Bringing up baby - Getting started with chickens
Chickens are more popular than ever, being raised not just on farms but in the city and urban areas as well.
Here are some simple, affordable steps to get your brood started and keep your chickens healthy and happy.
After your chicks are hatched or brought home from your favorite Coastal outlet, you’ll need to provide them with suitable housing, even though it won’t be long term. It can be anything from an aquarium to a small cage to a simple box. One of the best habitat’s is a plastic bin with a hole cut in the top and replaced with wire mesh. In whatever habitat you use you’ll want to surface it with old towels (be careful of loose strings or threads) and then after a couple-three weeks use newspapers and straw or shavings. Make sure your surface is never perfectly smooth as the chicks need to get used to rough surfaces for proper development. You’ll also want a container for food and water, such a s a small water dish and feeder. Coastal carries a variety of water and feeder containers for your convenience.
Keeping the habitat clean is important, changing the bedding as necessary and making sure the habitat is not overly wet from water spillage.
A heat source is vital since the chicks won’t be kept warm by a hen. A 100-watt bulb in a clamp style lamp as well as an infra red bulb works very well, too. Chicks need to be kept warm all day and night long until their down fluff matures into feathers, usually taking two-three months. Temperatures in the 90’s - 100 degrees is recommended.
Feed and Water
A consistent amount of food and water dispensers always full with water are critical to the growth and health of chicks. Chick food is not the same as adult chicken food and comes in both medicated and non-medicated varieties. Generally speaking, chicks should eat chick food for the first two months and then graduate to a grower food and then eventually to a lower protein or layer feed.
Chickens love taking dirt baths (it prevents parasites and lice from forming in their feathers and on their legs) to keep their feathers and skin groomed and cleaned. For enclosure purposes you’ll just need to insert a try or let them out in an enclosed pen so they can frolic in the dirt.
Chicks will likely bond with you so spending time with them, observing them, gently holding them, even, is a good thing. Also, watching them on a daily basis will give you a quick alert should they become ill or if a particular small chick is getting pecked on due to social order.
Once the chicks are fully feathered it will be time for them to leave there temporary housing and begin to explore the outside world and moving into a larger coop. Coastal has a variety of chicken coops to choose from. And save the date – starting the week of February 22nd - when hundreds of chicks will be available at all Coastal store outlets, complete with every supply and feed you will need to grow them healthy and happy.
Coastal Extra - Build your own brooder bin
Start out right with this easy-to-build brooder bin.
Buy plastic bin with tight fitting lid at least 12" tall.
Cut a hole using a carpet knife out of 1/3 to 1/2 of the top.
Cut a piece of hardware cloth two inches wider than your hole.
Punch holes in top around the hole using a nail and hammer.
Zip tie the hardware cloth over the hole to create a surface for ventilation and to hold the brooder lamp suspended over the chicks.
Line bin with newspaper and paper towels for traction for the chicks.
Chicks should be kept between 90-100 degrees for the first week, decrease temp by five degrees each week as chicks grow until they are at room temperature.
Make sure the bin has enough room for chicks to move away from the heat of the lamp so they can self regulate.