I love bats. What isn’t to love? They are extremely beneficial to the environment and a pleasure to watch. My uncle owns land in South Texas and it has a large bat cave on it. I’ve been there twice. most recently with Jesse. Being able […]
Baby chick care
Baby chicks are cute. They are Fun and can be a good experience for the whole family to raise. Over the years the biggest issues I have come across with raising chicks can be traced back to few things. These are shelter, temperature, Bedding, fresh food, clean water, and ventilation. Baby chicks will sometimes die. There is nothing you can do about it. But hopefully if you follow some of the guidelines below you can keep that number to a minimum. Before the chicks arrive you should already have their future home ready to go for them.
Decide what you will be keeping them in. The easiest and most cost effective method is to use a large cardboard box. Find a box big enough that when you place the food and water in it the chicks still have room to walk around and move away from the heat source. If the chicks look crowded they probably are. You should also make sure nothing else can get into the box. Chicks make a nice little snack for a house cat or dog. Chicken snakes… Need I say more? Wire with 1/2″×1/2″ grid over the top of the box will usually solve this problem.
If raising chicks is a one and done experience for you, go with the box. However, if you plan on doing this repeatedly you may want to invest in something a little more permanent. Refrain from using aquariums. They don’t hold heat well and tend to fluctuate temperature drastically. Feed troughs work well as well as Rubbermaid style containers. This brings me to my next item. The container should always be placed somewhere that is free of cold drafts and will stay at as steady a temperature as possible.
As an Ag teacher, every year, I have students tell me sad stories about how their birds died. Usually it is because they were either to hot or too cold. Correct temperature is crucial for success in raising chicks. To hot and they fail to thrive and to cold and they die. This is why temperature control the first few weeks is of up most importance. Get it right before the chicks arrive. Chicks aren’t born with feathers. They have down. As they get older they begin to gradually feather out.
I try to use the following for my chicks
Week 1 90-95 degrees
Week 2 85-90 degrees
Week 3 75-85 degrees
Week 4. Try to them above 70 for a couple more weeks. Slightly below isn’t that bad.
The number one item used for beginners for heat is a cheap inexpensive heat lamp. Remember, you get what you pay for. Bulb and fixture together will be about $20 The bulb is generally 250 watts and puts off a lot of heat. You will need to suspend it over the box or container and check the temperature directly underneath it. For the first week it will need to be somewhere between 90 – 95 degrees. If you get it to close the chicks will scatter to the edges and if it’s too far away they will huddle directly beneath it for warmth. This method works but is not ideal. There are several other method to keep chicks warm that are sold commercially and are much safer. Heat lamps can and will break and fall into the box with the chicks. For this reason you should make certain the lamp is suspended securely in more than one way and the wire cage that comes with it should. Be used and Have small grid wire of some kind attached to the fixture itself forming a net beneath the bulb. This will catch the bulb if it breaks and falls.
I have heard many stories over the years about houses and garages burning down due to a faulty heat lamp. For this reason I use an ordinary 100 watt bulb and just move the lamp closer to the chicks. But those bulbs are harder and harder to find
While visiting a friend he showed me some of the thing he does while raising chicks. He is a veteran of exhibition poultry and a wealth of knowledge. He uses wooden boxes with half of the top covered in wire and the other half covered in wood. Attached to the underside of the wooden top is the heating element and thermostat for an inexpensive Styrofoam incubator. The thermostat and heating element help regulate a steady temperature in the box while the wire openings allow ventilation and fresh air.
I use a double level wooden box and up until now have relied solely on incandescent lights for heat. I finally broke down and removed the top of an old incubator I had and installed it directly onto the inside top of one of the compartments. Since doing so I have noticed the chicks are much more relaxed and calm. The fan that came with the incubator helps circulate the air while the thermostat ensures there is a steady temperature in the box. I no longer have to worry about the chicks overheating or being chilled. Be careful not to let the heating elements come into contact with anything flammable. Please do not attempt to use a propane heater to warm an exterior building for the chicks. Without good ventilation they will die of carbon monoxide.
Bedding is essential for absorption of waste and something for them to sleep on. For the first couple weeks of their lives all they do is eat, sleep and poop. And boy can they eat and poop. It should always be changed when it gets dirty or wet. Straw or hay may be used for bedding but it doesn’t absorb feces well or help mask the odor. Rice hulls work well but availability is often an issue. Waste will usually settle to the bottom leaving a clean fluffy surface. Regardless of the type used. Finding a bedding that is absorbent and masks the odor is important. Cedar shavings are the most common bedding used for poultry. It’s absorbent and helps mask the smell of waste. it generally come in fine and course sizes. I prefer it of course because it’s easier to clean up. The fine shavings tend to get kicked all over the place. Fine shavings also pose a danger because day old chicks might try to eat it and die. Because of this some people put newspaper down for the first day or so. Bedding also give the chicks a way to gain footing on the ground. Without it they may not be able to stand on slick surfaces like cardboard boxes or plastic containers. They will become splay legged and not be able to stand. I hear there are ways to fix this with tape but its never worked for me. Usually at this point it’s just a matter of time until they die.