOT use teflon coated lights in your brooders or chicken coops. Apparently there is a toxicity emitted when these lights get hot and can kill your chicks or chickens. There are plans available online for building your own brooders, but consider upcycling options, such as entertainment centers or old desk, old cribs, or dresser units that are inexpensive or even free on Craig's list, to create your own unique brooder. Add a roosting bar a few inches from the base of the brooder, so the chicks learn to roost. Allow enough head-space so the bar can be raised as they grow.
Make sure the chicks always have fresh water and good quality starter feed. Monitor them frequently to make sure they are active and that none are being trampled. Keep them in the brooder until their true feathers start coming in. Keep the heat unit on until they have their true feathers. At this time you can gradually move the heat unit farther away until they are only in room temperature. If the weather is mild, they can be moved to a protected outdoor brooder when they are fully feathered. This could be 4 to 6 weeks, depending on the breed. If the weather is still chilly (40s or below), keep the chicks in a warm brooder until the weather is consistently above 40 degrees.
Important to remember: 1. Keep the brooder clean. Change the litter at least once a day, or more if you see that it is wet or full of droppings. The more chicks in the brooder, the more often it will need cleaning. 2. Keep clean food and water available to the chicks at all times. 3. Make sure any heat source is secure and far enough away from the chicks that they are not getting too warm. Dehydration can be a very serious problem if not monitored. 4. Monitor the temperature of the brooder. 5. When handling chicks, be sure to wash thoroughly each time. This is especially true for children. You do not want chicks transferring illness to you, nor do you want to transfer illness to your chicks. Good hygiene for you, your children and your chicks is essential. Wash before handling foods, babies or elders in your care, that may have a low resistance to pathogens. 6. If you have older chickens, tend to the chicks before tending to the older birds, so you are not inadvertently bringing pathogens to the chicks that they may have no immunity to. 7. Limit handling of the chicks the first few days. As with any new baby, the more handling brings about more stresses and more chance of illness. 8. Do not overcrowd. Over-crowding can lead to pecking issues and illness. Allow at least 6+ square inches per chick in the brooder, and more space as the chicks begin to grow. When they are outdoor ready, allow no less than 2 square feet per chick to allow them to spread their wings and move around.
âNote: We are always available to answer your questions, so if we have not answered your question in this text, feel free to contact us through our facebook page or send us an email message, with the subject line of your question so we can answer as promptly as possible. www.facebook.com/Just-Fowling-Around-365743116845352/ OR firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information on the care and raising of chicks, refer to the link: justfowlingaround.weebly.com/chicken-coop-chatter-blog/care-and-raising-chicks
âIf you are interested in hatching your own chicks, refer to our instructions on incubating chicks: http://justfowlingaround.weebly.com/chicken-coop-chatter-blog/category/incubating-and-brooders
If you prefer to hatch chicks using a broody hen, refer to our link for information on broodies: justfowlingaround.weebly.com/chicken-coop-chatter-blog/broody-hens
âIt is important to have a poultry medical kit since most vets do not treat poultry or even available 24/7, and there will be treatments necessary at one time or another. If you have a poultry Rx kit prepared, it will help prevent stress at the most critical times. You will find products at the following link, that we recommend you have available:
Coccidiosis is the most common illness in baby chicks, below you will find a link for what we consider the best home treatment for this illness. Please note some hatcheries now offer the vaccination for a nominal charge if you find that to be a better option for your own situation.
âTo help get you started setting up your brooder, we have included links below for some of the essentials needed.
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