What to do When Your Chicks Arrive

Getting excited about those baby chicks arriving? Just a little preparation and things should go smoothly for you.

Before I even get the brooder ready, I let our local farm store know when the chicks will arrive and how many I’m getting. It gives them an idea on how much starter to keep on hand for their customers.

At the same time I ask them to have some fine grit available. I also let them know beforehand when I will be changing over to chick grow; when the chicks are about 8 weeks old.

A cardboard box works well for a chick brooder. Just make sure the sides are high enough that they can’t jump or fly out. Allow about a half square foot per chick.

Placing wood shavings on the bottom of the box works well for litter control. Cover it with newspaper for the first couple of days. This will give the chicks time to find their food and not pick at the litter.

After the 2 days it should be okay to remove the newspaper. Ask your farm store or hatchery to recommend a good style waterer and feeder for your chicks.

The temperature in the brooder should be 90 to 95 degrees. A 250 watt red bulb is suggested. I keep an oven thermometer on the bottom of the brooder;  raising or lowering the bulb until it is at the proper temperature consistently.

As soon as your chicks arrive, dip their beaks in water mixed 3 tablespoons of sugar to 1 quart of water. Place each chick in the brooder after a drink so you can be sure each has had a drink. They will be thirsty and the sugar water helps get them over the stress if they have been shipped from a hatchery.

Keep the sugar water available for 2-3 days along with food. Then you can switch to regular water. Food is also important but they draw the food value from the yolk before hatching so they can go up to 3 days without food. Isn’t nature wonderful? Even at that – always have plenty of fresh water and food available for them.

After a week you can start lowering the temperature by 5 degrees a week. If your weather permits, they should be okay when the temperature reaches 70 degrees. I usually buy my chicks in the early spring and keep the temp at 70 degrees until the weather warms up and they are feathering out well.

Some chicks might start picking at each other. This could be caused from overcrowding or too much heat. Try giving them some grass clippings or young weeds. If they continue to pick at each other, there are salves available to rub on the picked spots. This will usually solve the problem.

Once their feathers are forming well, you can move them to the chicken coop. They will still have to be protected from cold and drafts.

With some care your chicks will mature and grow to give you years of enjoyment and the best tasting, healthiest eggs you have ever had.