AFTER THE HATCH What do you do after your chicks from Fredís Fine Fowl hatch? These are some suggestions based on past failures and successesÖ
Please read this information carefully while your eggs are incubating, so youíll be prepared when they hatch.
THE CARE AND FEEDING OF BABY CHICKS (Bantam Chicks are not so different).
HEAT, LIGHT, CLEAN FRESH WATER, FEED, ADEQUATE SPACE AND LITTER.
HEAT & LIGHT: Brooder floor temperature directly beneath the light should be 90 to 95 degrees for the first seven days. Reduce the temperature 5 degrees per week until you get to 70 degrees, or room temperature, whichever is higher. I prefer red heat bulbs, around 75 watts, (if in barn or coop, 100/150/250 watt versions are available) suspended 14 or more inches from the brooder floor. Adjust the height of the bulb, based on temperature (higher if too hot, lower if too cold at chick height. Have a second white light for them to see, not too bright or they may begin to pick on one another, this light should be turned on in the morning and off at night on a steady schedule. A light timer would be a good way to control the white light source, this way chicks get used to the day/night schedule. If the chicks congregate in a huddle beneath the light, they are too cold, if they spread out and appear to be trying to escape the heat bulb, then itís too hot. Chicks that are chirping loudly and constantly, are uncomfortable, check to see that they have plenty of water and feed.
WATER: Dip each chickís beak in the water as you place it in the brooder. If youíre on a well, make sure the water you give the chicks is filtered, well water is often hard with minerals and chicks wonít like the taste, causing them not to drink enough. Make sure the water source canít be walked through by chicks and also that they canít drown in it. Change water frequently, as droppings, bedding and food particles may soil it. Raise the source as chicks grow, approximately to the height of the chickís back. Start off with sugar water; about 1/4 cup of sugar per gallon, (use natural unprocessed sugar if you have it) this gives them lots of energy and recovery from the hard work of hatching.
FEED: Use commercially prepared chick starter feed for at least 8 weeks. Then, if your feed store has it, shift to starter/grower, then finisher. Finisher is used until the hens lay their first egg, at this time, shift to layer ration. If you are luckey enough to find a source for real organic feed, get it! Trying to formulate your own feed will make you go nuts and the birds may not get what they need in the end. A good beginning is crucial. Each feed company will have their feed guidelines on the back of the bag, follow those. Also, feed normally comes in 50# bags, which are fine if you have a pile of chicks, but if youíre just raising say 16 chicks, buy the smaller 20 or 25# bags. That way the feed stays fresh and you can pick up another bag, as stocks get low. Donít be tempted to purchase large quantities and store them, some nutrients are reduced with age and your chicks deserve fresh! If you use a layer ration for your adult birds, do not allow the chicks to feed on this, nor should they receive oyster shells as it may damage their developing organs. Calcium additives are ok, once they begin to lay eggs, but not normally required if your feeding a complete diet..
SPACE: Reds are active curious birds and will want to explore and run around with their flock-mates. Start them off with a brooder, which has 8 square inches per chick. As they mature, add space so they are not crowded. Crowding leads to bad attitudes and may turn to picking of hatch-mates. The brooder space should have no drafts and be safe from pets and curious young children. Be aware of windows and the potential for sunshine to overheat the chicks. If you have very warm days, feel free to take the chicks outside for exercise and an introduction to their larger world. If outside, they should have some shade, plenty of water, feed protected from other birds.
LITTER: Start chicks on newspaper (three or four layers), sprinkle feed on the paper so they can find it easily. I spray the paper with water and let it dry before placing chicks on it, this roughens the surface of the paper for better traction. Do not put chicks on wet or damp paper!
IMPORTANT, donít put wood shavings in the brooder for the first couple of days, Reds have been known to fill up on chips and not their food. One person wrote that sheíd lost five chicks in the first six days before we figured out that she had placed wood chips in the brooder and they had been eating it instead of their feed ration. Pine shavings are best after the first couple of days, chicks like to scratch through it and it makes great mulch for your plants when they are finished putting their droppings in it. If you notice your growing chicks filling up on wood shavings, then make sure you have some chick sized granit grit for them to injest. This granit grit, sometimes called grani-grit, will help them break down and pass wood remnants. It comes in 50# bags. Do not give chicks oyster shell grit... it's just bad for them!
Kindly write Fred Fred@FredsFineFowl.com