Cloverfield Ranch <firstname.lastname@example.org>Tue, May 28, 1:34 PM (7 days ago)
How to care for your new baby chicks
Cloverfield Ranch has just added 20 new baby chicks to our flock!
"Isa Browns" to be exact, and I am going to tell you how I care for my little ones.
I have had a lot of experience raising baby chicks. It came from years of trial and error, and we have narrowed down some winning techniques that have allowed us to raise many healthy chicks to adulthood.
You will usually get your chicks within the first 24-48 hours of their life. Whether you get them mailed through a chicken hatchery or straight from your local farm and feed store there are several very important things that must immediately be handled.
1. You should have a nursery area ready to go before bringing in your new chicks.
< A box or container the right size for your chicks to grow up in
< A heat source
< Chick starter food
< A water source
We will cover each of these in more detail.
Your nursery coop (or brooder) should have at least 3 inches of bedding, pine shavings make for the perfect bedding, (for us, and for 20 chicks our bathtub makes for the perfect nursery) and be about 2 feet wide by 4 feet long and about 2 feet deep. This allows the chicks to grow up to a healthy size without escaping. It is also long enough to provide them a "warm side" and a "cool side" of the brooder.
a heat lamp is required for new chicks, recommended for about 6 weeks. You can buy the proper bulb and fixture at any farm or feed store. A 250 watt infrared bulb suspended above the nursery is the recommended amount. A red bulb is the most efficient as it doesn't stop the chicks from sleeping, as white light does, and can help prevent the chicks from pecking at each other. The proper distance from the light to the chicks is important. It should be close enough to provide the adequate warmth, but far enough away not to overheat your chicks.
*We keep our light about 2 and a half feet away from the ground and focus it on one side of the tub. Creating both a "warm side" and a "cool side". Preventing the chicks from either getting too warm or too cold, and allowing them to find their own comfort zone.
Start off your baby chicks with 18% protein chick starter/grower feed for about 8 weeks. They can then go on normal chicken crumbles, eventually switching to pellets.
*Although this is recommended for 8 weeks, we found that by 6 weeks they can start pecking at fruit, worms, and other soft vegetables, supplementing with starter food.
As our chickens are free ranging, we like the chicks to get off of the processed food as early as possible, transitioning to a mostly natural diet of vegetation and insects.
For the first few weeks your chicks should have access to water all the time as they can dehydrate easily. After that frequent watering is necessary but is not necessary all the time and they will play in or poop in the water as they get bigger.
You can buy a metal or plastic chick waterer. Or as we do, provide a shallow plastic or metal container with no more than an inch of water to start. Chicks can get into deeper containers and won't be able to get out. Also, providing any deeper container could prove hazardous if the container gets flipped over onto one of the chicks and they get trapped inside.
It is important to note that your new chicks could be only a day or two old. They are very vulnerable at this stage and can easily succumb to dehydration and stress.
Your new chicks will come home, usually in a box. When you first take them out of the box to put them in your brooder they will huddle together, often not moving very much and will be stressed out. It is best to leave them alone for a couple of hours without touching them, allowing them to destress. Monitor the situation, and shortly they should start moving around and peeping, scratching at the bedding.
introduce your chicks to the food and water. Most chicks will actively search it out and will find it on their own. Other chicks (especially if they are just hatched) need assistance in finding it. Take one chick and gently dip its beak in the water a couple times. It normally only takes one chicken, one time for all of them to figure it out.
Keep the chicks fed and watered and within no time they will start to grow before your eyes, slowly replacing fluff with feathers and learning how to fly around.
They will eventually get to a point (about 6 to 8 weeks) where they have gotten the majority of their big feathers and are starting to fly around and out the brooder. At this point we start turning the light off during the day so they start getting use to the normal temperatures. Once they get use to that and get a little bigger we start turning the light off at night also. So they start to sleep when it gets dark. They will then huddle together to stay warm. Note this only works when you have a group of chicks. Not a single chick.
When they have matured to this point we transfer them to our nursery coop. It is a 3X6 insulated coop attached to an 8X8 enclosed wire mesh chicken run. Nothing can get inside and the chicks cannot get out.
We put them into the coop first, leaving the door open to the run. They will watch from inside the coop, but may not come outside for a couple days. You can feed and water them inside the coop. Gradually one by one they will start to explore the outside world. Taking only a few steps then running back inside. This repeats until all of them are comfortable going in and out. You can then start feeding them inside the run. Provide then plenty of perches to fly up on, but make sure that there is no obstructions that can trap them, and check them frequently. They will become very active and will start to fly a lot. You can gradually switch them to regular chicken feed, and fruits and vegetables inside the run.
The benefit of this coop is that our grown chickens can walk around and get to know the new babies and the babies get to know the ranch and other animals from a safe space.
When they reach around 5 to 6 months old we will open the door to the run and let them start to come out. They will (same as the first time) run in and out, taking only a few steps before running back into safety. They will gradually, over the course of a week, mingle with the other chickens and start to go in the main chicken coop with them. When all the chickens have moved over to the main coop your work is done. You have successfully raised chickens from vulnerable newborn babies to thriving, healthy chickens.
This is the way we have done it, and it has worked marvelously. If you do things too early or too late it can affect the health and life of the chicks. Timing is important when managing your flock. If you let your grown chicks out of the nursery coop to mingle with the flock too early they may run around, get lost, or get hurt. A variety of things can happen when they are too small and immature to handle the outside world. We find that the longer we leave them in the safety zone the smarter they become, and will easily adjust to life in the flock.
Happy nursing to all of you chicken enthusiasts! Feel free to comment with your chick stories or questions below.
Cloverfield Ranch LLC
My name is Sam. I am a proud native born South Dakotan. Born in Rapid City, South Dakota. I could describe myself as many things; Artist, free-spirited adventurer. But the titles that I am most proud of are Manager and Co-Founder of Cloverfield Ranch and Ranch Mother to all of our happy furry and feathered critters that call this place home. As a open minded Entrepreneur I am always looking for new, fun and interesting ways to support our growing ranch and grow our dream of making Cloverfield Ranch a refuge for all animals that can become an local attraction and entertaining environment for everybody to enjoy.