Following is the basic information you will need to make sure
your chicks grow up healthy and strong.
PEN: Before the chicks are to arrive, thoroughly clean and disinfect the pen well with poultry house disinfectant.
LITTER: Use softwood chip shavings (preferred), chopped
straw or peat moss. Make sure the litter is clean, dry, free of
mold, and has not been contaminated by dust from other
livestock areas. The litter should be at least 4" deep and level.
Increase the depth of litter if the floor of the pen is cold or
damp to prevent crooked toes and leg problems.
BROODING AREA: This is the area where the chicks are
started. To keep the chicks from wandering and to block any
cold drafts, create a circle using cardboard chick guard, straw
bales, etc. This guard or ring should be 18" high and should be
enlarged as the chicks grow. Remove the ring when the chicks start to fly over it at about 2 weeks of age. Always keep the
corners of the pen banked high with litter, to prevent the chicks
from crowding into a corner and smothering if they should
become cold or frightened.
HINT: We have found that covering the litter (shavings) in the
brooding area with a few layers of newspaper, cloth or towel and then
spreading feed all over the paper makes it easier for the chicks
to find their feed, and keeps them from accidentally eating
litter. Each day you can remove one layer of paper, making it easy to keep the pen clean. By the time all the paper is removed, the chicks should be eating from the feeders.
Caution: Make sure you spread out lots of feed or the newspaper will be too slippery, and do NOT start turkeys on newspaper, as they may injure their legs.
HEAT SOURCE: Maintaining proper temperatures in the brooding area is critically important. Chicks, especially meat chicks, that are exposed to low brooding temperatures for even a short period of time (less than one hour) cannot maintain core body temperature, which can lead to increased mortality and a much lower than expected live weight. Whether you use electric heat lamps, radiant tube heaters, propane brooders, or any other type of heat, make sure your equipment works properly. The most common source of heat is the heat lamp (250-watt infrared bulb). It should be hung at approximately 18" from the floor. The temperature should be 90-92º F (32-33º C) at 2" from the floor. Check the temperature at this level using a thermometer. One heat lamp should be sufficient for 50 to 100 chicks, depending on the weather and the time of year, but we highly recommend using two lamps in case one fails. The temperature should be lowered 5º F (2-3º C) per week until it reaches 70º F (21º C) at six weeks. Heat lamps can be raised or lowered to adjust temperature levels. Comfort is the key! When the birds are older, you can eliminate supplemental heat during the day, and finally eliminate it altogether.
Please Note: If your chicks have shit stuck to their bums the temperature has been either too Hot or too Cold. Wet a cloth with warm water and soften it up and remove it.
LIGHTING: Light is another very important component of the chick's environment. Too much light may contribute to cannibalism and depress the chick's immune system, making it
more susceptible to disease. In chicks being raised for eggs, too
much light may cause premature sexual maturity, poor egg production, and health problems. And in meat birds, too much
light may cause too rapid growth (because the birds eat more)
and result in leg and heart problems. Start baby chicks with
continuous light for 4 days, and then introduce them to a day and night routine. Never turn off the heat lamps during the
dark period unless you have a heat source other than heat lamps
and the room is at the appropriate temperature. After the
brooding period, starting at about 7 weeks, egg-laying pullets
should be raised in constant 8 to 10 hour days. Never increase the amount of light on a growing bird (7 to 19 weeks). When
birds have reached proper weight, usually at about 19 weeks,
gradually increase the hours of light per day to a maximum of
16 hours (each week add 1 hour of light per day – ½ hour in the morning and ½ hour in the evening). Maturity and weight, not
age, are the determining factors in deciding when to
stimulate egg production by increasing light.
DRINKERS: It is best to use one-gallon plastic or glass chick
drinkers (two for each 100 chicks). Place the drinkers at floor level on a thin board so the chicks can easily drink from them. Put lukewarm water in the drinkers when the chicks arrive, and
dip each chick's beak into the water. This gives the chick a
drink and lets it know where the water is. Never allow the
water to run out, and supply fresh water daily. As the chicks
grow, the waterers should be raised to the height of the middle
of the chick's back. This will keep the chicks from scratching
litter into the waterers. Clean the waterers daily to avoid
contamination from dust, feather follicles and litter. When the
chicks get a little older, you can use larger capacity drinkers or
You can also add Poly-tonine A Super Booster
(low level antibiotic and vitamins) to the water to get baby
chicks and turkeys off to a good start. Vitamin and electrolyte
packages may be added to water during periods of stress (such as hot or cold weather) in older chicks
and turkeys only. It is especially good for the White Rock chickens as they can get added vitamins and minerals through the water, which their bodies absorb easier than nutrients in their feed. This is also very good for laying hens in hot weather. Make sure you have adequate waterer space
for all birds to have equal access.
FEED: We recommend good commercial chick starter
crumbles. The feed should be at least 20% protein and fine
crumbles. The chicks will be ready for feed when they arrive,
and you must ensure that chicks are not more than 3 feet from
feed and water at all times for the first 72 hours. Make sure the
feeders are heaping full and feed is spread out all over the
paper. Chick starter should be fed for 4 to 6 weeks, then
gradually switched to chick grower. Check with your feed supplier for more specifics.
FEEDERS: During the entire growing period, the chicks should have enough feeder space so that all can eat at the same time. This will reduce the possibility of stunted growth in
some chicks and result in a more uniform flock. Feeders should
be raised in the same way as the waterers as the birds grow.
SPACE: Chicks grown for egg laying will require 2 square
feet per bird by 20 weeks of age. Meat birds will require more
space, as they perform better with ample growing room.