Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Raising Baby Chicks - Give Your Chicks A Healthy Start

My favorite part of my job is calling customers and letting them know their baby chicks are shipping out. It makes my day listening to adults squeal with delight when they hear their baby's are on the way!  Our goal is to produce healthy top of the line chicks that grow into productive poultry.  Our customers often tell me, "those are the most active, vibrant chicks I've ever received through the mail."  That's exactly what I like to hear and I want to give my customers the opportunity to keep them healthy and thriving.

There is nothing more exciting than receiving a box of baby chicks in the mail, but I often forget that sometimes this is likely a persons first time raising chicks and they don't have years of experience under their belt.  So I'm going to pretend that your a  chicken newbie, you just received your first box of chicks in the mail, or you just hatched your first chicks in an incubator.

To be prepared for your chicks arrival, the five most important things you will need are Brooder, food, heat, chick feeder and chick waterer.  Let's begin with the brooder, it doesn't need to be fancy but chicks grow fast so they do need ample space. I recommend 6 inches per bird.  Your brooder needs a heat source. For years we used tubs with a heat lamp. I personally don't recommend those high powered heat bulbs, they get too hot.  It's much better to just use a 100 watt ceramic infrared heat emitter.  Hang your light on one end of the brooder so that there is a heat zone and a cool zone. If the chicks are too warm they can move to the cool zone.  The temp should be 100 degrees under the light.  Another option for a heat source is a heat plate that the chicks can get under.  Heat lamps can be a fire hazard so the heat plates are a better option.
If you plan to raise chicks every year I totally recommend the GQF brooder, it's equipped with heat, water and wire floors.  You can purchase one level or several stacking levels. With this brooder, the food and water hang on the outside so there is no contamination.  The number one cause of chick mortality is Coccidiosis and that happens when food, water, shavings and poo all become a toxic stew.   If you plan on raising chicks every year it's totally worth the cost to invest in a good brooder.  We found that we have a much, much lower mortality rate when we switched to a brooder with a wire floor and stopped using pine shavings.  If a wire bottom brooder isn't possible for you then only use pine shavings, no newspapers ever and the shaving really needs to be changed out daily.  Waterers must be on platforms to prevent shavings from being kicked into the water but chicks still need to be able to reach the water, this is tricky.

Now let's talk about food.  MEDICATED chick grower starter food is a must, you want it to have at least 19% protein.  Why did I put medicated in big bold letters, because this is very important!  If your chicks are not vaccinated for Coccidiosis then you must get medicated food.  Our farm at this time is not set up to vaccinate for Coccidiosis, but we're working on it.  I can't tell you how many times over the years people have called and said my chicks are three weeks old, they've been great until now and suddenly they're dropping like flies.  I ask what kind of food are you feeding, guess what they all say?  They all say "it's an Organic top of the line brand."  Once they get switched to medicated food the problem is solved.  The medication in chick feed is not an antibiotic, it is medicated with Amprolium.

We begin our shipping season each year in April and in every box during the month of April we put in a heat pack and two cups of Boost A Chick hydrating gel.  If a chick gets cold and dehydrated in the mail the first thing that will happen is pasty butt.  That is a condition where the chicks vent is glued shut with poo, it can become a lot of work cleaning those little butts several times a day for the next week or two.  If you've hatched your own chicks and you notice that suddenly some have developed pasty butt it's a sign they have gotten cold in the brooder.  As soon as your chicks arrive in the mail or hatch from your incubator start them on electrolytes in the water. Also cook them a hard boiled egg, chop it up real fine and feed it to the chicks as a preventative.  If your chicks do develop a case of pasty butt, clean the vent area with warm water. I also trim as much fluff away from the vent as possible (so the poo has nothing to stick to) and apply a bit of mineral oil to the vent.

Raising chicks is not difficult and they don't need much other than heat, shelter and food.  Never feed your chicks grit or oyster shell (calcium).  There is no need for grit until they are eating something other than chicken food.
As your chicks graduate from chick food to a layer feed they will have everything they need in the layer feed.  Grit and oyster shell (calcium) is already mixed into your layer feed. There is no need to purchase bags of grit or oyster shell.  Just read the label on your feed bag, you will see that it has everything they need all in one bag.

Spring is just around the corner, so let the hatching and peeping begin!!  Come and join us on our new Chicken Chick Chat group where all of our friends are sharing photos and chicken information.  Feel free to ask questions or share your experience raising chicks.
Have a great day and hope to see you over at the Chicken Chick Chat group!


We've linked several of our favorite products throughout this post for your convenience. These are products we use ourselves and highly recommend. Purchasing from those links helps with funds to run our farm. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me or leave a comment!