The chicks we got this year are our fourth batch of baby chicks. We started with chickens our second year living here in the Pasture. There are a lot of great and creative ideas for brooding chicks. I’d like to share how we brood baby chicks here at PDD. Last year, we switched from using a large plastic storage tote to a 40 gallon black plastic water trough. It’s deeper and much sturdier than a storage tote and has worked well for us. We got it for less than $50 at our local Tractor Supply store.
We always start our chicks our in our extra bedroom. It’s easier for us to keep them climate controlled and much more convenient to care for them in the beginning. We always keep that room closed so that it is cat-free. And that is especially important when the chicks are in there. 🙂
We referred to our very first batch of chicks as the Tinys because they were only a couple of days old and so tiny when we got them. While a few of our chickens have individual names, most of them are named collectively by breed – either with some part of their breed name or by a characteristic of their breed. But the name the Tinys has stuck for the group as a whole. So now when we get a new batch of chicks, they become the Super Tinys until they’re full grown like the rest.
Using the black water trough as our brooder, we put shavings in the bottom and set a small stack of boards in the bottom for the food and water to sit on. We do this to keep the food and water above the shavings to help keep them a little cleaner. But trust me they will still scoop tons of food out of the feeder and always manage to get shavings and poop in the water!
We also add a couple of smooth branches for them to practice roosting on. We cover the top of the brooder with chicken wire held on with several clamps around the edges. By week two, they are able to get pretty rowdy, so we need to make sure they stay safe and secure inside the brooder!
There are several things we do to help keep the Super Tinys entertained so that they don’t give in to boredom and start pecking on each other. We give them a dish of soft loose soil to encourage their natural instincts to dust bathe. We also give them chopped lettuce scraps, sliced strawberries and Brussel sprouts (aka chick soccer balls). Oatmeal is also another favorite. Make sure they have access to grit when giving them anything other than chick feed and don’t overdo it on giving them “treats”. We also give them clumps of grass (with some soil still attached). I can always tell when hubby has given them a fresh clump by the racket they’re making, before I can even see in the brooder when I walk into the extra bedroom.
We have a heat lamp clamped to an old keyboard stand. It is handy because we can adjust the height as they need less and less heat. In our extra bedroom, there are also two south-facing windows, so that room gets nice filtered light (blinds in the windows) and warmth when it’s sunny. In fact, because of the heat from the sun, even with the blinds closed, and once the Super Tinys were getting some feathers, we had to turn the heat lamp off in the afternoons because that room got too warm. I’m saving for a smaller radiant heat panel heater so that we can retire the heat lamp. Also, the chicks will get used to the natural rhythms of the day without having artificial light on 24/7.
The last two years, I’ve also taken to covering everything in in the extra bedroom (day bed, book shelf, desk) with old sheets. Chicks create a TON of dust! And this made it much easier to clean up once they graduated to the coop.
This set up may not be for everyone, but it has worked very well for us each year. How do you brood your baby chicks?